Bae Ji-hwan Bae (24-Pittsburgh Pirates)’s status as the “starting second baseman” is on the rocks. A recent string of baserunning errors 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 local media outlet in Pittsburgh, USA, directly addressed Bae’s benching on April 25, saying, “Pittsburgh laid out five scenarios in which it could make a change in preparation for 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 things that need to change.
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 March 11. He stole 11 of his 12 bases in April and became an iconic figure for the Running Pirates, securing his spot in the lineup.
In May, however, his momentum waned as he began to make more mistakes at the plate. Only three of his seven stolen base attempts were successful메이저사이트, and his season stolen base rate dropped below the 75% 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.”
One such game was on April 24 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 a single by Andrew McCutchen 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 doesn’t have a distinct advantage over Castro. Bae can play a variety of positions, including second base, shortstop, and center field, but he’s below major league average in most defensive metrics. At the plate, Bae has a .264 batting average, two home runs, a .666 OPS, and a wRC+ (adjusted run production) of 84 in 45 games, while Castro has a .263 batting average, five home runs, an .805 OPS, and a 123 wRC+ in 44 games.
Castro’s lack of success against right-handed pitching is another reason to start him over Bae. Despite being a left-handed hitter, Bae is hitting .239 against right-handed pitching and .324 against left-handed pitching. Castro, a switch-hitter, on the other hand, has a clear advantage against right-handed pitching, batting .326 with a .418 OPS and .717 slugging percentage.
Rodolfo Castro (left)./AFPBBNews=News1
Rodolfo Castro (center)./AFPBBNews=News1
As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, “Inconsistent 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.”
“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 that Castro should be guaranteed 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 go to the bench.
“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.