It’s hard to imagine the Reds pictured Shin-Soo Choo working out as well as he did when the team acquired him last off-season. Choo had an unbelievable year all around and made major contributions to the Reds 90-win season. Choo spent a majority of the year in center with Chris Heisey and Billy Hamilton making guest appearances throughout the year.
It was no secret entering the season that the Reds acquired Choo to serve the specific purpose of getting on base from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Choo excelled in the position and made himself an invaluable member of the Reds lineup.
“Mr. Consistency,” as Jay Bruce referred to him, couldn’t have fit the Reds bill any better. Choo played 143 of his 154 games as the Reds leadoff man. Choo managed to reach base over 300 times last season, which made he and Joey Votto just the third set of teammates in the modern era to both reach base that many times. For those wondering the other two sets of teammates were Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams in 1999 and Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in 1997.
Choo served as a spark at the top of the order for Cincinnati last season. Choo finished the year batting .285 with 21 home runs and 34 doubles. More impressive, however, was Choo’s ability to consistently find a way on base. Choo’s .423 OBP trailed only Miguel Cabrera, Votto and Mike Trout of all qualified players in 2013. Choo recorded 112 walks to go along with a league-leading and franchise-record 26 hit by pitches. From the leadoff spot, Choo’s on-base percentage rose to an MLB-best .435. A large part of this was Choo’s ability to accept walks. From the leadoff position, Choo walked 107 times. Cardinals’ leadoff man Matt Carpenter was second to Choo with 65. Choo also provided pop from the top spot in the lineup with 21 round trippers, which was second only to Coco Crisp’s 22.
Once on base, Choo continued to prove his worth. He led the Reds in stolen bags with 20, making it the third 20-20 season of his career. In addition, Choo scored 105 runs when he was penciled in at the top of the order, which trailed only Carpenter who had 110.
Choo’s offensive output out of the leadoff spot was historic. He joined Rickey Henderson as the only two leadoff men to have 20 home runs, 20 steals, 100 runs and 100 walks in one season.
The Reds have craved a catalyst at the top of the lineup for several years. Choo surpassed both team and fan expectations set the tone from the top spot in the Reds lineup all year.
The questions of whether Choo would be able to handle centerfield swirled from the moment the Reds acquired the more natural corner infielder. Choo, however, proved his capability during Spring Training and spent the year roaming center.
Choo played 150 games in centerfield while racking up 366 putouts, nine assists and four errors in 1,361 innings. His .989 fielding percentage was actually his second best of any full season he’s played thus far in the majors.
As expected there were a few misplays early on, however, as the year progressed Choo looked more and more comfortable in his knew position. The new position coupled with learning new ballparks stacked the odds against Choo who held his own in center.
It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which Choo could’ve endeared himself more to Reds fans. He came in and did everything the team asked of him from serving as a leadoff sparkplug to serving as the team’s centerfielder.
Now, the off-season will be spent debating whether or not the Reds can and will re-sign Choo. Check back later in the month as Blog Red Machine will take a look at Choo’s impending free agency.