Choo gotta be kidding me!
The Texas Rangers entered Monday’s game against the Seattle Mariners trailing the Houston Astros by three games in the AL West, and were coming fresh off of a series loss to the Angels of Anaheim by way of Los Angeles and once claimed by the entire state of California. Thankfully, Adrian Beltre decided to be Adrian Beltre, Yovani Gallardo stepped-up big, and the Oakland Athletics stopping playing like the Oakland Athletics in time to defeat the Astros 10-9.
After defeating Seattle 3-0, Texas is now just one game back in the loss column. Hey Houston, peek-a-boo.
The second half resurgence is largely thanks to a suddenly intimidating, nasty, and reliable pitching staff – both in the pen and the starters who toe rubber. The additions of Cole Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson will improve any team, but especially one with a patchwork staff like the Rangers had in the first half of the season. Stability and reliability can never be overemphasized.
All of the sudden, literally out of left field, the Rangers have found a stable and reliable offensive weapon, and I must eat the proverbial crow. Prior to the trade deadline, there may have been several requests and pleads made publicly and on Twitter to trade Shin-Soo Choo for a “sack of old firewood and a wet match.” I un-regretfully apologize.
After all, at that time the Korean-born lefty with the $130 million contract was reaching base at a rate closer to that of a relief pitcher with one arm, an eye patch and a whiffle ball bat facing Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of a World Series game – or 30-percent. He was slugging just .384, and was routinely being hidden towards the end of the batting order or in the deepest, darkest depths of the dugout.
However, yet again, Jon Daniels stuck with his guy. Maybe because he is a little stubborn and did not want to admit a bad signing, Maybe because there were no offers on the table, or maybe he just really is the smartest general manager in the game. I would be comfortable with saying it was probably a little of all three. Choo stuck around, wrote a letter to himself for a Korean newspaper stating his confusion as to why Jeff Banister would not play him, and low-and-behold he figured it out at the plate.
Since the break? Well, statistically speaking, Choo has been the best hitter on the team. Not counting the pitchers, Choo’s .320 batting average is the highest on the team in the second half, just ahead of Mike Napoli’s .314, Rougned Odor‘s .311 and Elvis Andrus’ .296. His current average of .254 is his highest of the season. Not kidding.
Choo has also raised his slugging percentage 100 points since the break to .431, and supports a .527 SLG over the last 41 games. The power has returned a little as well, and his five home runs trail only Odor’s seven and Beltre’s six.
However, his strikeout rate – which is by far the highest on the team, but only because Joey Gallo does not yet qualify – has been atrocious. Yes, he leads the team in runs scored in the second half, and is near the top in most other productive offensive categories, but his 42 punch outs (28-percent) trail only Delino DeShields’ 44. DeShields, whose offensive slump has been well documented to this point, is also batting a pitiful .246.
It is almost as if Choo borrowed the Tune Sqaud’s basketball and stole his mojo, someone might need to get Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny and company on the phone stat.
Maybe he is doing it with smoke and mirrors. Maybe he really has figured it out. Maybe Choo has given JD enough value to trade him in the off-season for a catcher with a little offensive upside. Either way, with Lino sustaining a reported mild left knee strain in Monday’s game, Choo is now the most reliable outfielder on the Rangers’ roster. A statement that was downright laughable three months ago.