Spring Training 2018 is yet another day closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates
As yet another week starts to wind to a finish, a wild week at that, Spring Training 2018 continues to draw nearer. In just 27 days, pitchers and catchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates will take to the fields at Pirate City for their first workouts of the spring.
The last player to wear number 27 for the Pittsburgh Pirates was the now infamous Jung Ho Kang.
Had Kang not missed the entire 2017 season while on the restricted list due to being unable to obtain a work visa. In case you have been under a rock for quite awhile, his issues stem from him having multiple DUIs in his native South Korea.
Prior to Jung Ho Kang’s legal issues, he was quickly evolving into one of the best third basemen in the National League. During his two seasons in Pittsburgh Kang became a fan favorite not just due to his play on the field, but also due to his personality.
During his rookie campaign in 2015, Kang swatted 15 home runs while posting a .173 ISO and a .461 slugging percentage. He also owned a 6.0 percent walk rate, .355 on-base percentage, .356 wOBA, and a 128 wRC+. In 126 games played, he owned a 38 fWAR and was a huge factor in the Pirates winning 98 games.
Late in September that season, Kang suffered a catastrophic leg injury on a dirty slide by Chris Coghlan of the Cubs. This injury may have cost the 2015 Pirates a division championship, a Wild Card Game victory, and possibly much more.
This injury also caused Kang to miss the first month and a half of 2016. He would go on to play in 103 games in 2016 and he was even better than 2015. His walk rate (9.7 percent), ISO (.235), slugging percentage (.514), wOBA (.369), and wRC+ (132) all improved in 2016 leading to him being a 2.2 fWAR player.
The lack of Kang’s presence in the lineup is a huge reason why the Pirates finished with a 75-87 record. Had the team had Kang, even with all their other issues, there is a good chance they would have at least been a .500 ball club.
Prior to Kang’s own poor decision making got in the way, he was on his way to becoming one of the best third basemen in the National League. Unfortunately for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates they will always be stuck wondering what if with Jung Ho Kang. Not only about what his future could have held, but also how 2015 may have ended without his injury.