KBO DFS: The Argument Against Shi Hwan Jang
In this post, I will give you:
- the raw stats for Shi Hwan Jang;
- why we should be tempted to roster him;
- the reasons why we should be wary of rostering him;
- why we should lean toward not rostering him; and, finally
- why I will likely roster him.
Jang is a risk in the worst way because we can luck ourselves into fading HRs, but guys with control issues always have control issues.
The numbers on Jang are a mixed-bag of sex appeal and red flags. Since 2019, he ranks fifth in K/9 (8.68), but fourth-to-last in BB/9 (4.39) for a modest 10.1 K-BB%, with a tolerable 0.90 HR/9 and slightly sub-median 4.41 FIP. This season alone, he leads the league with a 10.68 K/9, but is second-to-last in BB/9 (5.04) for a top-15 13.0 K-BB%. The HR/9 is up to an average 1.01. Despite the elite Ks, his FIP is up to 4.69—a little because of the HRs, but mainly—because of the walks.
The Ks matter, though. They matter more than anything. Staying in games, run prevention, and baserunner prevention matter, too, but Ks prevent baserunners which prevent runs which keeps our pitchers in the game to K even more. On Ks alone, Jang is a damn bargain at $6,800. And on a slate with Chang Mo Koo at $10,800, bargains are gold at every roster spot.
But the walks are a killer. Walks aren’t like HRs where they just happen as splash plays for a run or two once or twice in a game. The difference between two walks and four walks aren’t just a couple of extra guys reaching first. The difference is a reflection of control. Or is it willingness?
Of the 216 hitters Jang has faced this season, he has thrown the first strike 59.7% of the time. This is good. But it all goes downhill from there, as after 0-and-1 counts, his walk rate is 17.1%. After 0-and-2 counts, where the magic is supposed to happen, it is a staggering 32.6%. Without having seen Jang pitch, it is safe to assume that he goes overboard trying to make hitters chase.
On the other hand, the 87 of 216 times Jang has thrown a ball on the first strike, his K rate goes up from 17.1% to 35.6%. One of the weirdest oddities I have ever seen analyzing this game. But it makes sense to assume that when ahead of the count, Jang is throwing unhittable pitches, but aims for the zone when behind.
This may not be a control problem but one of willingness. It may not be a question of whether or not Jang can throw strikes, but rather whether or not he even tries to enough.
Jang has a high-velocity fastball for the KBO that flirts with 90 mph on average, but it’s only hit the zone 43.8% of the time this season. When he’s hit the zone more than 50% of the time with his fastball, he’s had a 16.2 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 0 HRs, and a 1.80 ERA. The math on that was easy, looking at the game logs, because it’s only happened once this season.
Lotte is not a very good team, but they don’t strike out much. Their 38 HRs this season are the second-fewest in the KBO, but their 311 Ks are the absolute fewest. Even worse for Jang’s prospects, their 178 walks rank third. Even if we want to chase the Ks and we feel good about run prevention, where is the upside?
And when you’re not throwing strikes, you’re getting deep in counts. And when you’re getting deep into counts, you’re running up your pitch count. And when you’re running up your pitch counts, you’re not going six innings. And when you’re not going six innings, your ceiling is capped.
Not to mention, Jang pitches for Hanwha, so no win.
Playing a capped ceiling at SP2 is fine with a safety valve, but Jang doesn’t have one.
Or does he?
Jang’s first start of the season was May 7. He was lights out for six Ks in six innings, only allowing two runs and two walks. The next five starts were disasters.
Between May 13 and June 5, Jang gave up three or more walks in each of his five starts, only going more than five innings once. His RA/9 over those 21.2 IP was 9.55, despite striking out 28. Since then, he’s had two straight starts with only two walks and walked none in his most recent start. Over those three games, he has 2.12 RA/9 in 17 IP, striking out 19.
Toss in the first start and Jang has a 2.35 RA/9 and 25 Ks in the 23 IP in the four starts in which he gave up two or fewer walks.
Knowing that this is more of an erratic pitch selection issue than a lack of ability says that this is a ceiling.
So after all that, Jang is rosterable. Especially when you look at the rest of the pitchers under $7,500.
— I’m not seeing any stacks outside of NC and Kiwoom. Probably a bad day to doublestack, given we’re already spending on Koo. NC and Kiwoom bats are all expensive.
— Je Seong Bae is an option at SP2. But a 5.2 K-BB% against a respectable Kia isn’t gonna win a tournament.
— Jae Woong Kim is not an option at SP2. He’s serving as the opener in a bullpen game for Kiwoom. Nice try, though. (initially copy-pasted the wrong name, sorry.)
— If you’re going MME for some reason, Woo Chan Cha and Ki Young Im are perfectly fine pivots off of Koo if you really wanna go with the NC-Kiwoom doublestack. If Drew Rucinsky were the $9k pitcher of the day, I’d be beating everyone else to the pot to roster either of them.