Despite posting a 20-20 season as recently as 2013, last season left just about every Shin-soo Choo owner more than a little disappointed. We saw his strikeout rate jump six percent and as a result he was sat down on strikes in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances. Choo’s isolated slugging plummeted over 40 points, his home run total was nearly cut in half and he nabbed just three steals in seven attempts. Let’s just say 2014 wasn’t a banner year for Choo. The Rangers brought about an early (and some may say merciful) ending to his year as he was shut down in late August due to bone spurs in his left elbow. Beyond the somewhat explainable platoon woes — Choo has never really hit southpaws very well — the biggest issue has been his batted ball distribution. After a slow start this year, Choo has rebounded somewhat, and a large reason why is that he has gone back to hitting for power to the pull field. Observe the table below, showing his power numbers for the past four seasons when pulling the ball.
The biggest outlier is clearly the power numbers last season. For what it’s worth, Choo has been awesome the opposite way and up the middle during the same time span. While we lack specific batted ball distance splits, Baseball Heat Maps shows from 2012-15, Choo’s fly ball distance per season were 285 feet, 286 feet, 291 feet and 302 this season. No real issue there either.
Choo currently owns a modest (read: not great) .279 BABIP, 30 points below last year’s number and nearly 60 points below his career average rate. I don’t think he’s going to post a .340 BABIP again given he’s in his age-32 season, and he turns 33 in less than a week, but a low-.300’s BABIP seems likely going forward due to the fact he’s at least not hitting weak dribblers. Working within the 2012-present timetable, Choo has had a lower than league average soft contact rate every season.
|Choo 2012||8.0 %||61.9 %||30.1 %|
|League 2012||15.4 %||55.8 %||28.9 %|
|Choo 2013||10.0 %||59.6 %||30.4 %|
|League 2013||14.9 %||54.3 %||30.9 %|
|Choo 2014||12.8 %||50.6 %||36.6 %|
|League 2014||17.9 %||52.6 %||29.5 %|
|Choo 2015||13.2 %||55.2 %||31.6 %|
|League 2015||18.2 %||53.0 %||28.9 %|
I am a bit concerned at some of his swing profile information, particularly how Choo is chasing 27.2 percent of the time out of the strikezone and his 72.9 percent contact rate both represent his worst numbers since 2006. His speed is clearly on the decline as well, given Choo has attempted just one steal and was thrown out in the process. Even without the speed, plus the need to sit him against left-handed pitchers, I’m buying into this mini-bounce back from Choo. He’s already at 11 dingers and seems likely to post a 20-home run season once again. Choo still has the best value in on-base percentage or points leagues, but even in standard 5×5 formats he should be owned in all but 10-team mixed leagues. Probably as a hangover from last year and his iffy start this season, Choo is owned in less than 60 percent of both Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. If you’re looking for a bit of power and some OBP, in this case, beggars can be Choo-sers.