Pirates’ Kang Jung-ho gets no love for ROTY in ESPN’s mock vote

September 4, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang gestures toward his bench after hitting a double during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang gestures toward his bench after hitting a double during the second inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

By Brian Han

ESPN recently held a mock vote among a panel of 14 journalists for end of season awards including the Cy Young, Most Valuable Player (MVP), Manager of the Year and the Rookie of the Year.

Despite putting together a fairly impressive debut season, Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kang Jung-ho got no love from panelists after receiving zero of the 14 possible votes.

Instead, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant took the majority of the votes with 11 while San Francisco Giants third baseman received the remaining three.

Kang has often been mentioned as a candidate for the award among Pittsburgh and South Korean media circles, but that sentiment may not extend very far outside of those groups.

Looking at the stats, the South Korean rookie has put up a case for consideration at the very least.

In 111 games, Kang is batting .290 with 13 home runs, 49 RBIs and five stolen bases.

In contrast, Bryant is batting .269 over 123 games with 22 home runs, 84 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.

Finally, Duffy has posted a .299 average over 121 games with 10 home runs, 61 RBIs and eight stolen bases.

In terms of OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) Bryant leads the pack with an .855, while Kang (.829) and Duffy (.785) trail in varying degrees. Typically an OPS of .900 and above represent elite talent and Bryant has straddled that line for most of the season.

A newer advanced baseball metric, WAR (Wins Above Replacement) takes into account a player’s hitting and fielding, respective to his position, and provides a number to determine the value of a player’s performance. For example, if a team were to lose a player with 3.0 WAR, they would have to replace him with a player with the same number to maintain the same probability of winning games.

At the moment, Bryant and Duffy both share a 4.2 WAR while Kang is slightly behind with a 3.9.

But the story is more complicated than that.

Kang is naturally a shortstop, a position where players are considerably weaker offensively, but because he has played more games at third base, his WAR is being more heavily weighed towards that position in relation to other players. His 3.9 WAR would actually put him as the second most valuable shortstop in the league behind the Giants’ Brandon Crawford — that’s without taking into account that his WAR would be higher if he played as a full time shortstop.

Granted these end of season awards are not based purely on numbers. They also take into consideration the opinions and preferences of the voters. Bryant has been in the spotlight since spring training where he led the major leagues with nine home runs. He continued to be the center of attention in rookie conversations and deservedly so.

The major league season is entering its final stretch of regular season games. With such a tight National League wild card race, Bryant, Duffy and Kang will each play critical roles in their teams’ run for a 2015 playoff berth.