‘Main man’ Bae Ji-hwan’s backup move to the bench a reality, but he says it himself… “We’re starting to have problems in the pit”
The position of ‘starting second baseman’ Bae Ji-hwan (24-Pittsburgh Pirates) is shaky. A series of recent errors at the plate and the rise of rival Rodolfo Castro (24) have raised red flags in the battle for the starting job.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a leading media outlet in Pittsburgh, USA, directly addressed Bae’s benching on 25 April, saying, “Pittsburgh has five scenarios that could make a difference in a troubled May.”
After dominating the National League in April with a 19-9 record, the Pirates have gone 5-15 in May. With the need for change, it’s significant that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette listed “Start Castro – Bench for Bae” at the top of their list of five changes to make.안전놀이터
Since opening day, Bae has been Pittsburgh’s starting second baseman. He started out as a backup infielder, but got his chance when starting shortstop Oniel Cruz, 25, went on the disabled list on 11 March. He stole 11 of his 12 bases in April and became an iconic figure for the Running Pirates, securing a starting spot.
However, his momentum slowed in May as he made more errors at the plate. Only three of his seven stolen base attempts were successful, and his season stolen base rate dropped below the 75 per cent efficiency threshold, which began to take a toll on the team’s performance. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “It’s not that Bae was a bad hitter, considering his .286 batting average in May. But his on-base percentage is starting to become a problem for Pittsburgh.”
An example of this was on the 24th against the Texas Rangers. In Pittsburgh’s 1-6 loss, Bae went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, but he made two costly fielding errors. He was thrown out at first base with the bases loaded in the third inning, and in the eighth inning, he misjudged the pitch on Andrew McCutchen’s single and was thrown out trying to get back to second base, ending the inning. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted, “If Bae can’t use his speed to his advantage effectively, that advantage becomes meaningless.”
The problem is that if Bae’s quick feet are no longer a weapon, he has no distinct advantage over his rival Castro. Bae can play a variety of positions, including second base, shortstop, and centre field, but he’s below major league average in every defensive metric. At the plate, Bae has a .264 batting average, two home runs, a 0.666 OPS, and a wRC+ (adjusted run production) of 84 in 45 games, while Castro has a .263 batting average, five home runs, an 0.805 OPS, and a 123 wRC+ in 44 games.
The lack of success against right-handed pitching is another reason to start Castro over Bae. Bae is a left-handed hitter, but his batting average against right-handed pitching is reversed, with a .239 average against righties and a .324 average against lefties. Castro, a switch-hitter, has a clear advantage against right-handed pitching, batting .326 with a .418 OPS and .717 slugging percentage.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Irregular playing time is starting to affect Castro’s bat. With fewer starts at second base, he’s batting .229 in May.” “Of course, if Castro starts more against right-handed pitching, that means Bae will have to go to the bench,” the Post-Gazette explained.
“Bae and Castro are comparable defenders. The unfortunate reality for Castro is that Bae is getting the majority of the playing time and at-bats while circling the bases.” “But if Castro is showing signs of (hope) against right-handed pitching and Bae is being reckless, Pittsburgh manager Derek Selton needs to reevaluate his second base operation.”
In effect, he’s saying to guarantee Castro at-bats. For now, Castro is starting at shortstop and Bae is starting at second base, but by August when Cruz returns, one of them will have to be benched.
“I think my biggest challenge right now is reading the game well and knowing when to use my feet and when not to use my feet,” Bae said in an interview after the Texas game. It will be interesting to see if his new attitude can keep him in the lineup for the rest of the season.