The Cincinnati Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians last winter to bring a patient, potent bat to a lineup that finished dead last in the majors in on-base percentage from the leadoff spot.
The move has paid off in a major way, as Choo's .432 OBP trails just teammate Joey Votto (.441) and Miguel Cabrera (.447) among qualified major league hitters. He's earning that lofty OBP the hard way, though, as Choo leads the majors in hit by pitches (17). His next closest competitor (or is it commiserator?) is Starling Marte, with 14.
History in the bruising
Choo is getting plunked at an historic pace so far, with fewer than 17 plate appearances going by before he gets a new bruise from the opposing pitcher. That's the third-fewest PA between HBPs among MLB hitters in a season with least 200 trips to the plate:
Fewest PA between HBPs in single season (min. 200 PA)
Here's a closer look at how Choo is grimacing his way into the record books in 2013:
- Unfortunately for Choo, he's not getting grazed by errant breaking and off-speed pitches. Thirteen of his 17 HBPs have come on fastballs, ranging from an 86 MPH two-seamer from Jered Weaver to a 93 MPH four-seamer from Kyuji Fujikawa. Choo has also been hit by two sliders, and one curveball and cutter apiece.
- As if getting beaned by fastballs isn't bad enough, Choo is getting buzzed by high pitches. Eight of his 17 HBPs have come on pitches thrown in the upper-third of the strike zone, five have caught him around the ribs, and four have been below the belt.
- Choo crowds the plate, making him a natural target to get plunked, but there might be some deeper strategy involved in terms of when he takes a body shot. Seven of his HBPs have come in two-strike counts. Getting hit by a pitch hurts, but it doesn't sting as much as heading back to the bench after making an out.