Jung-ho Kang came into American Major League Baseball with a flash of glory, as seen here:
Since that spring training debut, Kang has gone 2-for-25, for a total slashline of of .111/.226/.259, which is downright Jayson Nix-ish. To me, no player on the Pittsburgh Pirates needs spring training like Kang. Perhaps that’s a bit obvious. We can all line up on either side of the “Does spring training matter” debate and yet one thing we can all unilaterally agree on is that we expected to see a little more of Kang. Or, more accurately, we hoped to.
At least, I think we can agree. I took to Twitter last night to pose the question: Is it time to worry about Kang? The answers were mixed:
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Perhaps we did let our hopes rise with that first-day home run, but let me paint a different picture for you. It’s incredibly hard to quantify anything that goes on in spring training, but one thing that is sure is that more major-league ready pitchers are used towards the end of spring training than at the beginning. While Kang’s home run did come off ofMarco Estrada
, an established veteran, the South Korean’s recent performance has been on a downward trend. Kang has struck out at least once in each of his seven games, including twice each in his last three. As MLB-caliber pitchers round into form, more pronounced are Kang’s struggles. And that is what finally brings me to my conclusion.
It may not be time to start worrying, but it’s definitely time to raise an eyebrow.
Look, it’s not like we all didn’t know this would be a possibility. The expectations were clearly spelled out to his upon his arrival. Of the many pieces written about Kang upon his arrival, I found this screed filed by Bleacher Report to be at once disconcerting and reassuring. From the column:
"I wouldn’t be surprised if Kang struggles against good velocity in the big leagues, as his swing and timing mechanism could make him susceptible to fastballs on the inner half. That being said,Kang does possess above-average bat speed to go along with raw power to all fields, and he should run into his share of pitches even if he fails to hit for average."
Perhaps we are seeing that exact scenario playing itself out right before our eyes. For now, I will be content to let things play out with Kang a bit more before I raise the other eyebrow and officially start to question if this “new and improved’ Pittsburgh Pirates bench is actually improved and not just new.
Just remember this, Pirates fans – spring training, no matter how meaningless you think it is, matters in this heretofore unprecedented environment.
As hard as it is, we all must adjust accordingly. Much like Jung-ho Kang is trying to do.