Collette Calls: Breaking Down Shin-Soo Choo

Collette Calls: Breaking Down Shin-Soo Choo

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

From 2009 through 2013, Shin-Soo Choo was fun to own in leagues -- especially OBP leagues. Choo always got on base, and the one thing that suppressed his value was that he did not do well against lefties. The move to Texas in 2014 was supposed to be a fantasy boost for him, but it was anything but as he had the worst full season of his career playing through elbow and ankle injuries and literally limped to the finish line with a groin injury.

He had two offseason surgeries to get himself right and took up yoga to get right for 2015. Still, he did not get started on time in camp and finished spring training with a .161/.262/.268 line. Things did not get much better once the season started as he ended April with a .096/.254/.173 slash line. In the 63 plate appearances he had in April, he had twice as many hit by pitch (4) than he did extra base hits (2) and struck out 15 times along with a .111 BABIP. Two days later, after a 2-for-5 game with a double, a homer and three runs driven in, he had raised his batting average nearly 40 points and by the end of May, his line had grown to .263/.323/.425. That was still below what we've come to expect from Choo, but signs that he wasn't a fantasy corpse just yet. June did not bring much growth as his season slash line dipped a bit to .232/.315/.395.

From 2009 through 2013, Shin-Soo Choo was fun to own in leagues -- especially OBP leagues. Choo always got on base, and the one thing that suppressed his value was that he did not do well against lefties. The move to Texas in 2014 was supposed to be a fantasy boost for him, but it was anything but as he had the worst full season of his career playing through elbow and ankle injuries and literally limped to the finish line with a groin injury.

He had two offseason surgeries to get himself right and took up yoga to get right for 2015. Still, he did not get started on time in camp and finished spring training with a .161/.262/.268 line. Things did not get much better once the season started as he ended April with a .096/.254/.173 slash line. In the 63 plate appearances he had in April, he had twice as many hit by pitch (4) than he did extra base hits (2) and struck out 15 times along with a .111 BABIP. Two days later, after a 2-for-5 game with a double, a homer and three runs driven in, he had raised his batting average nearly 40 points and by the end of May, his line had grown to .263/.323/.425. That was still below what we've come to expect from Choo, but signs that he wasn't a fantasy corpse just yet. June did not bring much growth as his season slash line dipped a bit to .232/.315/.395. Even July did not bring much growth as he entered August with a .238/.318/.416 line.

Then he got "tteugeoun" (Korean), or as we say in English, hot. Choo had a slash line of .336/.458/.537 after the end of July and finished the season tying his career-high 22 homers, scoring 94 runs, driving in 82 runs and hitting .276/.375/.463. His overall production put him at $19 in a standard 12-team mixed league, allowing him to finish ahead of the likes of Justin Upton, Curtis Granderson, Adam Eaton, Adam Jones and Jason Heyward.

A tired analogy you often here is that the fantasy baseball season is a marathon and not a sprint -- 26 weeks in a season, 26.2 miles in a marathon, so it's more important how a guy finishes versus where they are at any point in the race. In a vacuum, that makes sense, but if your high pick stinks for two-thirds of the season, there's a good chance how they finish the season will have a minimum impact on your roster at season's end. That said, how did Shin-Soo Choo turn things around to get back into near-vintage Choo?

In looking at Choo's plate discipline numbers, it is as if a switch went off in his head in August that if he stopped chasing pitches out of the strike zone, his numbers would improve. It wasn't a switch as much as it was his wife, who gave him some guidance during the All-Star break.


"She is talking to me and she is saying that everybody's life is like a building," Choo said last week while in the midst of running his streak of consecutive starts reaching base to 27. "She is telling me that you spend your life building this building. Some people build things very quickly and very tall, but it might not have a solid foundation. Some people might build their building on sand and when it shakes, it falls.

"And she is telling me that I've built a very strong building, that, like everyone, it's going to get shaken, but it is built on a solid foundation and that I shouldn't try to change that. It will stand up sturdy."


The foundation that Choo had built from 2009-2013 before coming to Texas was indeed very strong. He swung at pitches 43 percent of the time, made contact 76 percent of the time, chased pitches out of the zone 23 percent of the time and had an 11-percent swinging-strike rate. In truth, Choo's numbers in 2014 through the All-Star break were right in line with that foundation, but it was the quality of contact he was making that was clearly not the same to anyone that spent time watching him. The status of his elbow, his ankle and his groin were clearly a big factor in this. Yet, he was healthy when the season began, but his production was even worse than it had been in 2014.

The improvement in Choo's overall performance shows up on the graph below just after the chat with his wife when he stopped chasing bad pitches, stopped swinging at everything, and made better contact - all of the things that made him a valuable fantasy asset in years past.

Along with those improvements, Choo's monthly splits show that he got away from a pull-happy approach in the first two-thirds of the season and got back to working more of the field in the final two months of the season.

Choo had a .420 BABIP in the second half of the season, so while the slash line he posted isn't sustainable, the important thing is how Choo finished the season. When it was all said and done, Choo was once again a $20 player in single-league formats for the fifth time in seven seasons. The stolen bases might be gone, or the low total over the past two seasons could be a byproduct of the injuries. After all, it is a bit tough to call one's stolen base production dead after watching what Brandon Phillips did in 2015. It's nice to have the old Choo back, even in this four-category form.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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