A number of media outlets in the United States have criticized “speed star” Bae Ji-hwan (24, Pittsburgh Pirates) for not utilizing his strengths.
“Pittsburgh lost to the Texas Rangers because of big mistakes by young players who outplayed veteran starter Rich Hill,” The Athletic wrote on Thursday, highlighting Bae’s missed bunt.메이저놀이터
Here’s what happened. The day before, Bae was batting eighth and second in the lineup against Texas at home and went 2-for-3. But both were overshadowed by poor baserunning. In the third inning, he was thrown out at first base by Texas starter Nathan Iovaldi, and in the eighth inning, he misjudged a throw from the next batter, Andrew McCutchen, and was thrown out at second base on his way to third.
The local reaction was also critical. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “reckless,” while MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, wrote, “Bae sat in the dugout immediately after the loss, crouching with his head in his hands. He was probably thinking about his two mistakes at the plate,” and cited them as the reason for the loss.
After the game, Bae said, “I had two outs, so I thought I had to go to third base. But I misread the pitch and ended up getting thrown out.” Pittsburgh manager Derek Selton said, “If you’re going to run to third base, you have to stick with it,” and added, “That’s what you see with young players who have a lot of speed. They want to make something happen. But he doesn’t have to do too much right now. Bae’s quick feet are a real weapon (for our team). But if we don’t use it, we won’t be able to use it (when we need it).”
Bae Ji-hwan (right) is forced out at second base./AFPBBNews=News1
Bae Ji-hwan (right) is tagged out at second base./AFPBBNews=News1
This isn’t the first time Bae has struggled on the basepaths, as he stole 11 of 12 bases in March and April, but has only managed three of seven in May. That’s because opposing teams have realized his quick feet and have begun to take advantage of them. As a result, Bae hasn’t stolen any more bases this season than he did on May 6 against Toronto.
According to sabermetrics, stolen bases are generally worthless unless you have a 75% success rate. Bae has a 73.6% success rate, which means he might as well not play at all if he keeps this up.
His on-base value also shows that he doesn’t fully utilize his quick feet. According to Statcast, Bae’s sprint speed, or top speed, is 29.5 feet per second (about 9 meters), which puts him in the top 4% of major leaguers. In terms of reaching first base from home plate, he’s first at 4.05 seconds.
Freddie Freeman (right) celebrates a home run. /AFPBBNews=News1
However, he ranks just 34th in the majors with 1.8 runs above average, as calculated by Baseball America’s FanGraphs. That’s lower than the 2.2 of Freddie Freeman (34-LA Dodgers), who currently has six stolen bases (one failed attempt). Freeman’s top speed is 26.3 feet per second, which is in the bottom 30% of all players. While he’s slow compared to Bae, the 2020 National League MVP is helping his team with smart baserunning.
There’s plenty of room for improvement for Bae, who is still a young player in his second year in the big leagues. “If it’s wrong, you teach it, and it doesn’t happen again,” Selton said, adding, “It’s our job to teach him what’s the right opportunity and what’s not.”
“When my team is losing, I want to help my teammates, and I know I went a little overboard,” Bae said in response to the criticism, adding, “I think my biggest challenge right now is to read the game well and recognize when to use my dominance and when not to.”
Pittsburgh’s Bae Ji-hwan (left) hugs Palacios in the dugout against Arizona on Tuesday. /Photo=Pittsburgh team social media