Jung Ho Kang Compared To League In 2016

Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) singles against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 7, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) singles against the St. Louis Cardinals during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Jung Ho Kang is the Pirates biggest bat in terms of power.  He provides the biggest thump to the team, and that can be seen in his 2016 season debut. Kang is one of the best hitters on the Pirates, but what about in the game of baseball?

Yesterday I wrote how concerns over the Pirates power is overblown, but despite improving their numbers in 2016, they were lower when compared to the league.  The team will feature a more line drive and fly ball approach this season, add to that a full season of healthy Gregory Polanco and how many games of health for Jung Ho Kang, and the Pirates power should improve.

Kang has only played in 229 games in his two years, with 2015 starting off the bench before going down with injury, and 2016 saw him recovering from the season ending surgery in 2015 before being placed on the disabled list in August.  But through it all, Kang has hit 36 home runs for a rate of 4.3 percent, with league average over that period being just 2.9 percent.  His power presence has been felt for the Pirates, and he has produced 12 percent of the Pirates total home runs since 2015.

What Kang did in 2016 was ultra special, especially considering how well he did in 2015.  Kang finished the 2016 season with a true average (TAv) of 0.310, ranking 23rd among the 258 hitters with 300 or more plate appearances.  Among the 34 third baseman with the same qualifier, Kang finished fourth, one spot ahead of Justin Turner who received a four year deal worth $64 million.  When just looking at raw home run totals, Kang finished 15th among the third baseman and 90th among all hitters.  But the raw numbers ignore the sample size, so when accounting for plate appearances, Kang had only 370, he finished 24th among all hitters and third among third baseman with a mark of 5.68 percent.  He finished ahead of players such as Miguel Cabrera, Kris Bryant, and Josh Donaldson.  His home run power was prevalent in 2016.

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Hitting, and even power, do not stop at home runs.  Kang finished with an ISO of .258, sixth among third baseman and seventeenth in baseball.  He hit an extra base hit 10.8 percent of the time, ranking 29th in baseball and seventh among third baseman.  Hitting also involves being able to get on base, which Jung Ho Kang achieved at a rate of 0.354, with a walk rate of 9.7 percent, an unintentional walk rate ([walk-intentional walk]/[plate appearance-intentional walk]) of 10.5 percent.  His power and walk rate helped him become one of the best hitters in baseball, finishing with a wRC+ of 133, good enough for 24th in baseball and 4th among third baseman.

The most impressive part of Kang’s season, played in just 103 games, is how much he struggled.  From June 17th through August 19th, the day before he was placed on the DL, Kang produced a wRC+ of just 88, and this occurred in 143 plate appearances, or 38.6 percent of his total plate appearances.

On defense Kang was excellent as well.  His fielding runs above average (FRAA) of 8.6 ranked 28th in baseball and fourth among third baseman.  Kang excelled with the bat and glove in 2016.  However, his base running was a sour spot for the soon to be 30-year-old.  Kang’s -3.7 base running runs was last among Pirates, and 24th worst in baseball.  Kang was plus in two areas of the game, but negative in one.

Next: Prospect Quick Hits: March 7

Baseball Prospectus’s version of war, BWARP, has Kang at 3.67, ranking him 12th among third baseman and 56th in baseball.  Pretty incredible marks considering the small amount of games played.  But when we take the metric one step further and divide by plate appearances to eliminate sample size bias, Kang ranks fourth among third baseman and 13th in all of baseball.

Kang avoiding prison is a huge boost for the Pirates, although he may still be suspended by either the team or league.  But with his worth in 2016, being one of the game’s top hitters and a plus fielder, the 2017 Pirates are going to be reliant on Kang playing an injury free 2017.

*Numbers from baseball prospectus and fangraphs