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Cuban hitting machine humming along in KBO

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

There are few things as consistent in South Korean baseball in 2020 as this: Jose Miguel Fernandez getting a base hit, or two, for the Doosan Bears.

As we move slowly out of the "small sample size" territory, Fernandez, the Cuban hitting machine, is batting a robust .500 (36-for-72) after 17 games in this Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) season.

He had 13 hits in 24 at-bats last week, which included his third four-hit game of the season Saturday against the Samsung Lions. No other hitter even has two such games in 2020. Fernandez also leads all KBO hitters with 12 multihit games.

Because he's getting so many hits, Fernandez is also leading the league in on-base percentage with .531 and total bases with 55.

But it's the hit total that matters to Fernandez the most.

In 2019, Fernandez led the KBO with 197 hits while playing in all 144 games. He came up four short of matching the record set by Seo Geon-chang of the Nexen (currently Kiwoom) Heroes in 2014, when he had 201 hits in 128 games.

With the KBO-best 36 hits in 17 games, Fernandez appears on his way to shattering Seo's record. But Fernandez will certainly not be able to pick up hits at this rate for the whole season. There's the simple fact that hitting safely half the time is just not possible over a long haul in baseball.

Fernandez is also batting an unsustainable .508 on batted balls in play, compared with the league average of .317. This number suggests Fernandez has been extremely lucky when he has put the ball in play so far, and balls that have been finding holes all over the field will start landing in fielders' gloves more often. That's just how baseball works.

For now, though, it's difficult to bet against the 32-year-old who has been held hitless just twice all season.

During the past offseason, the Bears briefly considered replacing Fernandez with a more conventional power hitter. Their cleanup man, Kim Jae-hwan, was trying to move to the majors over the winter. If Kim had left, the Bears were prepared to part ways with Fernandez and sign a slugger to replace Kim's power.

While the Bears' need for power is understandable, trying to acquire that at the expense of a hitter as talented as Fernandez seems confounding at best.

So far this year, Fernandez and Kim are tied for the team lead with four home runs. Fernandez is slugging at a .764 clip, compared with Kim's .556. (Yonhap)

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