Will Bae Ji-hwan (24, Pittsburgh Pirates) ever rise to the top of the major league table?
may become a reality. This is because Ronald Acuna Jr. (26, Atlanta Braves), who runs first in stolen bases in the National and Major Leagues, was hit in the shoulder by a pitch. On the 2nd (hereinafter Korean time), Acuna started as right fielder in the second game of the away doubleheader against the New York Mets.
However, he was substituted virtually at the start of the match. New York Mets starting pitcher Tyler Megill chose a 93.4 mph four-seam fastball with 2S and 3 pitches. However, it turned to the body, and Akuna didn’t have time to dodge before getting hit on his left shoulder and making a painful expression. He was replaced by pinch runner Kevin Pilar and had to finish the match.
MLB.com said, “Acuna created fear in just three balls. He was taken care of by a trainer, and sat down near the plate for about a minute, looking in agony. Initial x-rays taken at Citi Field were negative, and Atlanta announced it was his left shoulder contusion. He confirmed at a nearby hospital that he had no fractures.”
Acuna’s pain is joy for Bae Ji-hwan 안전놀이터(Pittsburgh Pirates). This is because he is ranked 1st or 2nd in the National League in stolen bases. Until this day, Akuna had 13 and Bae Ji-hwan had 11. Beyond the National League, it ranks first or second in the major leagues.
If Akuna is absent or his condition deteriorates slightly, and Bae Ji-hwan continues his recent stealing pace, there is no law saying that Bae Ji-hwan should not rise to the top spot in base stealing. Of course, MLB.com said, “The Atlanta superstar is expected to return soon.” Acuna is playing very well this season with a batting average of 0.363, 5 homers, 15 RBIs, 26 points, 13 steals and an OPS of 1.034 in 29 games.
Bae Ji-hwan is highly likely to become the first Korean Major Leaguer to record 20 stolen bases in the second season following Choo Shin-soo. Choo Shin-soo stole 22 bases in 2010 while playing for the Cleveland Guardians. Bae Ji-hwan is highly likely to become the protagonist of the record for the most steals in a season by a Korean major leaguer, surpassing Choo Shin-soo 13 years ago.
He has virtually entered the competition for the stealing king, and the key is how long he will show his competitiveness in long-term races. Acuna has been reborn as a top outfielder in the major leagues with his monster-like athletic ability, and is recording a career steal of 120 bases, including 29 steals in the 2022 season. He has signed a 10-year, $124 million contract with Atlanta. Bae Ji-hwan deserves applause just for competing with such a player.