Kwang Hyun Kim made his first start in front of St. Louis Cardinals fans on Friday and was excellent. How big could he be in the rotation?
It’s no secret that the St. Louis Cardinals scared fans early in the season. After Miles Mikolas and Kwang Hyun Kim started the season on the IL, the team’s pitching that once looked deep all of the sudden looked like the weakest link.
However, the past couple of turns through the rotation have looked a lot better. Part of the improvement has come from the return of Kwang Hyun Kim. Kim dealt with back tightness this spring and forced him to start on the IL as was mentioned.
Kim, 33, had a stellar first year in St. Louis after signing with the team last offseason. Over seven starts in 2020, he had just a 1.62 ERA which mostly came through pinpoint pitching and soft contact. As happens with almost every established player that comes to the MLB, there is some regression as the league gets more tape on the player. The defining difference is how the player re-adjusts to the league.
Kim has still pitched fewer than 50.0 MLB innings, so the regression hasn’t hit yet, but it doesn’t really matter right now. The Cardinals need another consistent arm in the rotation and Kim’s first two starts of the year look like he’s picking up where he left off in 2020.
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On Friday, Kim was facing off against the Cincinnati Reds, a team that has been on fire to start the year before slowly cooling. Their offense has carried them, currently leading the MLB with 115 runs scored which averages out to more than 6 runs a game.
Though he only averaged about 90 mph on his fastball, Kim was masterful, allowing just one earned run over 5.2 innings. Kim wasn’t much of a strikeout pitcher last year but struck out eight on Friday. The Reds scored three in the top of the 9th, but in the end, the Cardinals were able to hold them off and win 5-4.
The Cardinals’ offense did look good in the game, but the story was all about Kim. This was Kim’s second start of the year, throwing 3.0 innings against the Phillies in his debut. For Kim, this was the first time that he was able to throw in front of fans in St. Louis due to the lack of crowds last year and he didn’t disappoint.
If Kim can consistently provide quality starts, that is going to be huge for the team’s rotation. We have seen a lot of volatility, and an innings-eater that can just be consistent is a super underrated type of player to have.