When the Texas Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a very nice chunk of change many writers panned the idea a bit and mentioned that 2013 was a bit out of line with the rest of Choo’s career and that he was a target for regression. Surprisingly, I was not one of those writers. It has not been noteworthy since the Rangers have struggled out of the gate, but Choo is having an even better year so far in 2014.
So far this season, Choo is second in baseball in on-base percentage. He is third in wOBA and wRC+ and is 20th overall in fWAR. Consider what I consider the best stat thus far: In 30 games, Choo has been on base 62 times! That includes five HBPs, 34 hits and 23 walks. He is tied for fifth in that category and eighth in runs created. Choo has been sensational.
Here is a ridiculous stat for you: Of all of the pitches Choo has seen out of the strike zone, he has only swung at 14.8% of them. That puts him second in baseball behind Joyce of the Rays (really!? who knew?).
The .343 batting average is going to come down. After all, his BABIP is .419 and you should not be able to sustain that kind of average on balls in play. Plus, his number of infield hits is by far the highest of his career. On the other hand, he currently is sporting his highest line drive percentage of his career (full time years) and that helps.
A couple of other numbers you should know. First, his swinging strike percentage is easily the lowest of his career. Between his 17.8% walk rate, his low swinging at strikes out of the strike zone and his low swinging strike percentage, it is obvious that Choo is very locked in at the plate and has a definite plan of attack when he gets there.
Choo’s current fWAR of 1.3 is ahead of the pace to have him blow past of the 5.2 fWAR he accumulated last season. Playing left field instead of being out of position in center like he was for the Reds helps out too. Choo won’t be nearly as hurt by his defensive numbers as last year. On the other hand, his defense is less valued in a corner outfield position than it would be in center field.
Oh, and in case you are saying, “Yeah, yeah, but look where he plays his home games.” I might tend to agree with those sentiments if it wasn’t for the face that Choo is sporting a 1.410 OPS on the road compared to .723 at home. That is strange, eh? Ah, the wonder of early season short sample sizes.
Small sample size or not, Shin-Soo Choo is having another great season. And the offensive numbers he put up in 2013 are showing more and more to be his norm and not some sort of fluke season.