Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto) signed a four-year, $80 million contract with Toronto in 2020. Toronto was in the midst of a rebuild and needed an ace to lead the starting rotation, and Ryu was the man they chose.

However, there were some concerns when Ryu joined the team. The first was his defense. Ryu is not a pitcher who throws strikes. Rather than relying on strikeouts, he also had to pitch relatively hard. This is where infield defense comes into play. Ryu’s former team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, still had a relatively good infield defense. But Toronto was different. There were too many young players in the infield. The defense was still unproven.

I was especially concerned about the defense of Beau Bichette, 25, at shortstop, the centerpiece of the infield defense. The son of former Major League Baseball player Dante Bichette, Bichette was obviously a specialty shortstop with the ability to hit, run, and hit well. Being able to hit triples at shortstop was a huge draw. But his defense was below league average. His defense was a ticking time bomb.

Ryu was often left in scoring position, or worse, without Bichette’s defensive support. In OAA, a metric that measures how many runs a player prevents relative to average, given the overall quality of his at-bats, Bichette was -5 in 2021. That’s well below league average. This led to a local narrative of “Bichette at shortstop is a no-go. He needs to play another position.” His movement was sharp, but he lacked stability.

Despite his offensive prowess, Bichette’s defensive issues were never resolved. Even in 2022, his OAA was -7. That was dead last among shortstops in the league, 먹튀검증 let alone the team. However, Bichette has learned from his mistakes, and his defense is much better than it used to be. His defensive metrics have improved.

As of July 7, Bichette’s OAA for the season is 0, which is about average. He’s not generating extra outs, but he’s not negative either. He’s actually showing better control of his pitches than he has in the past.

In another defensive metric, DRS (which measures how many runs a defense prevents), he’s a positive defender this year. This year, Bichette’s DRS is +2, which puts him on pace for his best pace since his debut. As his defense has stabilized, his offense has shined. His run production is at a career high, and his overall run production is on pace to be among the best among major league shortstops.

Through seven days and 62 games, Bichette is batting .332 with 88 hits, 13 home runs, 41 RBIs, and an OPS of .894. He leads the American League in batting average, hits, and total bases (140). He doesn’t have the build of a typical home run hitter, but he’s been able to produce both extra-base hits and long balls. While his walk rate is relatively low, he’s at least among the best in the league in terms of hit production.

This has propelled him into the American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) race. As of July 7, his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was 2.8, according to FanGraphs. That ranks fourth in the majors behind Wander Franco (Tampa Bay, 3.2), Marcus Semien (Texas, 3.2), and Ronald Acuña Jr. (Atlanta, 2.9). With a good offense and now a defense that doesn’t take away from it, it’s no wonder his overall WAR is up.

It will be interesting to see if he can reach the 200-hit plateau in a season, something that hasn’t happened in the majors in a while. Currently, Bichette is on pace for 202 hits per season. He’ll need to stay injury-free and maintain his current pace, so the odds are stacked against him. However, Bichette led the American League in home runs for the second straight year with 191 in 2021 and 189 in 2022. With his pace this year being better than the last two years, 200 hits is not out of the question.

There hasn’t been a 200+ hitter in the majors in the last three years. Until 2016, only four players had done so: Jose Altuve (Houston, 216), Mookie Betts (Boston, 214), Gene Segura (Arizona, 203), and Dustin Pedroia (Boston, 201). In 2017, four players also reached the 200-hit plateau, including Charlie Blackmon (Colorado, 213).

The last two years, however, have not seen one. In 2021, Trey Turner’s 195 was the best, and last year, Freddie Freeman (Los Angeles Dodgers) fell just one hit shy of 200. While it will be interesting to see if Bishek can reach the milestone this year, it will also be interesting to see if he can get some help from Ryu Hyun-jin, who is set to return in the second half of the season.

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