Dan, over at MyKBO, pointed me toward this database. My Korean is poor and my translation software is spirited, but I had to ask a friend what certain categories were. For instance, what I thought was bottle flesh was actually Grounded into Double Play. To say the least, it was a learning experience. Anyway, from this database I was able to see how Kim performed against all of the pitchers he has faced over the past five seasons. From there I was able to cross reference pitchers that appeared in both my Pitch F/X source and in this spreadsheet. Of course, the velocities are not from the same time period. In fact, most of the velocities are taken about one to four years before Kim ever faced them, so we can tentatively assume that the values probably overstate velocity. Still, I think it gives us some idea.
The second issue was that there is not much crossover between my MLB Pitch F/X values and what one may find on the mound in a KBO game. In fact, I was only able to come up with 139 plate appearances where Kim faced a pitcher for which I had fastball velocities at some point in his career. I wound up doing a simple batch approach. I would compare pitchers at the halfway point for average fastball velocity, which nicely coincided with 90 mph. Mind you, pitchers in the Majors with a fastball velocity on average of 90 and below constitute about 15% of the pitching population. In Korea, it appears that it may be closer to 80%. An overwhelming majority of 90+ mph throwers in Korea are foreign players and many of them do not throw that hard either.
Keep in mind that these values do not establish true talent levels. You need about 200 PA for that. However, it is plausible to consider extreme differences as suggesting underlying concerns.
|90 or less||69||3||8||.365||.406||.794|
Of course, all batters fare worse against higher velocity pitchers and it may be in an environment like Korea that one gets use to the range of velocity there. In other words, perhaps elite bats are able to adjust and adapt to higher velocity environments when they encounter them. With this in mind, I did the same thing for Jung Ho Kang. With Kang, the same size was worse with 84 total plate appearances.
|90 or less||54||3||7||.364||.426||.909|
In comparing the two players, they both struggled mightily against higher velocity competition. In this very small sample size, Kang gives some hope as he did flash the ability to take high velocity pitchers deep. However, these numbers would have to improve for him to be a viable bat in MLB. And, he did. Some of his hitting last year was a tad on the fortunate side, but he did show a MLB quality bat while what we see above would find that to be highly questionable.
So what does it all mean? If anything, start Hyun Soo Kim against Marco Estrada. We should feel pretty confident there. The rest? The warning signs are there and it still seems possible Baltimore might try to see what Kim can do, begrudgingly.