Perhaps Ha-Sung Kim (28, San Diego) isn’t the best player in the National League this season. But he’s certainly one of the most underrated players in the league. Despite his stellar performance, there’s a sense of being under the radar compared to other superstars.
Kim is a player we love here at Saber Matrix. That’s because he’s so good in the field, in the field, and at the plate. As of April 15, Kim has played in 116 games this season, batting .283 with 15 home runs, 42 RBIs, 65 runs scored, and an OPS of .821. Considering his position is primarily a center fielder (second base and shortstop), this is a very good offensive performance.
He is also highly regarded for his on-base percentage, which is an important factor in the sabermetric matrix. His .377 OPS for the season ranks 14th in all of baseball and 11th in the National League. The 10 players ahead of him in the National League are five outfielders, one catcher, and three first basemen. Of the center fielders, only Luis Arajes (Miami, 0.410), who was once in the hunt for the “dream four,” has a better OPS than Kim.
In the second half of the season alone, Araúez has a .446 OPS, good for sixth in the National League. He also already has 27 stolen bases, good for fifth in the National League. The defense needs no introduction. He’s already +15 in DRS (a measure of how many runs a defense prevents), which leads the league among second basemen and is tied for first among all infielders.
He’s also among the best in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a metric that’s gotten a lot of attention lately. According to Baseball Reference, his 5.7 WAR ranks fourth in the league. Only Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels, 9.1), Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atlanta, 6.3), and Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers, 5.7) are ahead of Kim. In the National League, the battle for the top spot is fierce.
According to FanGraphs, a slightly more reliable source of WAR, Kim ranks 12th overall in the majors and 6th in the National League with 4.4. In the National League, only Acuña Jr. (6.1), Freddie Freeman (LA Dodgers, 6.0), Betts (5.8), Matt Olson (Atlanta, 4.8), and Francisco Lindor (New York Mets, 4.5) have a higher WAR than Kim. It’s a testament to Kim’s tremendous performance this season.
Now, there’s a good chance he’ll get a lot of votes in the MVP voting as well. While the first three spots might be a bit tough, voters who recognize his all-around game will have a hard time deciding between the fourth and fifth spots. There are also expectations for a top 10 finish. The last Korean player to reach the top of the MVP voting was Choo Shin-soo in 2013. He finished 12th in the MVP voting. No Korean player has ever finished in the top 10.
Last Word on Sports, a major league media outlet, named Acuña Jr. and Freeman as the top two candidates for National League MVP this year. The two players are expected to battle for the top honor. Acuña Jr. is batting .337 with 26 home runs, 71 RBIs, and 55 stolen bases in 118 games this year. Choi Yoo-hyun Hooboda is the current favorite. Freeman is chasing Aquino Jr. with a balanced .339 batting average, 23 home runs, and 83 RBIs in 117 games. 꽁머니사이트
Last Word on Sports then went on to name a dark horse outside of the two players, and that’s Ha Sung Kim. He joins Luis Araes, Matt Olson, and Mookie Betts on the list. That doesn’t mean he’s an MVP contender, but it’s great to see him on the list.
As Last Word on Sports put it, “San Diego is having an unexciting season in 2023. But Kim Ha-Sung has been their best player,” and didn’t hesitate to name him San Diego’s Player of the Year, praising his balanced performance this season: “In 113 games with the Padres (through 14), Kim hit .286 with a .381 on-base percentage, .449 slugging percentage, and 27 stolen bases.
“He currently leads the National League in wins above replacement and defensive WAR,” he said. “Defensively, he is a great defender at second, third, and shortstop. Considering he was not an All-Star in the first half of the season, he could be a dark horse pick.
Every last spurt counts. The MVP vote is not only about skill, but also about your overall image. It’s a human vote, not a machine. If Kim can continue his late-season run and lead San Diego to an upset postseason berth, he’ll have made an impact beyond his performance this year and could be in the MVP conversation.
Conversely, if the team falls apart, Kim’s contributions will likely be overshadowed. Atlanta and the Dodgers have a lot of players on the MVP ballot, partly because they’re good, but also because they’re on top teams. That’s where Kim and San Diego’s last month and a half come into play.