2013 Reds

Redleg Nation 2013 Preview: Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo
2012 Slash Line: .283/.373/.441 (Stubbs: .213/.277/.333)
2013 Projection: .290/.380/.450

2012 Stubbs WAR: 1.3
2013 Best Guess Choo WAR: 4.0
Projected Difference: +2.7
2013 Floor: 2.0
2013 Ceiling: 6.0

It is absolutely no secret that the Reds expect to be better from the leadoff spot in the order this year. I mean, really, who among doesn’t have some old shoes that could do better than the “production” the Reds got from the first slot in the order last year? The point, really, is not whether or not Shin-Soo Choo wll provide more value than Drew Stubbs, but how much more value he will provide. There are several issues we need to address to get a good idea.

The first, and most obvious, is defense. Stubbs is a very good defensive center fielder. Choo has generally been about average in right (though maybe a touch above). However, all the defensive metrics seems to agree that Choo was awful last year and other than injury recovery, it’s hard to tell why. Add to that a move to the more challenging position of center field (we’ll assume Jay Bruce stays in right), and Choo figures to lose some value via his defense.

Before we discount him too heavily, however, it’s important to remember that most defensive stats take several seasons of data before they become reliable. Correspondingly, the projection systems that provide defensive numbers all have him regressing to the mean defensively. That is, not great, but not nearly as terrible as last year might lead us to believe. I’m going to go with those and assume that the optimistic reports coming out of spring training are legit. Choo should be below average in center, but he probably won’t be a disaster.

I am surprised at what the offensive projections have to say about Choo. They all have him either exactly where he was last year, or a little off the pace. Given the he is in his age-30 season, this would be totally appropriate. But… he just changed leagues, and it’s pretty well understood that the AL has been stronger than the NL for quite some time. Given that, I feel like Choo is actually due for a bit of a bump, which is why my projections look a little more optimistic than others you’ll find.

Of course, whether Choo gets on base at a .380 clip or a .360 clip isn’t the issue so much as that he gets on base more than Reds leadoff hitters did last year. That, kids, is a virtual certainty. Shin-Soo Choo should make us forget about Drew Stubbs in the batter’s box. We just have to hope we aren’t longing for Stubbs in the field.

Redleg Nation Season Preview Schedule

Joey Votto – 2/27
Brandon Phillips – 3/1
Todd Frazier – 3/4
Zack Cozart – 3/6
Ryan Ludwick – 3/8
Shin-Soo Choo – 3/11
Jay Bruce – 3/13
Ryan Hanigan & Catcher #2 – 3/15
Bench – 3/18
Johnny Cueto & Mat Latos – 3/20
Aroldis Chapman & Mike Leake – 3/22
Homer Bailey & Bronson Arroyo – 3/25
Bullpen – 3/27
Updates & Preview Wrap-Up – 3/29

35 thoughts on “Redleg Nation 2013 Preview: Shin-Soo Choo

  1. Stubbs is gone and there’s no need in rehashing the past so I’ll be brief. He was not good at balls hit over his head, quite often was reluctant to dive for balls hit in front of him, but was very strong running down balls in the gap. So of the 4 directions a CF can run, Choo won’t be worse in 2 of them.

    I still have a hard time with defensive metrics that can show so much variance for a guy like Jay Bruce, who arguably showed more range last year than 2011 due to being in better shape. He missed a few easy balls as we saw, but not enough to account for such a drastic difference.

    • Stubbs is gone and there’s no need in rehashing the past so I’ll be brief.He was not good at balls hit over his head, quite often was reluctant to dive for balls hit in front of him, but was very strong running down balls in the gap.So of the 4 directions a CF can run, Choo won’t be worse in 2 of them.

      I still have a hard time with defensive metrics that can show so much variance for a guy like Jay Bruce, who arguably showed more range last year than 2011 due to being in better shape.He missed a few easy balls as we saw, but not enough to account for such a drastic difference.

      I agree with Stubbs back and front. But, side to side, I still saw several balls hit the walls in the power alleys, seeing Stubbs “not run his fastest” to cover them. But, it can be sort of understandable with Stubbs. It’s sort of how he fielding balls in front of him, rarely hustling and diving for them. I saw him a couple of time early where he was hustling to get to some balls in the alleys. He didn’t get to them. But, he was going so fast, it took him like another 5-10 yards just to slow down and turn around to try to get to the ball. Stubbs made sure of one thing on defense, the ball always stayed in front of him. He didn’t bobble anything or mishandle much if any. He was very good with that.

      I just never saw Stubbs really “get after” many balls at all. Some will try to say that’s because of his speed; Stubbs’ speed allowed Stubbs to make the hard balls look easy. That’s hogwash. I can understand their opinion very well, but there are always going to be balls that fielders can try to “get after”. Stubbs rarely “got after” any balls.

      The only thing I really give Stubbs was his arm. When he had a throw to, for example, home plate, he was rarely off. I would be expecting that to go off sometime, but it never did. He was great at that, IMO.

      But, someone on here saying that since Stubbs was poor on offense, we all would translate that to Stubbs being poor on defense, also, poor everywhere, like doing some psycholanalysis on our postings and the Reds fans. That’s hogwash. People like this simply have too high of an opinion of themself. We are knowledgeable; many of us have been in baseball even at the highest points. Trying to make a general comment like that is simply ridiculous. Even here, I stated how I loved Stubbs’ arm. And, I have no doubt he had speed. I just didn’t see him use it that much at all (not “never”, just “not much”).

  2. Nothing much else to say here. I am just so excited to have him on this team! Just a great move by Walt that will (ideally) position this team to be very successful this year.

    Perhaps someone will establish an over/under on “Stubbs would have had it” comments during game threads.

  3. Does anyone else find it interesting that as Reds fans we have talked a great deal about how good Stubbs was in Center but about five minutes after acquiring him, the Indians have moved Stubbs to Right? Maybe because of his speed and the dimensions at GABP we have been overestimating his prowess in the field or maybe his offense was so horrific that his defense looked better than it really was in comparison.

    Maybe it’s wishful, but I’m beginning to think that Choo might not actually be that much of a downgrade in Center.

    • Does anyone else find it interesting that as Reds fans we have talked a great deal about how good Stubbs was in Center but about five minutes after acquiring him, the Indians have moved Stubbs to Right?Maybe because of his speed and the dimensions at GABP we have been overestimating his prowess in the field or maybe his offense was so horrific that his defense looked better than it really was in comparison.

      Having Michael Bourn had a lot to do with his moving to right.

  4. Wait. Why is the American League tougher than the National League? Hasn’t the NL won the last 3 World Series’ and the last 3 All Star Games?

    • I was reading Jason’s article in the Redleg Annual this morning before work and he makes the same statement there, and I had the exact same thought as you did. I’m interested in hearing his response…..might have something to do with the AL winning interleague play.

      Wait. Why is the American League tougher than the National League? Hasn’t the NL won the last 3 World Series’ and the last 3 All Star Games?

  5. Advanced statistics aside, there’s simply no question that we are worlds better, overall, with our leadoff hitter/centerfielder being Choo.

    I think the only reason that Stubbs’ defensive play has been a topic of discussion over the years is merely because his offense was so horrible. It’s as if we were forced to over-analyze his necessity as a defensive commodity just to rationalize his existence in the starting lineup every day. His speed is the ONLY thing that kept him on this roster.

    I love Choo’s projections, Jason, and I don’t think we’ll notice any decrease of defensive production in CF, if any at all.

  6. @reagansdaddy: Taking a minute during my planning period, I can tell you that, yes, it is inter-league play. The AL has won that for a number of years. The All-Star game is a terrible judge of which team is better as it is a one game sample played in unrealistic circumstances (all the subs and pitching changes). The World Series is similarly bad because it involves only two teams and a small sample.

    Additionally, if you look, in general at players moving from one league to the other, those who move from the AL to the NL tend to see an improvement in their numbers while those moving from the NL to the AL typically take a bit of a hit.

    • @reagansdaddy: Taking a minute during my planning period, I can tell you that, yes, it is inter-league play. The AL has won that for a number of years. The All-Star game is a terrible judge of which team is better as it is a one game sample played in unrealistic circumstances (all the subs and pitching changes). The World Series is similarly bad because it involves only two teams and a small sample.

      Additionally, if you look, in general at players moving from one league to the other, those who move from the AL to the NL tend to see an improvement in their numbers while those moving from the NL to the AL typically take a bit of a hit.

      I agree that the AL has been (often significantly) better than the NL. Of course, with the recent decline of the Yankees and the Red Sox, plus some of the player movement + Astros moving over to the AL, it’s possible the NL may finally get over the hump. I wouldn’t count on it though. :cry:

      Jason,

      The one omission from your look at Choo: last year he was 199/.318/.286 in 242 PAs against LHP. Historically, he’s hit LHP reasonably well: .249/.338/.358. Is this a trend, that, combined with his likely below average defense, could make him a platoon player with Heisey/someone else? If so, his floor might need to be lowered.

  7. @reagansdaddy: In my opinion, the biggest reason that the tribe are moving Stubbs to RF is that they paid big money to Bourn to be their CF. Personally, I think that Stubbs and Bourn are a wash in CF. Bourn has slightly better range and Stubbs has the better arm. Also, due to his arm, Stubbs is a far better choice for RF than Bourn. Bourn’s arm really isn’t good enough for RF and I could see a lot of folks going 1B to 3B on him.

    @Sultan of Swaff: You’ve mentioned Stubbs’ alleged inability to go back on the ball several times and quite frankly, I disagree that your assessment. While Stubbs isn’t the best at playing balls against the wall, in general his range going back is as good as anyone’s. I’m pretty sure you’ll find plenty of scouts that agree with my opinion there. So while you may feel that Stubbs is poor going back on the ball, I think you’ll find that to be an minority opinion when it comes to Stubbs. Now, as far as him coming on for the ball and diving, I think he was a bit too shy in that regard. I don’t know if it was fear of the ball getting behind him, fear of injury, or both. That said, he closed on the ball well and got to a lot of balls standing that a lot of pretty good CF would have needed to dive for. Keep in mind that those same CF may or may not of made the plays on those dives.

    Please don’t take my opinions on Stubbs’ defense to mean that I would prefer him over Choo. That actually is far, far from the truth. I think Choo will be an adequate CF and when his bat is considered, he’s going to be much more valuable to the Reds than Stubbs would have been.

  8. re: AL v. NL

    There is, of course, an argument that comparing the two leagues is inherently unfair. AL rosters get to keep better players on their 25 man roster due to the DH position. The NL gets stuck with light hitting utility players and backup outfielders.

    Yonder Alonso wouldn’t have had to stay at AAA on an American League team. Instead, the Reds rolled into places like Boston with Miguel Cairo as their DH. It’s the price NL teams pay for the super exciting baseball that is the pitcher hitting and the strategery of the double switch. :wink:

  9. Another good post by Jason.

    I really wanted the Reds to acquire a good leadoff hitter and that got me looking at a list of the best in 2012. Amongst leadoff hitters with over 250 ABs in that role Mike Trout was 1st with a .399 OBP. Yeah, Reds weren’t getting him. Second was Shin-Shoo Choo with a .389 OBP. Third was Dexter Fowler at .384 in 256 ABs. Fourth was Alex Gordon at .379. Seventh was David DeJesus at .358. The Reds, in my opinion, were really successful at getting the best available (ie other than Trout) guy on that list. Other guys mentioned, like Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Upton, just didn’t seem like fits for what the Reds needed.

    I don’t think Shin-Shoo Choo gets as much recognition as he deserves for being such a versatile hitter, kinda like Brandon Phillips. Choo hits leadoff because he’s so good there but he’s also capable of hitting 3rd or 4th in the order, if necessary (although that’s unlikely with the Reds, who need a leadoff hitter more than anything), and he hit in the middle of the order for the Indians a lot over the years. Choo is very capable of both scoring runs and driving runs in, while many other hitters specialize in one or the other.

    Last year if the #9 hitting pitcher bunted the runner over we would’ve expected a crummy ~.200 hitter (Phillips, Stubbs, Cozart) to come to the plate and make an easy out. Not anymore! Now there’s a ~.280 hitter with a ~.380 OBP who can drive in runs, hit some homeruns, and take walks, arguably the second toughest out in the lineup after Joey Votto. It’s a very different situation for Dusty to manage. Two outs and a runner on second, it’ll be interesting to see if pitchers intentionally walk Choo to face Phillips.

    A common topic here seems to be Stubbs’ bad fielding. I think fan dismay over what Stubbs did badly (making contact) has spread to all aspects of his game – if he didn’t do one thing well it meant he didn’t do ANYTHING well, including fielding. I think that’s nonsense. Somebody cited the Indians moving Stubbs to RF as decisive proof – no recognition to the fact that the Indians moved Stubbs to RF after signing a two-time Gold Glove winning CF (Michael Bourn) to a big contract. Stubbs is far from the first guy to suffer that fate, switching positions to make room for a Gold Glove winning veteran. Frazier vs Rolen and Alonso vs Votto, for example, comes to mind. I think the Indians need to keep Bourn’s trade value high while rebuilding Stubbs’ value (from close to zero) depends on fixing his hitting more than worrying about his defense.

    I think Choo will be a noticeable downgrade from Stubbs in CF, and I think he’ll see time in LF. Maybe that will come as a late-inning defensive replacement with Ludwick leaving and Heisey playing CF, maybe starting in LF when Ludwick gets days off, and maybe in AL parks when Ludwick is the DH. On the other hand I think the improvement he provides to the offense over Stubbs will more than off-set any downgrade defensively. Overall I think team’s totals for runs scored and runs allowed will both go up.

  10. Talk about dodging a bullet. MLBtraderumors says Rolen turned down $4mil from the Reds because he wanted a guarantee of money and playing time. Get over yourself, dude, you’re a replacement level player now.

    • Talk about dodging a bullet.MLBtraderumors says Rolen turned down $4mil from the Reds because he wanted a guarantee of money and playing time.Get over yourself, dude, you’re a replacement level player now.

      I think the article implied that they offered him an incentive-laden deal and he wanted guaranteed money. Clearly he didn’t accept, so I don’t know what you’re accusing him of. He didn’t want to play unless they made it worth his while – they didn’t so he’s not playing. Fair enough.

      • I think the article implied that they offered him an incentive-laden deal and he wanted guaranteed money. Clearly he didn’t accept, so I don’t know what you’re accusing him of. He didn’t want to play unless they made it worth his while – they didn’t so he’s not playing. Fair enough.

        Damn. I actually agree with you on something redsfanman.

  11. Ah yes, the “get after” it factor. Heisey is off the charts in that metric.

    A thoroughly yucky analysis of fielding prowess.

  12. I think in general, people who say that Stubbs was an average or below-average defender in CF, will find very few professional talent scouts agreeing with them. What they see is what they see however and I’m sure that opinions on Stubbs’ defense vary even among scouts. It’s why grading defensive ability is so difficult. The metrics are getting better but they still have a long way to go too. This debate certainly proves one thing, judging defensive is HARD.

    • I think in general, people who say that Stubbs was an average or below-average defender in CF, will find very few professional talent scouts agreeing with them. What they see is what they see however and I’m sure that opinions on Stubbs’ defense vary even among scouts. It’s why grading defensive ability is so difficult. The metrics are getting better but they still have a long way to go too. This debate certainly proves one thing, judging defensive is HARD.

      Agreed.

  13. I think Stubbs and Heisey always offered a great contrast. Heisey would make highlight reals with remarkable diving catches on balls that Stubbs would routinely catch on the run. Some people think that making the play look neat is the top priority. I think Stubbs fields like a guy who deserves a Gold Glove while Heisey fields like Ryan Freel used to, trying to take advantage of any opportunity to make some fancy dives and get some attention, get noticed, and win some more playing time.

    Yes, I strongly believe that fans who were disappointed with Stubbs’ hitting transferred that dismay other aspects of his game. Psychoanalysis on my part? Maybe. If your goal is to prove that he stinks you’re probably going to be searching for reasons to justify that, and it will probably put you in disagreement with people looking for things that he does well, like me.

  14. @Jason Linden: What we aren’t seeing however is anyone really feeling that Choo won’t be a significant upgrade over Stubbs. I mean even people like me who think Stubbs is ++ defender don’t think it’s enough to make up for how superior Choo’s hitting is. And once again, great work.

  15. @Sultan of Swaff: That’s a little harsh. If I was 37 and thinking about coming back to baseball for another year, I would want guaranteed playing time too. I’d rather retire than sit the bench at 37, as would most players, I expect. I doubt Rolen threw a hissy fit and stomped out of the room. The question is whether he and the Reds can come to an arrangement that’s suitable for both parties.

  16. @Jason Linden: Eh, I’ve been saying that about Stubbs defense forever. Honestly, I’d take Bruce in CF for his ability to go forward and back. He’d grade less on lateral quickness and the arm would be a push or go in his favor.

    @steveschoen: Agreed. It’s the old Ryne Sandberg defense that doesn’t pass the sniff test (‘he’s so rangy, he never has to dive’). There are always balls that will be just out of reach, and it’s very telling when you see players go all in or pull up.

    • It’s the old Ryne Sandberg defense that doesn’t pass the sniff test (‘he’s so rangy, he never has to dive’).

      Yeah, that was always bogus applied to Ryno. But to a centerfielder, it does hold at least *little* more water. I always just kinda thought Stubbs wasn’t all that good with the glove at the extremes of his range. But those extremes were pretty darned extreme.

  17. Two points about Stubbs and range. First, it’s super easy to find videos of Stubbs diving for balls and running all out both in front of him, behind, and side to side. I’ve posted them here before. Just go to the MLB video page and search “Stubbs” or even “Stubbs” and “diving catch.” Here’s one (and there are dozens):

    Second, going all out or the “get after” is sometimes a bad thing for a CF. I’ve seen Chris Heisey dive for balls he had zero chance to catch and the ball got by for extra bases. Happened again a couple of days ago.

    Stubbs also had a strong and accurate arm.

    Here’s a recent video of him talking about himself. He was a two-time academic All-American at Texas. And he likes Swamp People.

    • Thanks to those who defended Stubbs today.Bad form to those who caused a need.

      I don’t see myself as defending Drew Stubbs, I see myself as… correcting a misrepresentation of him. From the ways he’s sometimes portrayed by many Reds fans you’d think he’s been infected by some in-curable illness that has devoured every positive he can offer. Fielding, power, basestealing, all get ignored because of his strikeouts. It’s crazy. I’m hoping he does well with rebuilding his career in Cleveland. Hopefully the fans will be nicer to him there.

  18. So, how about Shin-Shoo Choo? It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Joey Votto gets hurt again – Choo is arguably the second best hitter on the team and the best candidate to hit third. Some might say Jay Bruce should be the contingency plan to hit third, others might say Phillips, or Ludwick, or Frazier… but I think Choo should. Unlike, say, Michael Bourn, the only thing binding Choo to the leadoff spot is the need for a leadoff hitter.

  19. I am looking quite a bit ahead, but I want to pose a question to all. In 2014, what should the Reds do, having BHam up to play CF, should the Reds sign Choo and put him in LF and possibly trade Ludwick before the 2014 season. The Reds could have a batting lineup of:
    1. BHam
    2. Choo
    3. Phillips
    4. Votto
    5. Bruce
    6. Frazier
    7. Cozart
    8. Hanigan/Meso
    9. P
    Just might see this lineup some in September.

  20. @WVRedlegs: So far Billy Hamilton has been pretty disappointing in spring training, and I’m interested in seeing how he does during the season. At this rate it’ll be interesting to see if he still goes to AAA or if he gets sent back to AA. When he gets promoted I think he’ll start off in a relatively low-stress role, near the bottom of the order, in hopes that he can earn a promotion to leadoff eventually. At least as long as Choo is around.

    As long as Shin-Shoo Choo is with the Reds I think he’ll be leading off – they see Billy Hamilton as a leadoff guy of the future, but Choo as the leadoff guy of the present. Similarly for the foreseeable future I think Joey Votto will be hitting third. I think Brandon Phillips’ days of hitting third are over.

    I think trading Ryan Ludwick is almost like suggesting trading Bronson Arroyo (except Arroyo has veto rights and Ludwick doesn’t) in that both have back laden contracts that make them extremely tough to trade. If he performs badly enough that the Reds want to trade him I doubt they’d find any takers. Who wants to pay a $4.5m buyout for 2015?

  21. Something we haven’t talked much about is what playing in GABP will do for Shin-Shoo Choo. He has put up 20 homerun seasons and GABP is designed with lefthanded power hitters in mind. I wonder if 22 homeruns will remain a career high, or if he’ll set a new personal record in Cincinnati. Also I don’t know if we can expect his doubles totals to go up or down at GABP.

    Another kinda silly question, I’ve heard he speaks English fine, but how does Choo do for interviews? I mean, Johnny Cueto speaks English to many of his teammates but refuses to give televised interviews in English. Does Choo give sorta dull/cliche interviews like Joey Votto or more exciting ones like Todd Frazier?

  22. Choo will become a free agent. He will want too much money to re-sign. If Hamilton struggles at AAA, I’m sure the Reds will look elsewhere for a centerfielder.

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