In his first 21 games as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, Shin-Soo Choo is quickly becoming a fan favorite. (Photo: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports)

Cincinnati Becoming Choo-Ville

When the announcement was made of the three-team trade involving the Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks in which the Reds acquired Shin-Soo Choo, there was a bit of a flinch from a portion of the Reds fanbase. One, highly touted shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius was sent to the D’backs. Two, despite the high number of strikeouts, Drew Stubbs, who went to Cleveland, had his fair share of supporters. Three, Choo will be a free agent after this season.

Twenty-one games into the 2013 season, I’m sure the vast majority of those that flinched at the deal aren’t doing that so much these days. All Choo has done is win over Reds fans at an alarming rate. Along the way, he has produced in the one spot in the Reds lineup that was deemed the blackest of holes: leadoff.

All Choo has done is produce. After going 2-for-4 in today’s Reds 1-0 win, he owns a triple slash of .392/.534/.608. They’re not quite video game numbers, but sometimes you think Choo’s just merely living in one. Aside from last night’s MLB action, here’s how Choo ranks in some prominent NL statistical categories…

Batting average: .392 – 2nd (Chris Johnson: .397)
OBP: .534 – 1st
SLG: .608 – 8th
OPS: 1.142 – 2nd (Justin Upton: 1.200)
Runs: 18 – T3
Hits: 31 – 1st
Walks: 14 – 4th
HBP: 10 – 1st

So the last one isn’t as prominent as the others, but those HBPs lead to the OBP. And the only reason Upton is ahead of Choo in OPS is because of Upton’s other-worldly SLG of .797. Of course, 11 homers can do that to your slugging percentage.

If you’re worried that he has 18 strikeouts, keep this in mind. Those 18 whiffs has his current SO% at 17.3%. Do I need to remind you what that rate was for Reds leadoff hitters last season? Well, it was 19.6% if you insist on knowing (148 SO in 756 PA).

For all of 2012, Choo’s SO% was 21.9% and in March/April of 2012, that was 22.2%. His walk rate this year is 13.5%. For the March/April of 2012, his BB% was 13.9% (a bit higher than this year), but finished the 2012 season at 10.6%.

Want a comparison? No, not going there about Stubbs either. The Tribe’s new leadoff hitter, Michael Bourn, had a SO% of 22.0% in 2012. His walk rate was 10.0%. Yes, I have noted these similarities before.

Back to the trade. I was a bit taken aback at the deal. It was more directed toward the fact that Choo had such a limited time as a leadoff hitter (98 games, but a nice sample size) plus the changing of leagues. For some players, that’s a tough ask. Choo had spent parts of eight season in the American League. Knows the pitchers, the ball parks, the stadiums, the clubhouses. Even with interleague play, there was still some familiarity that would be lost in the move.

And, add the position change to all of this. In the NL parks in which he had played, he was a right fielder. Aside from the one game debacle in St. Louis, there’s has been little else to complain about regarding his defense. He’s already nailed a runner at the plate and has exhibited a stinger arm than a few may have expected there. I will raise my hand on that one.

To say that Choo, which is what he prefers to be called if you take Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh at his word, has adapted to all this newness with flying colors is a vast understatement. To say his new city of Cincinnati has completely fallen for him might be on that same level if not greater. Probably could even beat Charlie Sheen in an election for mayor.

A bit of reality here. Reds fans shouldn’t expect Choo to maintain such a completely insane performance level. At times, it’s utterly ridiculous to watch – but in a good way.

And I thoroughly enjoy watching this ridiculousness…

Tags: Cincinnati Reds Shin-Soo Choo

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