20 October 2016

Cup of jO's: Is Hyun Soo Kim Really A Platoon Hitter?

This past season there was a wealth of intrigue regarding the true talent level of Hyun Soo Kim and why he had been used in the way that Buck used him.  From the Depot's perspective, it was a season marked by bemusement.  Kim's Spring looked awful, but really what was the alternative? Some tried to get comfortable with the idea of Xavier Avery, but we knew who he was and he proceeded to show who he was in Norfolk.  Kim slowly established himself over the course of the first two months, but Joey Baseball Rickard somehow was favored for his baseballness even though Kim was quietly outperforming him.  That emerged into a forced platoon relationship between those two players, which worked as Rickard was becoming more entrenched as having issues with right handed pitching.  What was not established is why exactly would anyone think Hyun Soo Kim actually needs a platoon partner.

Hyun Soo Kim's 2016 Handed Splits
vs RHP 323 .321 .393 .446 .839
vs LHP 22 .000 .227 .000 .227
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2016.

Kim's splits in the majors look terrible.  He was hitless in 22 plate appearances with four walks.  That said, what are 22 PA?  Why limit him to those appearances to begin with.  Certainly, it has nothing to do with Spring Training because then he could hit no one.  Well, what about his splits in Korea?

Hyun Soo Kim's 2014/2015 KBO Splits
Metric 2014-L 2014-R 2015-L 2015-R
PA 182 345 190 425
BB-K 22-17 31-28 27-16 72-44
AVG .374 .296 .331 .327
OBP .456 .365 .421 .449
SLG .497 .485 .510 .564
That actually looks pretty even.  Kim sacrifices power a little bit to increase contact when facing southpaws, but it all looks exceptional.  Well, what does the new KANG model think?

Against left handed pitching in the KBO, the KANG model thinks Kim should slash 278/333/408.
Against right handed pitching in the KBO, the KANG model thinks Kim should slash 276/342/468.

His season against right handed pitching in the Majors in general was well predicted by KANG, but not amongst the components.  Kim's hit tool wound up being louder and his power tool was quieter.  If that held true for hitting against left handers, then we would expect him to be more of singles hitter without the gap power he showed with righthanders.  That would probably make him a very unusual hitter if he was actually successful against lefties.  He would be a not-too-fast singles slapping corner outfielder who would notch a decent walk rate, which looks like late stage Markakis.

In the end, if you have a hitter like Joey Rickard who can hit left handers well and a full time right fielder, then it makes sense to platoon with Kim.  However, moving forward, the Orioles should consider that Kim can potentially be a full time player and should experience a greater share of southpaws.  The proof will be in the pudding and the Orioles are still at the grocery store making assumptions from the box.

(Thanks to Sung Min Kim of Today's Knuckleball for providing me with Kim's splits data in the KBO.)


Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for this. All season long I tried to find Kim's averages from Korea vs. left and right handed pitchers, to no avail. It's nice you were able to dig this up. I suspected Kim hit both lefties and righties equally; now it's nice to have the proof:)

Rob said...

It would be nice to let him take a shot at lefty pitchers more. He could be our version of Mark Grace, but in the outfield. Or something.

Nick Biglen said...

What about his atrocious arm and poor defense in left field? He is not an everyday player.

Jon Shepherd said...

This article, as reflected in the title, is about his hitting.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Nick, the Orioles don't have an everyday player on the roster who is a really good corner outfielder. The O's talked up Joey Rickard as that type of fielder, and maybe he'll showcase those skills soon. But, like Kim, he also rated poorly, at least according to advanced defensive metrics. If you want a really good outfielder and a really good hitter, that's going to cost a lot of money. Fortunately, Kim has at least demonstrated the ability to hit and get on base, and that's still valuable. With the way this roster is constructed, there are only so many options. (I'll also be talking about this next week in my blueprint series post.)