The strategic choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates of the US Major League (ML), which took Bae Ji-hwan (24), who had poor results in spring camp, is returning with the best results.
The American media 메이저놀이터‘Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’ analyzed Pittsburgh’s early performance on the 29th (Korean time), saying, “No team has used the new rules of the major leagues more than the plundering pirates.”
The Major League Secretariat introduced various new rules ahead of this season, such as pitch clock, no shift, extended infield base, and restrictions on checks. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said, “From the moment Pittsburgh learned the rules were changing, they were interested in how to run more.” He added, “Pittsburgh general manager Ben Sherington wanted to increase his on-base rate so that he would have (many) chances to play, and to do that, he intentionally built a roster that was young and focused.”
So far, this strategy has been successful. Pittsburgh recorded 37 stolen bases (86% success rate), which is the top record in the major leagues, and is 18-8, breaking the expectations of many and leading the National League Central Division. “There’s always a movement to put pressure on the opposing battery,” Conor Cho said. “Every time one of us gets on base, we think the runner is going in scoring position. Also, if there’s someone in scoring position when they hit, the batter’s at-bat becomes important and increases focus.” He explained the effect of stolen base.
The player who symbolized the changed Pittsburgh was Bae Ji-hwan. According to the existing rules, Bae Ji-hwan, with a batting average of 0.234, on-base percentage of 0.280, and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of 0.535 in 19 spring camp games, might have been difficult to join the major league opening roster. However, his main focus was evaluated as a major league all-star, and Pittsburgh boldly joined Bae Ji-hwan to the opening roster as a backup to cover the infield and outfield.
The ‘Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’ explained, “The decision to increase the number of stolen bases had some influence on the roster. This is one of the reasons why Pittsburgh included Bae Ji-hwan on the roster despite his slow start in spring training.” “The most notable player is Bae Ji-hwan, who stole 10 bases in 71 at-bats with a batting average of 0.254. He is tied for second in the major leagues in stolen bases, following Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta), who recorded 13 steals with a batting average of 0.352 in 105 at-bats. “Surprisingly, he has potential to grow. Think about what he can do if Bae Ji-hwan becomes the starting pitcher or if his batting average is higher than it is now. Pittsburgh is now performing as well without O’Neill Cruz,” he said. Noticed.
Pittsburgh’s choice to join Bae Ji-hwan returned to the best results. As of the 29th, Bae Ji-hwan has a batting average of 0.254, 2 homers, 9 RBIs, 15 points, 10 stolen bases, an on-base percentage of 0.312, and a slugging percentage of 0.366 in 24 games. He is showing overwhelming speed with 62 stolen bases in the season, while showing a significant gap even with Andrew McCutchen’s 4, which is the 2nd place in the team in steals.
The three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the week was a series that showed the true value of the changed Pittsburgh and Bae Ji-hwan. Pittsburgh stole the bases 12 times in this three-game series alone. It was the third most stolen bases by a team against another team in a three-game series since 1901, and tied the Pittsburgh record (August 19–21, 1977 against San Francisco). Bae Ji-hwan played a decisive role in this record as he succeeded in stealing 5 bases including 2 steals in 2 consecutive games. Bae Ji-hwan is the first Pittsburgh player to steal multiple bases in two consecutive games since Starling Marte in September 2017.
Bae Ji-hwan said in an interview with the ‘Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’, “The season is long. I have to stay healthy and hit better to steal more bases.”