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Only good at defense? Kim’s 20-20 challenge to break the stereotype

In his third year in the big leagues, Kim is hitting .270 with 14 homers, 37 RBIs and 18 doubles.
Hit .349 in the second half of the season

Ha-Sung Kim (San Diego Padres) is on pace for his best season yet.

Since joining the American Major League Baseball in 2021 from the KBO, Kim has been recognized more for his defense than his offense.

In his first season in the big leagues, he showed off his versatility by playing second and third base in addition to his primary position at shortstop. Last year, he was one of three finalists for the National League Gold Glove at shortstop, filling the void left by the departure of Fernando Tatis Jr.

This year, he’s moved to second base and continues to play solid defense. According to Baseball-Reference, Kim ranks first in the majors with a dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) of 2.1.
At the plate, however, he hasn’t gotten as much attention.

As he adjusted to a new league, Kim batted just .202 with eight home runs, 34 RBI, 27 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 2021. Last year, he hit .251 with 11 home runs, 59 RBI, 58 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases.

After an improved but unsatisfactory first season, Kim has taken another step forward this season.

Heading into the season, he was confident that his bat would be “better than last year,” and he’s proving it.

Through 25 games, Kim is batting .270 with 14 home runs, 37 RBIs, 53 runs scored and 18 stolen bases.

Against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 25, he led off the game with a solo shot to left-center field and followed it up with another over the left-center field fence in the fifth inning. After hitting his 13th and 14th home runs of the season on the same day, Kim recorded his first multi-homer game since joining the big leagues.

His defense has been a staple, but now he’s coming into his own offensively.

In the second half of the season, Kim is batting .349 (15-for-43) with four home runs and six RBIs in 11 games. If you extend that to his last 30 games, he’s still hitting .327 (110-for-36) with nine home runs and 18 RBIs.

Having booked his career highs early, Kim is now within striking distance of becoming the first Asian infielder to reach 20 homers and 20 doubles. With 61 games left in the season, Kim needs just six more home runs and two more doubles to join the iconic 20-20 club.

Only outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (SSG Rangers, 2009-2010-2013) and pitcher/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (LA Angels, 2021) are the only other Asian-born major leaguers to join the 20-20 club. If Kim achieves the feat, he will be the first Asian infielder to do so.

During his KBO career, Kim was an all-around infielder who could play offense, defense, and baseball. He hit 20 home runs and 20 doubles twice (2016-2020) and sent 30 balls over the fence in 2020.

Now, he’s back in the major leagues, and he’s hitting the ball hard. His offensive, defensive, 고스톱 and base-running abilities make his value shine even brighter.

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