In 2015, Jung-ho Kang became the first hitter to jump directly from the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) to the major leagues.  This year, two more hitters – Byung-ho Park, for Minnesota, and Hyun-Soo Kim for Baltimore – will attempt to make the same trip.

Here’s a a draft that I worked on last January but never completed

***************************************************

Pittsburgh’s recent signing of Jeong-Ho Kang – or Jung, or Jeung, transliterations vary – got me into taking a hard look at the KBO in order to make a set of translations.

Kang’s real statistics have been very impressive, especially in two of the last three years.

Jeong-ho Kang                  Born 19870405 Age 28   Bats R   Throws R  Height 72  Weight 180   No DT, Real
Year Team         Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out  BA   OBP  SLG   EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP Defense
2006 Hyundai_Unic KBO  20   3   1   0   0   0   8   1   1   0   1   19 .150 .150 .200  .063   0  -4   7 -37 -14 -11   5-DH   0
2007 Hyundai_Unic KBO  15   2   0   0   0   0   5   0   0   0   0   13 .133 .133 .133  .000   0 -11  -6 -30 -15 -25   4-DH   0
2008 Woori_Heroes KBO 362  98  18   1   8  31  65  36  47   3   1  275 .271 .334 .392  .264  49   5  -3  -2  -3   2  96-DH   0
2009 Woori_Heroes KBO 476 136  33   2  23  45  81  73  81   3   2  355 .286 .349 .508  .276  71  14  -2   3  -3  -3 127-DH   0
2010 Nexen_Heroes KBO 449 135  30   2  12  61  87  60  58   2   2  321 .301 .392 .457  .287  71   6  -3   1   3  11 123-DH   0
2011 Nexen_Heroes KBO 444 125  22   2   9  43  62  53  63   4   6  333 .282 .353 .401  .265  60   1  -3   9  -2   0 119-DH   0
2012 Nexen_Heroes KBO 436 137  32   0  25  71  78  77  82  21   5  310 .314 .413 .560  .336 101  22   2   3   7   8 122-DH   0
2013 Nexen_Heroes KBO 450 131  21   1  22  68 109  67  96  15   8  335 .291 .387 .489  .293  78  18   0  -6   5   6 125-DH   0
2014 Nexen_Heroes KBO 415 147  36   2  39  67 106 102 115   3   3  273 .354 .458 .733  .345  96  51  -3  -9   6  19 117-DH   0
                  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
         Minors       561 167  35   2  25  71 110  86  99   9   5 2234 .298 .382 .502  .294  96  17  -2   0   2   6             

The .345 EqA in 2014 was good enough to lead the league; the .336 in 2012 earned him a second-best mark. He’s certainly in the mix in trying to figure out who the best hitter in Korea has been over the last three seasons – I would narrow it down to these four:

                  EQA   EQR
Tae-Kyun Kim     .333   250 (1st Eqa 2012, 4th 2013 and 2014)
Byung-ho Park    .331   309 (4th in Eqa in 2012, 1st 2013, 2nd 2014)
Jeong-ho Kang    .324   275 (2nd in EqA 2012, 11th 2013, 1st 2014)
Sok-min Park     .322   245  (5th in 2012, 3rd 2013)

Kang is the second-youngest of them (Byung-ho Park is 9 months younger), and, rather crucially, is a shortstop. (You can ignore the DH numbers on his stat lines; that’s just a default when no fielding data is available).

Kang’s power explosion in 2014 is not all him. The Korean league’s offensive levels have gyrated around quite a bit over the last five years, spanning a range over 1.5 runs per game:

	BA	OBP	SLG	OPS	R/G
2010	0.269	0.353	0.404	0.757	5.07
2011	0.265	0.347	0.384	0.730	4.54
2012	0.258	0.337	0.364	0.701	4.12
2013	0.268	0.353	0.388	0.740	4.64
2014	0.289	0.368	0.442	0.810	5.64

The National League, by way of comaprison, has ranged from 4.45 RPG in 2010 down to 3.95 last year. The 1930 NL – when Bill Terry hit .401, and Hack WIlson had 191 RBI – that league had a very comparable 5.68 RPG, the only NL season since 1900 over 5.5. It is a crazy high hitting environment. So you know, right away, before I even start to talk about the difficulty level of the Korean league, that those numbers are going to have to come down.

Part of the reason for that is expansion. The KBO started in 1982 with six teams, gained a seventh team in 1986 and an eighth in 1990. A ninth team was added in 2013, and a tenth will join in 2015. As generally happens when league expands, there was an immediate quality drop – the year-to-year comparisons, which had generally been improving by abou 1.5% per year, instead dropped 1.2% in 2013. League officials tried to compensate in 2014 by increasing the number of allowed foreign players from two per team to three. As a direct result of that, there were 10 players with US playing experience who made their debut in Korea in 2014, and they put up the following stat lines:

                      Year Team  Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out  BA   OBP  SLG   EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP Defense
Josh_Bell            27 2014 Twn KBO 240  64   8   1  10  30  56  33  39   3   0  180 .267 .345 .433  .258  30  10  -4  -8   2  -7  65-DH   0
Jorge_Cantu          32 2014 Bea KBO 373 116  25   1  18  34  83  56  72   1   0  259 .311 .378 .528  .282  55  19  -5  -6  -2   8  98-DH   0
Luis_Jimenez         32 2014 Gia KBO 260  82  15   0  14  41  57  42  61   0   2  181 .315 .408 .535  .299  44  22  -7  -4   6   8  72-DH   0
Yamaico_Navarro      26 2014 Lio KBO 497 154  27   1  31  96  70 118  98  25   9  357 .310 .419 .555  .302  89  19   5  11  10  -7 141-DH   0
Felix_Pie            29 2014 Eag KBO 445 145  33   2  17  41  60  61  92   9  11  323 .326 .373 .524  .276  65   8  -1  10  -2   4 117-DH   0
Brett_Pill           29 2014 Tig KBO 354 110  26   0  18  21  64  60  65  10   1  247 .311 .353 .537  .275  49  16   3   0  -7   1  89-DH   0
Vinny_Rottino        34 2014 Her KBO 215  65  18   0   1  29  22  29  21   2   0  151 .302 .386 .400  .255  25  -9  -2  17   3   0  58-DH   0
Luke_Scott           36 2014 Wyv KBO 105  28   7   0   6  20  18  17  17   0   0   79 .267 .392 .505  .284  17  21  -6   6  10 -18  31-DH   0
Brad_Snyder          32 2014 Twn KBO  97  21   7   0   4   7  31  17  17   0   2   79 .216 .287 .412  .219   9  20   4 -26  -5 -17  25-DH   0
Eric_Thames          27 2014 Dno KBO 440 151  29   6  37  57  99  95 121  11   2  297 .343 .422 .689  .329  92  37   1  -6   3  12 120-DH   0

Remember, in an unadjusted EQA the league average is always going to be .260, by definition. So everybody (with the exception of Brad Snyder, who wasn’t in Korea to start the season; he only went overseas after the Rangers released him in June) was at least in the neighborhood of average. Eric Thames was the only player who really filled a starring role, though, finishing second in the league in EQA and 3rd in EQR.

We can take a similar approach on other players who have played in Korea and the US prior to 2014. These are all players who went to korea after having played the prior three years in the US major or minor leagues – not Japan, not Mexico, no missing years.  That nets us Cory Aldridge (Korea 2011), Mike Cervenak (2006), Hee Choi (2007-2009, compared with US 2004-06), Doug Clark (2008-10), Jacob Cruz (2007-08), Victor Diaz (2009), John Gall (2006), Ryan Garko (2011), Bryan Myrow (2006), Calvin Pickering (2006), Scott Seabol (2006), and Wilson Valdez (2008).

I’m going to use the player’s previous three years of translated data in the US as their “established value”. Here’s how that looks in a plot:

kboeqa1

 

It is a moderately good fit, although it is distorted by five really low outliers at the bottom center of the picture. Those five belong to

Ryan Garko – while his three-year established value was .244, that consisted of a .269 three years pre-Korea, .265 two years prior, and .190 the year before. His performance in Korea was entirely consistent with someone whose real value is around .200.

Brad Snyder – who washed out of the US in June and came to Korea in mid-season.

Scott Seabol – who washed out of the US in June and came to Korea in mid-season.

John Gall – who washed out of the US in July and came to Korea in mid-season.

Mike Cervenak – who washed out of Korea and came back to the US in June.

Removing those players from the equation leaves us with this better looking graph:

kboeqa2

**********************************************************************************************

That’s where I left off.  Nothing above really needs to change. We can update the chart with league hitting stats:

Year     BA	OBP	SLG	OPS	R/G
2010	0.269	0.353	0.404	0.757	5.07
2011	0.265	0.347	0.384	0.730	4.54
2012	0.258	0.337	0.364	0.701	4.12
2013	0.268	0.353	0.388	0.740	4.64
2014	0.289	0.368	0.442	0.810	5.64
2015    0.280   0.360   0.431   0.791   5.22

And see that offense remains high in Korea. However, the allowance of more foreign players was very successful in raising 
the quality of the league - as I measure it, league strength was up almost 5% from 2013-14 and held steady in 2015 despite
further expansion.

As I noted above, Byung-ho Park, the new Twin, was one of two players I rated as a better hitter than Kang last year, and he
continued to do well in 2015:

Byung-ho Park                     Born 19860710   Age 28            Bats R Throws R          Height 73 Weight 235               No DT, Real

Year Team         Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out  BA   OBP  SLG  EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP 
2006 LG_Twins____ KBO 130  21   2   0   5   9  42   7  13   1   3  113 .162 .227 .292 .185   8  14  -2 -21  -4 -25 
2009 LG_Twins____ KBO 188  41   7   0   9  20  70  28  25   2   1  149 .218 .304 .399 .227  18  19  -2 -32  -2  -5 
2010 LG_Twins____ KBO 160  30   4   0   7  26  55  25  22   5   1  135 .188 .305 .344 .228  17  15   1 -23   6 -21 
2011 Nexen/LG     KBO 201  51  11   2  13  26  76  31  31   2   0  151 .254 .345 .522 .292  35  38  -2 -28   2   7 
2012 Nexen_Heroes KBO 469 136  34   0  31  73 111  76 105  20   9  349 .290 .392 .561 .325 105  30   2  -5   6   5 
2013 Nexen_Heroes KBO 450 143  17   0  37  92  96  91 117  10   2  315 .318 .437 .602 .337 104  34  -2   1  11   4 
2014 Nexen_Heroes KBO 455 139  16   2  52  96 140 126 124   8   3  323 .305 .436 .692 .328  99  61   0 -17  12  -1 
2015 Nexen_Heroes KBO 528 181  35   1  53  78 161 129 146  10   3  354 .343 .436 .714 .336 116  52   0 -15   5  21 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Minors               546 156  27   1  43  88 162 107 121  12   4 2040 .285 .391 .577 .308 105  39   0 -15   6   4 

Two straight years with over 50 HR, albeit with a LOT of strikouts. Remember, this is untranslated, real stats.

The Orioles' guy, Kim, is a very different hitter:
Hyun-soo Kim           Born 19880112   Age 27     Bats L Throws R       Height 74 Weight 220       No DT, Real
Year Team         Lge  AB  H  DB  TP  HR   BB  SO   R  RBI  SB  CS  Out  BA   OBP  SLG  EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP 
2006 Doosan_Bears KBO   1  0    0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0   0    1 .000 .000 .000 .000   0   0   0   0   0  -1 
2007 Doosan_Bears KBO 319  87  19   3   5  26  46  33  32   5   2  237 .273 .335 .398 .263  42   1  -2   3  -3   2 
2008 Doosan_Bears KBO 470 168  34   5   9  80  50  83  89  13   8  312 .357 .454 .509 .332  99   3  -1  14   8  20 
2009 Doosan_Bears KBO 482 172  31   6  23  80  59  97 104   6   6  322 .357 .447 .589 .322  95  11  -2  13   6  16 
2010 Doosan_Bears KBO 473 150  29   0  24  78  64  88  89   4   8  339 .317 .414 .531 .306  88  16  -3  11   7   4 
2011 Doosan_Bears KBO 475 143  25   2  13  71  63  71  91   5   3  344 .301 .392 .444 .291  79   6  -3  11   5   4 
2012 Doosan_Bears KBO 437 127  17   1   7  46  50  47  65   6   3  318 .291 .358 .382 .271  61   1  -3  11   0   3 
2013 Doosan_Bears KBO 434 131  23   1  16  62  71  63  90   2   4  319 .302 .382 .470 .286  70  12  -4   6   4   3 
2014 Doosan_Bears KBO 459 147  26   0  17  53  45  75  88   2   0  317 .320 .396 .488 .280  66   8  -4  18   1  -2 
2015 Doosan_Bears KBO 512 167  26   0  28 101  63 103 121  11   5  359 .326 .438 .541 .312  98  13  -2  18  11   0 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Minors               554 176  31   2  19  81  68  90 105   7   5 2868 .318 .406 .488 .298  95   8  -3  12   5   6 

Kim is a high-contact hitter, not a power guy.

Based on their last three years in Korea, then:
1) Kang hit for a .323 eqa, and would be expected to hit about .283 in the US from the slope above
2) Park hit .333 in 2013-15, which slopes to .293;
3) Kim hit .294, which goes to .257

When making a full set of translations, I look at players who have played in both the questioned league and leagues 
I already know about. By far and away the largest set of year to year matches for Korea are players who went from US
AAA leagues to Korea. On the aggregate, the translation works very well:

            AB     H    DB  TP   HR   BB    SO  SB  CS    BA  OBA  SLG  EQA  EQR   
 Yr1 (3A)  6216. 1443. 319. 27. 202. 658. 1248. 91. 30. .232 .306 .390 .247  726. 
 Yr2 (KR)  6235. 1483. 323. 30. 209. 639. 1204. 89. 41. .238 .309 .400 .251  746. 

The translations end up looking like this:

Jeong-ho Kang            Born 19870405 Age 28 Bats R Throws R Height 72 Weight 180 Regular DT 
Year Team         Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out   BA  OBP  SLG  EqA  EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP
2012 Nexen_Heroes KBO 449 126  28   1  24  55  74  73  73  17   4  332 .281 .361 .508 .294  78  17   3   4   4  -3 
2013 Nexen_Heroes KBO 469 114  21   1  18  63  99  60  75  11   7  369 .243 .333 .407 .259  63   9  -1  -3   5  -8
2014 Nexen_Heroes KBO 430 121  33   2  24  48  99  74  74   2   3  314 .281 .361 .535 .297  75  26  -3  -7   2   5 
2015 Pittsburgh__ NL  417 128  25   2  16  31  79  69  66   5   5  295 .307 .378 .492 .294  69  10  -1   0  -3  14
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Majors               417 128  25   2  16  31  79  69  66   5   5  295 .307 .378 .492 .294  69  10  -1   0  -3  14
 Minors               568 152  35   2  28  70 115  87  94  13   6 1015 .268 .351 .481 .283  91  17   0  -2   4  -2 
 Total                571 158  35   2  27  64 114  89  93  11   6 1310 .277 .357 .484 .286  92  15   0  -2   2   1

Expected .283, got .294. His BABIP (which is notoriously flaky) was rather high in Pittsburgh, and made up for somewhat disappointing power performance.

Byung-ho Park Born 19860710 Age 28 Bats R Throws R Height 73 Weight 235 Regular DT 
Year Team         Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out  BA   OBP  SLG  EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP 
2013 Nexen_Heroes KBO 467 125  15   1  29  54  88  73  89   8   2  350 .268 .345 .490 .284  75  20  -2   0   3  -7 
2014 Nexen_Heroes KBO 471 114  16   2  32  53 130  86  78   6   3  364 .242 .325 .488 .274  72  29   0 -15   2 -10 
2015 Nexen_Heroes KBO 544 151  32   2  33  58 138  96  99   8   3  400 .278 .351 .526 .293  93  26   0 -11   1   5 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Minors               574 151  24   2  36  64 138  99 103   9   3 1114 .263 .341 .503 .284  93  25   0  -9   2  -4
Comparables: Mauro_Gomez Rudy_York Bucky_Jacobsen Richie_Sexson


Hyun-soo Kim Born 19880112 Age 27 Bats L Throws R Height 74 Weight 220 Regular DT 
Year Team         Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  R  RBI  SB  CS  Out   BA  OBP  SLG  EqA EqR POW SPD KRt WRt BIP 
2013 Doosan_Bears KBO 449 112  23   1  14  55  64  58  72   1   3  352 .249 .325 .399 .253  57   6  -5   8   4 -10 
2014 Doosan_Bears KBO 472 120  17   1  13  50  42  58  63   2   0  357 .254 .328 .377 .249  55   1  -5  17   1 -12 
2015 Doosan_Bears KBO 528 140  21   1  19  70  54  77  89   9   5  403 .265 .350 .417 .268  75   4  -2  15   5 -10 
 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Minors               567 146  24   1  18  69  63  76  88   5   3 1112 .257 .335 .398 .258  73   4  -4  13   3 -11

Comps: Pete_O’Brien,  Frederick_Hopke, Clay_Dalrymple, Jim_Delsing

 

 

 

3 Responses to Coming to America (from Korea)

  1. sam says:

    Thanks for good article.Maybe these sites could help you to get more information about KBO
    http://www.statiz.co.kr/main.php
    http://www.kbreport.com/main
    http://baseball-lab.com/leagues/league-batting-advanced

  2. king pedro says:

    Thank you.Do These EqA Eqution uses PITADJ?

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