Is Shin-Soo Choo Quietly Becoming The Best Leadoff Hitter in MLB?


May 7, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo (17) reacts after hitting the game winning home run during the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Great American Ball Park. The Reds defeated the Braves 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY SportsThere is absolutely nothing like a walk-off home run to boost spirits and inject a high dose of confidence into a team who had been snake bitten and injury riddled. When you are down to your last strike in a 4-3 game there is nothing a fan can do except pray, or knock on wood to atheists or agnostics.

Pinch-hitter Devin Mesoraco hit a 400 foot (looked more like about 389 to me) homer just past the reach of outfielder B.J. Upton to tie the game and allow Shin-Soo Choo the opportunity to display some heroics of his own.

Choo homered for the second time in the game and sent everyone at Great American Small Park home with the knowledge that they had just beaten the best closer in the National League, perhaps all of MLB (apologies to Mo). It was the eighth multi-home-run game of his career. He hit three against the Kansas City Royals in a game in 2010.

The way the former Reds-killer is swinging the bat, he could play defense as poorly as Max Carey and would still be a fans favorite.

He leads the National League in OBP with a mark of .465, followed by teammate Joey Votto at .463. In point of fact, his OBP is tied for the MLB lead with last year’s Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. That sounds crazy with the way the team has been sputtering on offense at times this season.

Choo and Votto are also first and second in the league in hits with 42 and 41, respectively. They also rank first and second in runs created with 34.7 and 30.

Choo is tied with Carlos Gonzalez for the league lead in runs scored with 27. In OPS he is runner-up just behind Troy Tulowitzki. He is in second place also in extra base hits with 17. He leads the league in total bases with 74. He has been hit by a pitch 11 times, four more than the closest player to him. Oh, did I say he also leads the NL in OPS+ with 181? His WAR of 1.4 ties him for eighth in the league.

Can anyone say early MVP candidate?

It is not probable that he will continue to hit .333 and be tops in all of these categories all year, but you never know.

The 30-year old should also be called Mr. Clutch. He is batting a cool .400 with RISP and two outs. The worst inning for Choo this season has been the fifth. He is only hitting .250/.368/.313. As demonstrated last night, the ninth inning is where Mr. Choo shines. His line then is .714/.818/1.714 with an OPS of 2.532. Yes you read that correctly. In 11 PA in the ninth he has scored six runs, has two homers and five RBI with three walks and one HBP.

I don’t know if anybody contemplated the start that he would have with the Reds. I was very comfortable with him coming on just knowing how he demolished Reds’ pitching. Gonna go a little against the grain when I say this, but here goes…there is no reason why the Reds should not try to negotiate a deal with him to keep him for four or five years. No way Billy Hamilton could leadoff with Choo in the lineup.

Is he the best player in baseball? Of course not. Is he the best on the team? No, Joey Votto is. He still has trouble hitting lefties, and is much better at Great American Small Park than in the other venues. His defense is clearly nothing to write home about, but how could you complain with so much upside everywhere else?

A statistic that I have never seen anyone write or heard talk about is OWn%. It can be found on Choo leads the NL in that category as well at .857. What that means is that a team with nine Choo’s batting on it would win 85.7 percent of their games. Woahh!

The man can flat-out rake. I need to stop now because all the big numbers have given me a trauma-style headache. Seriously, I think I heard something break up in there.

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