Projecting Byung-ho Park – A Review

Heading into the 2016 season, two of the biggest questions we asked related to expectations for the newest arrivals from the KBO League of South Korea — Byung-ho Park and Hyun Soo Kim. Though obtaining historical statistics was easy, translating them from KBO to MLB is a challenge. At the beginning of February, I laid out my process in creating a projection for each, by first obtaining their career statistics, turning them into ratios, and then translating them as best I could into a 2016 MLB projection. Since this is first base week here at RotoGraphs, this article will focus on Park, with Kim’s review coming when we move on to outfielders. So let’s review Park’s performance and how that compared to my forecast.

Though I only published my fantasy projection in my initial article, I actually forecasted a complete performance line. I also made some minor changes since the article, so my final projection was slightly different. So let’s look at the entire projection and compare it to actual:

Byung-ho Park 2016 Pod Projection vs Actual
2016 Pod Projection 563 23 65 70 0.244 0.322 0.432 0.754 0.188 0.327
2016 Actual 244 12 28 24 0.191 0.275 0.409 0.684 0.219 0.294
2016 Extrapolated 563 28 65 55

Byung-ho Park 2016 Pod Projection vs Actual
2016 Pod Projection 9.7% 28.6% 0.310 43.0% 19.0% 38.0% 17.5%
2016 Actual 8.6% 32.8% 0.230 41.3% 16.7% 42.0% 20.7%

Well that sure didn’t go as planned. Park was an elite power hitter in Korea, but a career 24.5% strikeout rate there hinted at potential trouble. And that’s precisely what happened. He ended up hitting so poorly, he actually got demoted to Triple-A at the beginning of July. He then hurt his wrist, which required surgery in late August, and he never returned to the Twins. So he finished with just 244 plate appearances. Because he hit toward the bottom of the order for most of his plate appearances, his runs scored and runs batted in totals were unimpressive. It was one of the reasons why I felt he was overvalued in drafts, as his unfavorable lineup slot seemed to be glossed over.

Obviously, we are all pretty much guessing when it came to his projections. But it was pretty head-scratching to see that the Steamer, Fans, and ZiPS wOBA forecasts (you can still see them if you click the Projections link on his page) all settled in between .343 and .349. That’s a pretty narrow range from three different sources/systems given the high uncertainty! As you can see above, my .327 wOBA projection was far below the others. It was mostly because I was much lower on his power than the rest, which turned out to be wrong, so technically I was the blind squirrel who found the acorn. I turned out right (or closest) for the wrong reasons.

Park did draw a walk at an above average clip, but that was probably a bit disappointing after he finished with a career mark in KBO of 13.2%. Strikeouts, as noted above, were a major problem. We knew they could be, but he stuck out significantly more than he had in Korea. What was discouraging is his strikeout rate actually rose during each month, peaking at 35.5% in June. At Triple-A, before his season was cut short by that wrist injury, he did improve his strikeout rate, but it was right about where he sat in Korea. And his walk rate plummeted, though his ISO surged to over .300.

One encouraging sign is that his O-Swing% was well below the league average, so differentiating balls from strikes was a skill he possessed. He just struggled to make contact when he did decide to swing.

From the projection vs actual table, the glaring problem was his BABIP. Every projection system, including me, projecting a BABIP over .300 and in Korea, I calculated a career mark of .324. His .230 mark was the seventh worst among batters with at least 200 plate appearances. That’s what got him demoted. But plugging his peripherals into Alex Chamberlain’s xBABIP formula yields a .294 mark, which was close to the league average and far higher than his actual mark. Unfortunately, because he strikes out so often, he’s still unlikely to be an asset in the batting average category, even if his BABIP rebounds.

His power was as advertised, and his ISO and HR/FB rate exceeding my projections may have had as much to do with the leaguewide power surge as it did with him owning more power than I thought. Since the power was strong, albeit not elite like in Korea, there should be hope for much better things to come. The high strikeout rate is an issue, but Chris Davis has overcome it and been a pretty darn good fantasy contributor. That’s really Park’s upside, which means he could be a bargain next season with major profit potential.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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7 years ago

He would have needed 8 more hits to bring his BABIP up to his xBABIP of .294.

Even if you assume all 8 are singles, that would make his line .228/.307/.447, i.e. an OPS of .754, or exactly as projected.

Granted wOBA would be somewhat lower given the lower OBP.

7 years ago
Reply to  schmenkman

(wOBA would be .323 vs. projected .327)