Francisco Giants Today: Jung Hoo Lee fired by MLB leaving team in tears

San Francisco Giants center fielder Jung Hoo Lee has played in 13 major-league games. He has swung the bat 73 times.

He has swung at 98 mph fastballs that were far firmer than anything he faced while starring for the Kiwoom Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization. He has swung at two-strike curveballs and sweepers and whatever else can be cooked up these days in bespoke pitching labs. He has swung against foreign backdrops in stadiums that face the opposite way from what he’s accustomed to seeing in Korea. He has swung against pitchers he’s never faced before, and against pitch shapes he’s never seen before.

The bat has left his shoulder 73 times. He has swung and missed at just five of those pitches. One of those was a foul tip.

This is why the San Francisco Giants made a $113 million commitment, plus an additional posting fee of $18.25 million to his KBO club, when they signed Lee to a six-year contract in December. They loved his supernatural contact skills. They loved his strike-zone asceticism. They loved his ability to not merely put the ball in play, but to make reliably hard contact. Lee hasn’t been gliding his bat through the zone to avoid swinging and missing. His average exit velocity of 92.3 mph puts him in the 84th percentile among big-league hitters. He is getting off his best swings against the best stuff in the world and he’s making reliably crisp contact.

But ask some of Lee’s new Giants teammates about his hard contact in these first two weeks and their praise isn’t limited to the skills he’s demonstrating in the batter’s box. There’s another kind of hard contact that’s made an impression on them.

“He’s willing to run into a wall in center field,” right fielder Mike Yastrzemski said. “He’s done it a few times already. He plays the game hard. He cares a lot. He really wants us to win. That’s probably all anyone needs to know about his character.”

Lee crashed into the wall at Dodger Stadium on April 1 while chasing down a deep drive from Mookie Betts. Lee had another brusque encounter with the wall in San Francisco when his shoulder bashed into it as he attempted to make a leaping catch of a double off the bat of the Padres’ Jake Cronenworth. Both times, Lee dusted himself off without a visit from the training staff.

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