In the dog days of summer, NC Dinos outfielder Na Sung-bum has been the hottest hitter in South Korean baseball.
Na leads the Korea Baseball Organization with a .378 batting average. He was batting a still-robust .347 through May. He missed a few weeks of action with a wrist injury but came back to hit .500 (13-for-26) in eight games in June.
Then Na really took off in July, batting .383 for the month to raise his season average to .370. He has gone 6-for-9 in two games so far this month to get past Kia Tigers' Kim Sun-bin in the race for the batting title.
Na is working on a seven-game hitting streak. And in six of those games, he has recorded at least two hits.
Perhaps move impressively, Na has never gone more than two games without a base hit this season, a sign of remarkable consistency.
The 27-year-old, in his fifth KBO season, entered this season with a career .305 batting average. He has batted at least .300 in each of the past three seasons, with at least 20 homers and 100 RBIs in all three years as well.
In this file photo taken on July 9, 2017, Na Sung-bum of the NC Dinos hits an RBI single against the Doosan Bears in the teams' Korea Baseball Organization game at Masan Stadium in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. (Yonhap)
Numbers show that Na has been better able to turn on inside pitches this year than previously. Through July 31, Na was batting .481 on strikes on the inner part of the plate, the best in the KBO. Last year, Na batted .333 on the same type of pitches and .349 a year before that.
And Na is slugging at a .722 clip on strikes on the inside, sixth best in the KBO this year, compared with .563 in 2016 and .603 in 2015. The average exit velocity on batted balls on inside strikes is 134.9 kph, up from 122.8 kph last year.
A versatile offensive force, Na has also stolen three bags in his past five games. With 13 swipes, he's ranked eighth in the league.
With 16 home runs, Na is closing in on his second 20-20 season.
There have been 44 seasons in which a player hit 20 or more home runs and stole at least 20 bases. Nine players have done it at least twice, and Na will join them with a final push.
He had 28 long balls and 23 steals in 2015.
Those 23 steals remain a career high for Na, who only had seven steals in 2016, the first time he failed to reach double figures in stolen bases in his career.
Na recently said he'll try not to get caught up in numbers.
"I don't know how many steals I'll have by the end of the season, but I'll just keep doing the best I can," Na said. "I don't really have a green light (on steals). I only run when I get the sign from the bench. And whenever I get into a situation to run, I'll give it my best." (Yonhap)