Let’s get this out of the way. Shin-Soo Choo has troubles against lefties.
I say, “So what!”
There is such value to Choo in his ability to get on base, that it far overshadows his deficiency.
Choo is not even close to great against lefties
Let’s satisfy those of you feel that Choo’s problems against lefties makes him a bad investment.
Are you happy now?
Let’s look at OBP
Doubters you have had your moment.
Now look at the top 20 OBP leaders from 2009-13.
You won’t have to spend a lot of time scanning to find Choo, he’s eighth on the list. I made this a top 20 because I wanted you to see the quality of the ballplayer who is on this leader board and I’m a strong believer in judging a player’s numbers by the company he keeps.
|1. Joey Votto (CIN)||715||3,112||816||326||129||39||500||583||.318||.431|
|2. Miguel Cabrera (DET)||780||3,370||973||385||190||18||421||483||.335||.419|
|3. Joe Mauer (MIN)||617||2,672||761||221||61||13||324||331||.328||.410|
|4. Nick Johnson (BAL)||195||774||163||48||14||4||134||133||.265||.408|
|5. Manny Ramirez (TB)||199||768||182||70||28||1||117||146||.287||.406|
|6. Mike Trout (LAA)||336||1,490||399||151||62||86||186||305||.314||.404|
|7. Prince Fielder (DET)||809||3,527||854||341||171||6||491||583||.290||.400|
|8. Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)||694||3,087||752||259||87||96||382||630||.288||.392|
|9. Matt Holliday (STL)||736||3,151||833||317||123||35||345||505||.304||.388|
|10. Lance Berkman (TEX)||508||2,022||456||178||78||14||318||347||.270||.386|
|11. Jose Bautista (TOR)||633||2,669||579||283||165||34||416||459||.263||.384|
|12. Albert Pujols (LAA)||719||3,164||816||357||173||48||371||329||.299||.384|
|13. Ryan Braun (MIL)||680||2,952||836||330||140||101||261||503||.317||.384|
|14. Matt Carpenter (STL)||278||1,076||287||107||17||4||110||165||.306||.381|
|15. Andrew McCutchen (PIT)||734||3,171||814||295||103||125||361||531||.296||.380|
|16. Adrian Gonzalez (LAD)||795||3,414||901||328||138||5||375||550||.302||.380|
|17. Kevin Youkilis (NYY)||508||2,167||498||210||84||14||262||431||.273||.379|
|18. David Ortiz (BOS)||668||2,821||694||322||142||5||366||501||.286||.379|
|19. Troy Tulowitzki (COL)||589||2,478||662||266||122||43||256||373||.304||.378|
|20. Buster Posey (SF)||456||1,850||503||166||61||6||177||255||.308||.377|
I want a leadoff batter who has a great OBP
The job of the leadoff batter, more than any other batter, is to get on base. If the leadoff batter does not get on base, the leadoff batter does not score runs ahead of the big boys.
Look how much better Choo was in 2013 than the other qualified leadoff batters.
|1. Shin-Soo Choo (CIN)||143||669||157||56||21||18||107||122||105||.294||.432|
|2. Matt Carpenter (STL)||136||632||178||63||9||3||65||83||110||.323||.398|
|3. Norichika Aoki (MIL)||133||609||159||28||6||16||53||36||68||.296||.367|
|4. Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)||134||636||172||48||9||52||47||92||92||.298||.355|
|5. Brett Gardner (NYY)||132||594||144||50||8||22||50||120||81||.274||.344|
|6. Austin Jackson (DET)||129||614||150||49||12||8||52||129||99||.272||.337|
|7. Starling Marte (PIT)||124||556||140||48||12||39||23||137||83||.278||.336|
|8. Coco Crisp (OAK)||127||580||132||47||22||21||60||65||93||.259||.332|
|9. Alex Gordon (KC)||119||541||124||40||16||8||42||112||74||.255||.323|
|10. Alejandro De Aza (CWS)||146||661||156||47||17||20||49||142||82||.263||.322|
|11. Denard Span (WSH)||135||611||151||36||2||20||42||73||66||.269||.322|
|12. Eric Young Jr. (NYM)||122||564||129||36||2||43||46||87||68||.254||.318|
|13. Michael Bourn (CLE)||124||569||136||32||6||22||39||131||74||.262||.314|
But wait…there’s more
There were only three players in all of major league baseball last season who had an OBP over .400, hit over 20 homers, and stole over 20 bases.
One was an MVP, one could have been (should have been?) an MVP, and one is a free-agent.
Yes, it’s Choo and yes, Choo led the league in HBP, just another way he gets on base.
Ellsbury or Choo?
A lot folks are making this a battle between Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo.
Ellsbury is a true centerfielder and Choo should be slotted as corner outfielder. Ellsbury is a better fielder (with a weak arm) but dives for balls all the time and health and durability is an issue for him.
Choo has power and as I wrote in Nick Cafardo’s Boston Globe Sunday Baseball Notes, “In 660 at-bats in 2011, Jacoby Ellsbury hit 32 homers. In the remaining 2,252 at-bats in his career, Ellsbury has hit 33 homers.”
The ramification of this is Ellsbury is more reliant on his legs and that has an impact in the latter years of a long contract. Choo has already switched trams and has excelled, Ellsbury has only played for one team and you always have to wonder how well a player will do in a new home environment (see: Carl Crawford).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not demeaning Ellsbury. His ability to get on base created magic for the Red Sox in 2013. His season was representative of his ability (oh and he wasn’t that great against lefties either).
Purely in terms of offensive WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, Choo was 6.3 and Ellsbury was 4.2. To better understand that differential, Choo ranked eighth in the majors and Ellsbury tied for 30th with Matt Holliday and Jason Castro.
Choo is team changer
I think that Choo can change a contending team for the better merely by his presence at the top of the lineup. I feel comfortable that Choo’s ability to get on base is an overarching factor in making this free agent a wise investment. And, think of it this way, if Choo only improves a little against lefties, this is a great investment.
Texas and Detroit seem like natural landing spots for Choo. Perhaps the Yankees or back to Cincy? And what if Ellsbury leaves? Couldn’t Boston live with Shane Victorino or the still unproven Jackie Bradley, Jr. in center and Choo in left or right?
I know Choo will not be a cheap date, but then again, it’s not my money. I like value and while the marketplace suggests that some team will overpay, I still think the team that adds Choo will get good bang for their buck for at least three years and most likely, four or five.