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« New Halo Josh Hamilton is a Prodigious Slugger | Main | Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez: Closer Than You Think »
Wednesday
Dec122012

Cincy Bets on Choo's Bat

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

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

BatterChase Pct.
Josh Willingham 18.4%
Rickie Weeks 18.4%
Alberto Callaspo 18.7%
Kevin Youkilis 19.2%
Edwin Encarnacion 19.9%
Carlos Santana 20.0%
Dan Uggla 20.1%
Michael Brantley 20.2%
A. J. Ellis 20.3%
Joe Mauer 20.6%
Denard Span 20.8%
Shin-Soo Choo 21.0%
Jamey Carroll 21.6%
Ben Zobrist 21.8%
Adam Dunn 21.8%
MLB Avg. 28.3%

 

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.

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