The story surrounding the 2019 Pirates was supposed to be this: top-notch pitching, possibly undone by an underpowered lineup. Through mid-April, that story has played out--and been turned up to 11. Collectively, Pittsburgh's pitching staff (starters and relievers) has the second-best park and league-adjusted ERA in the league (64 percent better than the overall MLB average). The offense, on the other hand, ranks 21st in the majors in adjusted On-Base-Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS+). The Pirates have been 14 percent worse than average with the lumber.
No player has personified those offensive woes more than Jung Ho Kang.
After a nearly two-year absence from MLB due to DUI and visa-related issues, Kang managed to win back the third base job from Colin Moran by throttling pitchers during spring training. Down in Bradenton, he hit seven home runs and slugged .773. It looked like he was poised to pick up where he left off in the majors, having posted an adjusted OPS that was 26 percent better than the MLB average over the 2015-16 seasons.
Instead, Kang looks lost. His adjusted OPS is 87 percent below average during the early days of the 2019 season, which is tied for 230th among the 241 MLB players who have at least 40 plate appearances. Rather than continuing his spring training slugging, he has a triple-slash line (.105 average/.190 OBP/.237 slugging) that looks much like the one produced by Pirates pitchers (.133/.188/.133). Why has Kang struggled so badly, and how can he turn it around? Here's a quick breakdown.