‘I did it!”…Kim wins Gold Glove, first Asian infielder to do so ‘with aplomb’

It’s a dream come true. After one of the best seasons of his career, San Diego Padres outfielder Ha-Sung “Awesome Kim” Kim has won his first Gold Glove in the big leagues.

Major League Baseball (MLB) announced the winners of the 2023 Rollins Gold Glove on June 6 (KST). The winners were announced for each position in the American League and National League, from catcher to utility, during a live broadcast on ESPN.

Unlike the KBO’s Golden Glove, which combines offense and defense, the American Gold Glove is awarded to the best defensive player at each position. The award is based on a 75% vote of each team’s coaching staff and 25% on defensive metrics from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). On-field evaluations play a big role in the award.

Kim, who was a finalist in the National League’s second base and utility categories, beat out Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Tommy Edmon (St. Louis Cardinals) to win the National League Utility Award. This is the first time Kim has won a Gold Glove since his big league debut, although he did win back-to-back Gold Gloves in 2018 and 2020 while playing for the Kiwoom Heroes in the KBO.

Since 2011, only Hiroki Kuroda (2011), Shin-Soo Choo (2012), Masahiro Tanaka (2018), Kenta Maeda and Shogo Akiyama (both 2020), and Ha-Sung Kim (2022-2023) have been finalists for the Gold Glove. That’s why it’s considered an accomplishment for an Asian player to be a Gold Glove finalist.

This year, Kim is the first Korean player to win the Gold Glove, and the first Asian outfielder to win the Gold Glove. Even if you expand the definition to include “Asian outfielders,” he is only the second outfielder since Ichiro Suzuki, who won the Gold Glove for 10 consecutive years starting in 2001.

In his third year in the big leagues, Kim batted .260 with 140 hits in 538 games, 17 home runs, 60 RBIs and an OPS of .749, setting “career highs” in double-digit home runs and stolen bases for the second straight year. His offensive prowess was recognized with a spot on the recently announced Silver Slugger watch list (National League utility).

He has also made his presence felt on defense, making him an indispensable player for the team. While Kim has excelled at his primary position of second base (106 games and 856⅔ innings), he has also been able to play third base (32 games and 253⅔ innings) and shortstop (20 games and 153⅔ innings), putting him in a league of his own. After capturing the attention of fans with his wide defensive range and reliable catching ability, he continued to receive praise from both inside and outside the team throughout the season and earned the trust of the coaching staff.

The local media was also very interested in Kim’s performance. Later this season, MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, featured his name in an article on the best second basemen. MLB.com wrote, “Kim is the most valuable player on the team and plays solid defense. He set career highs in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, OPS, and home runs,” highlighting his season.

Even after the ceremony was over, local media outlets took notice of Kim’s honor. MLB.com noted, “Kim posted a +10 DRS at second base this season and +3 at third base and shortstop. While he played primarily at second base, he showed his versatility by switching between second, third, and shortstop,” said MLB.com.

The player himself has expressed his desire to win the award. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win,” he said when he returned home through Incheon International Airport Terminal 2 on March 11, “I don’t know what the outcome will be, but I’m looking forward to it.” And he got to realize his dream.

Nico Horner (Chicago Cubs) beat out Brian Stott (Philadelphia Phillies) and Kim for the coveted National League second baseman award. 캡틴토토 도메인

According to Baseball Reference, a major league statistics site, Horner led all National League second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) (+11) in 1167 innings played. The numbers for Ha-Sung Kim (+10) and Stott (+7) in 856⅔ innings and 1294⅓ innings, respectively, were also “close” according to another statistical site, FanGraphs, with Horner +11, Kim +11, and Stott +7.

When comparing the SABR Defensive Index (SDI), developed by SABR, there was no significant difference. In fact, at 8.3 (as of August 14), Kim was higher than Stott (6.4) and Horner (5.7). However, the voters were more inclined to favor Horner, who played more innings at second base than Kim.

Meanwhile, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who have backed up the “Korean Monster” since August, also won Gold Gloves. For Kiernan, one of the league’s most recognized outfielders, as well as his team, it was his fourth career Gold Glove after winning in 2015, 2016, and 2019.

The Texas Rangers, who won their first World Series title in franchise history 62 years after their founding in 1961, had three winners in Nathaniel Lowe, Jonah Heim, and Adolis Garcia. The Chicago Cubs were the National League’s most prolific honorees, with three players recognized, including Horner, who was named Second Baseman of the Year, as well as Dansby Swanson and Ian Happ.

During the ceremony, several players were interviewed via video to discuss their honors. First baseman Christian Walker (Arizona Diamondbacks), who made a costly error in the World Series, said the Gold Glove honor made up for it. “My dad has been a big help to me since I was a kid,” Walker said. “I’m just grateful to be able to play because a lot of my teammates aren’t playing anymore,” he said.

Anthony Wolf (New York Yankees), who followed in the footsteps of Derek Jeter, became the second Yankee shortstop to win the Gold Glove. “It’s unbelievable. I’m honored. I have to give a lot of credit to my teammates for believing in me and my teammates for helping me,” he beamed.

Brenton Doyle (Colorado Rockies), winner of the National League Infield Award, said, “In any sport, defense is what makes a team win. I’m grateful to Charlie Blackmon and others who have gone before me.”

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