May 10, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Kang (27) throws to first base to retire a St. Louis Cardinals hitter during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Kang’s plate discipline numbers between April and May show an amazing improvement in his patience and timing. In April, Kang swung at 31.40% of pitches outside of the zone. In May, that percentage has shrunk nearly in half, coming in at 17.10%. Put simply, Kang is adjusting to MLB pitching. This turnaround may be buoyed by Kang seeing more pitches inside the strike zone in May with 57.30% of the pitches he sees being in the zone rather than the 42.240% he saw in April.
Perhaps most tellingly, Kang has lowered his swinging strike (strikes that result from swings and misses) almost 3%, down to 9.1% from 11.90% in April. On the surface, the improvement on swinging strike percentage may seem incremental. Yet when considering that the average in MLB is 9.5%, we can see that Kang has gone from below-average to above-average in a short amount of time.
When we look at Kang’s plate discipline from a high level,we could assume that pitchers are challenging Kang with more pitches in the zone and that Kang is simply taking advantage. So it would seem that this breakout success is merely gearing up to make a regression back to the mean. However, I would point to Kang’s overall Swing % (the amount of times he offers at a pitch). In April, Kang swung at 72.60% of the pitches he saw. In May the bat comes around at 59.60%.
The clear scenario here is that, because Kang is not swinging at pitches out of the zone, pitchers are forced to come back into the zone, and Kang is taking advantage, but he worked to gain that advantage.
Next, let’s look at how Kang is hitting the ball when he makes contact.
Next: A look at Kang's batted ball numbers