Exit Interview 2021: Kwang Hyun Kim

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Kwang Hyun Kim

Season stats: 7-7, 1 SV, 1 SVO, 3.46 ERA, 27 G, 106.2 IP, 98 H, 12 HR, 39 BB, 80 K, 2 inherited runners, 0 inherited runners scored, 4.34 FIP, 1.284 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 1.0 bWAR, 1.2 fWAR

Statcast: .322 xwOBA, 7.0 barrel %, 88.0 exit velocity, 35.9 hard hit %, 17.7 K %, 8.6 BB %

Best Statcast category: Hard Hit % (70th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Fastball Velocity (8th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 3, Goat 3

Grade: C

Positives: Got to play a non-pandemic season in the major leagues….had three straight starts (19 innings) of scoreless ball to start July….had nine other starts (of varying lengths) where he allowed only one earned run….had a 2.45 ERA over the last four weeks of the season….limited lefties to a .452 OPS….was 4-1, 2.95, and .578 OPS against in Busch Stadium….had a 3.11 ERA in the first half….batters hit .186 against him in July….they slugged .189 against him in August….had a 1.80 ERA as a reliever….had a 2.64 ERA if he got three or more runs of support….fifth place hitters put up a .526 OPS….batters hit .165 when he was ahead in the count….only one pitcher got a hit off of him….at his best (.612 OPS against) with one out in an inning….allowed a .178/.245/.200 line with two outs and runners in scoring position….allowed a .548 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 0.86 ERA in the first inning….hitters had a .539 OPS the third time through….in 47 PA after 75 pitches, gave up a .196/.213/.304 line….had a 2.74 ERA on four days’ rest….kept the Cubs to a .448 OPS….his family got to see him pitch one game in Busch Stadium.

Negatives: Lost his spot in the rotation by the end of the year and finished up in the bullpen….started the year on the IL and had two other stints on the injured list….had four games where he allowed four earned runs or more….only had one game outside of July where he went six innings….right-handers had a .754 OPS against him….had a 4.01 ERA on the road….put up a 4.19 ERA in the second half….got beat up in September, allowing a .385/.455/.615 line in 44 plate appearances….gave up a .981 OPS when he got two or less runs of support….cleanup hitters had a 1.146 OPS against him….batters had over a 1.000 OPS when he was behind 1-0 or 2-0….overall, if the batter was ahead, they managed a .316/.490/.547 line….allowed a .788 OPS with two outs….had a 6.86 ERA in the third inning….his one ninth inning went poorly, giving up two hits and a homer….batters hit .319 the second time around….had a 5.22 ERA with five days off….the Brewers had a 1.008 OPS against him in three games.

Overview: For a guy that the Cardinals spent a lot of time and effort signing and helping through the pandemic, Kim fell out of favor very quickly in 2021.  I’m not sure if it was the injuries, the lack of going deep into games, the lack of strikeouts, or maybe the translator said something wrong, but it seemed that for a team that needed starting pitching, they weren’t all that excited about giving Kim starts even though he didn’t really come to the majors to be a reliever.  His last start against the Brewers in early September went badly and about that time Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty were about ready to come back, which definitely played a role, but it still seemed a little sudden.  Overall, Kim’s time in St. Louis was fine if not perhaps has great as some other imports.  We also got to see more of his personality come out this season which was fun as well.

Outlook: Kim will be a free agent and, as noted, the Cardinals have no desire to re-sign him.  If he wants to stay in the majors, I would expect Kim could find a medium range contract for a couple of years without too much trouble.  After the separation he’s dealt with due to the pandemic, though, it would not be a surprise if he decided to return home and play there much closer to his family.

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