Rangers Choo-se a perfect addition for roster

Shin-Soo Choo

Credit: Getty Images

Shin-Soo Choo of the Cincinnati Reds breaks his bat as he lines out in the 11th inning against the San Diego Padres at Great American Ball Park on August 11, 2013 in Cincinnati. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Print
Email
|

by JOSEPH URSERY

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 21, 2013 at 6:33 PM

Updated Saturday, Dec 21 at 8:03 PM

I've yet to see a trophy handed out to a team for financial responsibility, or a flag at a stadium for having the best WAR/$ in a division. In the end, they only count the number of wins, or if you won the last game of the year.

So, yes, the Rangers likely gave Shin-Soo Choo too much money, for too many years. In July, he'll turn 32, and this deal will pay him through the July of his 39th year.

That's the kind of thing you do for a player who fits what you need so perfectly.

The Rangers had a .323 on-base percentage last year. That's not terrible; only nine teams were higher. But it was in the meaty part of the distribution curve, and it was one of the things the team obviously targeted this offseason.

Prince Fielder replaces Nelson Cruz; that's a .362 OBP replacing .327.

Shin-Soo Choo replaces David Murphy: .423 replaces 282.

Ian Kinsler's 344 is going to be replaced by Jurickson Profar- who's a solid bet to land closer to his 2013 AAA OBP (.370) than what he did in the majors in '13 (.308).

That's more of a straight-line comparison, when the truth probably crosses over more based on where Choo is going to hit, and who he displaced there. As mentioned above, Kinsler had a .344 OBP last year- above average, sure, but 50 players (with 500 plate appearances) had a higher rate. Choo was one of those 50. Three players were higher than him.

The odds are Choo replaces Kinsler as the team's primary lead-off hitter. If you view the job of a lead off hitter as "get on base, doesn't matter how," Kinsler succeeded in 214 plate appearances last year — 151 hits, 51 walks, 8 times hit by a pitcher. That number for Choo is 300 — 162 hits, 112 walks, 26 HBP.

It's not really Kinsler that Choo is replacing, since Kinsler is in Detroit whether Choo signed here or not. Choo's likely displacing an Engel Beltre-Micheal Choice platoon in left. I love Beltre, but his .340 OBP in AAA last year represented a massive step up from where it had been, career-wise.

This also lets the team marinate Michael Choice in AAA, or break him in as a platoon DH or a backup outfielder. Or it could hold on to him until July, and see what he could fetch in the trade market. Either way, the 2014 team is immensely better penciling Choo in for 150 games in left.

The other main benefit to this deal, as well as the Fielder/Choice trades, is that it simplifies the lineup and batting order for Washington. It appears the team will take a platoon route at catcher (Soto/Arrecibia) and likely DH (Moreland/Choice seems to be the best fit on the roster now); other than that, positions are set in the outfield (Choo, Martin, and Rios) and in the infield (Beltre, Elvis, Profar, and Fielder).

Choo is not known for his speed on the basepaths. He's never stolen more than 21 bases in a season over his career, is a career 4.0 in Fangraph's Ultimate Base Running metric. You would think this is a negative, but I raise it as a positive given the Rangers' strategic position. The team is well set up to be Earl Weaver-like; players get on base, players get driven in by extra base hits.

There's not really a spectrum of managers, but if there were, Ron Washington would likely be on the opposite end from Weaver. Washington loves the sacrifice bunt, which would be great if outs weren't the currency of the game, not to be given away. Elvis Andrus led the league — going away — in sacrifice hits last season, which probably wouldn't have been so bad had Leonys Martin not been third.

With a (relative) base-clogger at the top of the order instead of Kinsler (who, despite appearances, actually was a good baserunner), the hope is that Washington will be tempted to call for the bunt less with Elvis up and Choo on first.

In fact, the general aim of this off-season seems to be getting away from a team that requires management, and moving towards a team that needs someone to fill out a lineup card and pull the starter at some point. In terms of off-season strategy, one that removes the need for in-season strategy sounds solid.

Joseph Ursery loves on-base percentage almost as much as he hates the sacrifice bunt. Huh. That explains a lot. You can follow him on Twitter @thejoeursery.

Print
Email
|