Despite posting the second-highest win total in the majors in 2012, the Cincinnati Reds got precious little out of their leadoff spot. Cincy's sorry collection of table-setters -- mostly Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Drew Stubbs -- ranked dead last with an abysmal .254 on-base percentage. It wasn't close, either: the Dodgers and Mariners tied for second-worst at .281. Given the out parade atop an otherwise dangerous lineup, the Reds' top priority this offseason was finding a leadoff hitter with on-base skills.
GM Walt Jocketty got the offensive threat he so coveted in yesterday's three-team, nine-player deal involving the Reds, Indians and Diamondbacks, acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland while surrendering Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius. Whether the 30-year-old Choo, who has all of 83 career innings played in center field and below-average defensive metrics in right field, can cut it in the middle pasture is an open question. But here's what's not up for debate: Choo has one of the best plate approaches in the game.
Check out the lefty hitter's swing rate by pitch location last season, compared to the MLB average:
Choo took a cut at 65.2% of pitches thrown in the strike zone in 2012, topping the overall 64.6% average for MLB hitters. In addition to swinging at plenty of hittable pitches, Choo passed on junk pitches tossed outside of the zone. With a 21% chase rate, he ranked just outside the bottom ten among all MLB hitters:
Lowest chase rate among MLB hitters, 2012
|A. J. Ellis||20.3%|
Choo might have to fake it in center field, but he brings doubles power and a career .383 OBP to the top of the Reds' lineup. Somewhere, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are smiling.