How in the world are the San Diego Padres bad? It doesn’t make any sense. I know that many people have taken their shots at the New York Mets, and pretty much all of those shots are well deserved, but there’s an explanation for why the Mets have underachieved this season. Many of their reliable players from a season ago, like Jeff McNeil, Max Scherzer, and Starling Marte, are having awful seasons. I know that all those players are more talented than the numbers they’ve put up, but sometimes guys take a step back. In the case of Max Scherzer, it may be a matter of father time catching up to him. But when you look at the Padres, it’s not like they’ve seen a ton of regression. There’s been a few injury issues, and the team is, for whatever reason, terrible at winning close games, but Blake Snell is pitching like a Cy Young winner. Yet, the team still finds itself below .500, but the biggest mystery for me is that Ha-Seong Kim is having an incredible season, and no one seems to be discussing it.
Kim is one of those players who’s going to divide a lot of fans. On paper, he’s been a completely average offensive player with a career OPS+ of 105. He has had a solid year at the dish in 2023, putting up a career-high 814 OPS and a slugging percentage over 60 points higher than his previous career best. But the analytics community loves him. Even in his rookie campaign, when he was abysmal at the plate, he still put up a solid win above replacement because he graded out to be a tremendous defender. That has continued over the last two years. Last season, he was second on the San Diego Padres, a team that made it to the NLCS, in wins above replacement. He was ahead of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Blake Snell. This year he’s taken off. He is an elite defensive player. A big reason why the San Diego Padres moved Fernando Tatís, Jr. to right field was because Kim graded out to be a much better defensive shortstop. But he’s also versatile and a plus defender at multiple positions.
I was perusing through baseball reference the other day (which is how I spend most of my time) and was stunned when I realized that Ha-Seong Kim probably belongs in the thick of the MVP conversation. The award is obviously Ronald Acuña Jr's to lose at this point, with Luiz Arraez of the Miami Marlins also belonging to that conversation. Still, Kim is tied with Ronald Acuña regarding the bWAR among all players in the National League. This is primarily because of his defense, though, like I said, he's had a really good year at the plate as well.￼ It further proves that the 2023 San Diego Padres are among the greatest head-scratchers ever. If you told me that Blake Snell would pitch like a Cy Young winner and Ha-Seong Kim would be tied for the National League lead and wins above replacement, I assume this team would win not just 100 games but possibly 110. But right now, with the trade deadline approaching, they are probably closer to being sellers than they are buyers. But you got to give him credit. Stars surround him, he's kept his head down, and he's put up some fantastic numbers. In many ways, he's kept the Padres afloat.￼