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Choo Your Own Adventure

For the most part, I was always terrible at those “Choose Your Own Adventure Book!” It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy them, I did, but I would pick a route, then if I didn’t like where that was headed, I’d flip back and pick a different option. Unfortunately, outside of trading or straight dropping a player, we don’t have that option in the fantasy baseball realm.

There is no denying that the 2011 season was one of disappointment for Shin-Soo Choo. He saw both his counting numbers and rate stats fall across the board. A broken thumb and subsequent surgery plus recovery time didn’t serve to help his numbers either. Just prior to his injury, Choo crushed the ball and had 10 hits in his previous five games.

Clearly, going in to the 2012 season many fantasy players held questions. Would Choo come back and be full strength? Would he struggle mightily again? For those of you who gutted it out and stuck with Choo (as I did, but I could easily be colored biased, given both his and my South Korean heritage), 2012 was vindication for Choo and his fantasy owners. When it was all said and done, Choo rated as the 26th best outfielder in mixed leagues and the 11th best in AL-only.

Choo bounced back to more or less his career numbers this past season, and given that he played his age 30 season, one should be reasonably impressed.

  AVG   BB%   K%   BABIP   HR/FB   wRC+
2011 .259 10.1% 21.8% .317 10.4% 105
2012 .283 10.6% 21.9% .353 13.2% 131
Average .289 11.4% 21.4% .353 13.3% 131

The table accurately states just what a massive comeback Choo had. Once his seasonal BABIP came back to a perfect alignment with his career number combined with a return to his normal level of HR/FB rate, we have Choo right back where many of us hoped and wished that he would be.

Not only did his rate stats come back nicely, but his relevant fantasy did too. Although Choo didn’t crack a 20-20 season — it would be his third — he did manage to set a career high in runs scored and come within one stolen base of tying his single season best. Choo did manage to set a career high in doubles; he swatted 43 doubles, five more than any other season. Sure, doubles don’t translate directly to standard 5×5 roto points the same way that a home run does, but it’s hard to argue the value of a man who hits .283 and cracks 61 extra-base hits, all while chipping in 21 stolen bases.

Choo also set a career high in GB%. As we all know, a ground ball has a higher BABIP than a fly ball. We saw that Choo hit the ball on the ground 49.7% of the in 2012, a full 4% higher than his career average 45.7%. Obviously when ground ball rate goes up, fly ball rates have to drop. This explains how his HR/FB is back to his career average, despite hitting fewer home runs. A higher ground ball mixed with enough fly balls to power doubles and home runs is what drove his batting average bounce back.

All told, Choo had an incredibly successful season and he validated — and then some — himself, his draft status, and his fantasy owners. He is above average in everything, spectacular in nothing. Overall, this varied and wide array of fantasy contributions brought Choo back to exactly where he was before: an excellent fantasy pick.