Bigger bases, fewer balls… Kim enters the ‘stolen base era’

Using change as an opportunity. Ha-Sung Kim (28, San Diego Padres) has entered the “stolen base era.

On April 4 against the San Francisco Giants, Kim recorded his fourth multi-steal game of the season. He stole bases in the first and fourth innings, bringing his season total to 31 stolen bases (8 unsuccessful). Kim is the first Korean major leaguer to reach 30 stolen bases in a single season. The previous single-season record was 22, set by Shin-Soo Choo (now SSG Landers) in 2010 with the Cleveland Indians.

In 2021, Kim had six stolen bases (one unsuccessful). Last year, in his second year in Major League Baseball (MLB), he stole 12 (2 missed). That’s a year-over-year doubling, but it’s nothing to write home about.

This year is different. There’s been a noticeable increase in stolen base attempts. More than the previous two seasons combined. According to MLB stats site BaseballSabermetrics, Kim’s sprint speed has remained between 28.4 and 28.5 feet per second (8.65 and 8.69 meters) since entering the MLB. One reason for the increase in stolen bases is a change in MLB rules.

Starting this season, MLB increased the size of bases from 15 inches (38.1 centimeters) square to 18 inches (45.72 centimeters) square. This shortens the distance between third base and home plate by about 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) and second base and third base by about 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters). Limiting pitchers to two pitches per at-bat for holding runners or taking their feet off the plate also made it easier for runners to steal. The league encouraged stealing, and as the times changed, so did Kim.

MLB expert Song Jae-woo, a commentator for MBC Sports Plus, said, “With the exception of a few players, MLB pitchers are less effective than their KBO counterparts. This is especially true for bullpen pitchers, including closers,” he says. “They limit the number of pitches they can throw, so they don’t throw more unless they’re sure. In the United States, 27 feet (8.23 meters) in one second is average. Kim’s speed is in the mid-to-high range, but he’s been playing for about three years and seems to have a good grasp on the habits of opposing pitchers.”

The MLB is an “age of stolen bases. The number of teams with 100 or more stolen bases has increased from eight last year to 13 this year. Looking at the rest of the schedule, more than 20 teams are on pace for triple-digit steals. In July, Ronald Acuna Jr. (Atlanta Braves) became the first player in six years to reach 50 stolen bases in a season since Dee Strange-Gordon (then Miami Marlins-60) and Billy Hamilton (then Cincinnati Reds-59) in 2017. Acuna Jr. extended his stolen base total to 63 for the season, cementing his title as the stolen base king.카

Kim’s stolen bases are a weapon that makes him even more valuable. “You usually have good offense and defense, but when you steal bases, you have all three,” said Song Jae-woo, “and he’s not that old, so it affects (his future contract). His price will increase considerably.”

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