The Amazing, Incredible Jung Ho Kang

Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) circles the bases with a game wining solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the eighth inning against at PNC Park. The Pirates won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) circles the bases with a game wining solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the eighth inning against at PNC Park. The Pirates won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Less than two seasons into his Major League career Jung Ho Kang is turning into arguably the biggest threat in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jung Ho Kang in December of 2014 many people were skeptical. The at the time 27 year old Kang had never played anywhere other than the Korean Baseball Organization. And, unlike the professional leagues of Japan, no hitter had ever transitioned from the KBO to Major League Baseball before.

However, not many hitters are as talented as Jung Ho Kang. Kang was an absolute superstar in Korean. He was a superstar not just due to his production and play on the field, but also due to his infectious personality off the field.

These two things have continued in the Major Leagues. Due to this, Kang has quickly become a fan favorite in Pittsburgh. Also, Kang is becoming arguably the biggest threat in the Pirates’ lineup.

Jung Ho Kang, of course, missed the final two weeks of the 2015 season due to a catastrophic knee injury. This injury cost him the first month of the 2016 season and he also missed another two weeks in late August/early September due to a shoulder injury. Despite these injuries and time missed, Kang’s numbers are staggering.

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Kang has just 302 plate appearances this season. In these 302 plate appearances he owns 18 home runs, a .530 slugging percentage, an incredible ISO of .261, a .374 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 137. This would put Kang on pace for 33 home runs over the course of a full season’s worth of at bats.

How hard Jung Ho Kang has hit the ball this season is also incredible. He owns a 41.8 percent hard contact rate, as well as an exit velocity of 91.12 miles per hour. The league average hard contact rate is 30 percent and league average exit velocity is 89.58 miles per hour.

The way Jung Ho Kang has returned from such a catastrophic knee injury without missing a beat is incredible. Quite honestly, that injury could have very easily ended his career. Kang, however, has come back better than ever.

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What Jung Ho Kang did in 2015 was fantastic. He hit 15 home runs with a .461 slugging percentage, .173 ISO, .356 wOBA, and a .129 wRC+ in 467 plate appearances. While these numbers are excellent, as I covered above, his 2016 stats are even better. His walk rate has also risen from 6.0 percent in 2015 to 8.3 percent in 2016, while his strikeout rate has dropped from 21.2 percent to 20.9 percent.

The difference in pitching between the KBO and Major League Baseball is massive. Due to this, the fact Kang has found so much success is incredible. Adding to how impressive he has been in the Major Leagues are the injuries he has had to overcome and that he has come back better than ever from them.

Despite having just 769 career Major League at bats, Jung Ho Kang has already become one of the most feared hitters in the National League. In fact, a strong argument can be made that Kang is the Pirates’ most feared hitter. He is truly the amazing, incredible Kang.