A lot of really bad things happened for the Pirates today. In the short-term, they lost to the Cubs, losing their third of four games this series, and falling to just a two-game lead for home field in the Wild Card game.
For the bigger picture, they lost Jung-ho Kang for the season after a takeout slide from Chris Coghlan. Kang had surgery tonight and is expected to be out for six to eight months, meaning he may miss the first month and a half of the 2016 season.
After the game, the Cubs defended the play as being a “good baseball play” and a clean and legal play, citing that this has been going on for 100 years. A quick look at the play shows that it was anything but clean, and it wasn’t a good play at all.
Then there’s the actual rule, which should have ruled this illegal, as Coghlan didn’t even slide toward the bag, and had clear intent in taking out Kang and breaking up the double play.
MLB added “The Posey Rule” after a home plate collision knocked Buster Posey out for an extended period of time. After this, they need “The Kang Rule” to eliminate these types of plays. The idea that you can throw your body directly at a fielder, with the sole intent of wiping them off their feet, all to break up a double play, is ridiculous. The fact that this is seen as acceptable, and a clean play is even crazier.
And it’s not like this is something that only became apparent after tonight. Here was our own Ed Giles on the same subject, less than 24 hours before this play even happened, after the Pedro Florimon/Miguel Montero block at home on Wednesday night.
We can talk about the Posey rule when base runners aren’t allowed to slide toward left field trying to take out an infielder.
— Ed Giles (@InClementeWthr) September 17, 2015
How is this still legal? They made a rule to prevent collisions at home plate where the fielder has shin guards, a chest protector, and a helmet or mask. And yet it’s totally acceptable at second base with no armor, and when the fielder has to concentrate on catching a ball, touching the base, turning to first, and making an accurate throw. They’re just expected to add “leap over a 220 pound runner trying to tackle you” into that mix?
One of the things that stood out with this play is that Kang didn’t do much to avoid Coghlan. He stepped to the side, but he didn’t try to leap over him. As Dan at MyKBO points out, they handle things a bit different in Korea.
Here's a random double play from recent KBO game. Every slide is different of course, but I'd say this is more common pic.twitter.com/ZkQ4ATO8gg
— Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO) September 18, 2015
The runner goes right to the bag in that play. If Coghlan did the same thing, then we’d just be talking right now about what a horrible series the Pirates just had, and continuing the debate about how often the Pirates should play Kang while mixing in their other infield options. After seeing the KBO play, it becomes more clear why Kang didn’t make more of an effort to leap over Coghlan. Then again, Coghlan’s right leg was so high up that it might have been impossible for Kang to totally avoid him.
This loss really hurts the Pirates in a big way. Kang has not only been a huge surprise this season, and a guy who can open the door for other hitters to come over from the KBO, but he’s been one of the best players in baseball in the second half. He’s also been the best player on the Pirates, according to FanGraphs WAR. Take a look at the chart below.
Based on the way Kang has played in the second half, this is the equivalent of losing Andrew McCutchen. It’s a huge blow to the lineup. The Pirates have good depth, but there’s no one who can totally replace Kang’s production.
Hopefully MLB will realize the impact of this play. I believe the Posey Rule came into effect not just because of the seriousness of the play, but because of the star value of Posey. Based on his performance, Kang should have similar star value, especially when you consider his pioneer status for an emerging baseball market. That would hopefully lead to a rule change.
Baseball may have accepted this for 100 years, and they may consider it a “good baseball play” now. But the reality is that these types of plays are dirty, and they lead to a very real risk of serious injuries, as we saw today. That alone should be enough for a rule change to eliminate this nonsense. Or, since the rule is already there, it should lead to an actual enforcement of the rules, rather than the perception that this play is acceptable because it’s allowed to happen so often.
**Jung-Ho Kang Undergoes Surgery, Out 6-8 Months. All of the details on Kang.
**Prospect Watch: Indianapolis Keeps the Season Alive Behind Comeback. Not a great night for Tyler Glasnow, although Indianapolis won and kept their season going. Chad Kuhl will make his Triple-A debut tomorrow.
**Pirates Lose Series To Cubs In What Was a Tough Day at the Park. Pete Ellis with the live report from PNC Park for those of you who want to relive this nightmare of a game.
**Austin Meadows Impressed in Short Time With Altoona. Sean McCool with the first impression on Austin Meadows in his jump to Altoona.
**Yeudy Garcia is the Pirates Prospects 2015 Breakout Prospect of the Year. For the first time in our seven years of covering the farm system, we recognize the biggest breakout prospect. Garcia was an easy choice here, and the article discusses what led to his breakout. It also includes some good info on Max Moroff, who was the Breakout Position Player.