Bae Ji-hwan (24-Pittsburgh Pirates) is slowly turning around his hitting, which has been a weakness in Major League Baseball (MLB). A month-long change in hitting form appears to be paying off.
Through 51 games this season, Bae is hitting .275 with two home runs, 12 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 15 doubles, and a .698 OPS through two days.
At first glance, that doesn’t sound impressive. In fact, with a league average OPS of 100 and an OPS+ of 92, you can see that he’s not even average, at least at the plate. His quick feet have allowed him to steal a lot of bases, but he’s also been caught stealing five times, the most in the league.
However, Bae is clearly improving. After batting .250 through the end of April, his average dropped to .232 after the May 10 game, but in the next 17 games between then and June 1 against San Francisco, he went on a tear, batting .352 (19-for-54). His OPS is also high at .860 with six doubles. His local batting average in May was 0.304, making it a “beautiful month.
Bae has shown promise at the plate since his minor league days. When he was in Single-A, MLB Pipeline, the prospect specialty of MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, graded him on a “20-80 scale,” which is a numerical representation of a player’s ability, and gave him a 55 in contact. A score above 50 is considered an average starter, so he was recognized as a prospect early on.
This year, in his second season after being called up to the major leagues, Bae didn’t show much in the way of hitting at the beginning of the season. But as of late, his hitting has improved, so what has changed?
Bae’s at-bats on March 31 (left) and May 31 (right). /Photo via MLB.com
MLB.com attributed the change to a change in batting form. “Over the past month, Bae has changed his hitting mechanics from a ‘high leg kick’ to a take-back with a shorter stride,” the outlet explained. In fact, in a video embedded by MLB.com, Bae showed that in the season opener (March 31 against Cincinnati), he brought his knees up to his waist, while in his most recent game (May 31 against San Francisco), he simply pulled his front leg back slightly and executed the hit as he stepped out.
The change was first suggested by the coaching staff. The reasoning was that extreme leg kicks can be powerful but difficult to hit the ball accurately. According to the media, the coaching staff asked Bae, “Is the leg kick meant to add power?” and then advised him, “If so, instead of making the leg kick bigger, try hitting with less legs and less power.”스포츠토토
“It feels different, but I’m learning every day,” said Bae, who has been modifying his batting form since mid-April. “When I step into the batter’s box, I will realize something. The next day, I’ll remember what I did yesterday and try to fix what I don’t like,” he said. “I’m grateful to the coaching staff for giving me the opportunity to play every day,” he said.
Bae was criticized as a “black hole in the batting order” (Pittsburgh Baseball Now) at one point in the season. Now, however, he is gradually adjusting to the big leagues by changing his batting form.