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The Shin-Soo Choo Choo Train Chugs Into Cinci

Posted By Mike Podhorzer On December 13, 2012 @ 8:15 am In Outfielders | 12 Comments

So, as you know, there was a pretty interesting three-team trade made on Tuesday. Though I’m sure Dusty Baker contested, the Reds finally have a new leadoff hitter, one whose OBP doesn’t suck. Shin-Soo Choo is now a Red and will likely hit atop the order for his new team. With strong OBPs and only so-so ISO marks the last two seasons, Choo makes for a pretty perfect number one guy. Given the perception of the two parks, getting out of Cleveland and into the supposed launching pad in Cincinnati should boost his fantasy value. Let’s see if that is the case.

Below are the relevant park factors for left-handed hitters:

  K 1B HR Runs
Progressive Field 99 100 100 103
Great American Ballpark 102 98 112 106

Hmm, not exactly what I expected. Although on the whole Progressive Field is a pitcher’s park, it primarily suppresses offense from right-handed hitters. Choo is a lefty, and for lefties, it actually plays pretty neutral. Choo has typically struck out at a higher rate than the league average, and solely based on the park switch, his contact rate might be hampered even more. It’s a very small difference of course, but noteworthy nonetheless.

Choo has lived off a high BABIP, which is necessary when you don’t hit a ton of home runs and also have a high strikeout rate. His career BABIP is a whopping .353, which is exactly what he posted this season as well. What’s most impressive is that Progressive Field doesn’t even inflate singles. The GABP suppresses them slightly, so all else equal, he would see a negative effect from the move.

As expected, home runs is where Choo should see the most significant effect. Once again, Progressive Field was neutral for left-handed long balls. On the other hand, the GABP is one of the best parks to hit home runs in. Choo strikes out a lot and has seen his fly ball rate decline for three straight seasons. So, although he should definitely see a boost in HR/FB ratio, it still might only add an extra home run or two simply because he doesn’t hit enough fly balls to begin with. In fact, if Choo had posted a 15% HR/FB rate this season instead of a 13.2% mark, he would have hit 18 homers, or just two more than he actually did.

Last is the overall run scoring environment in the two parks, which takes into account other types of extra-base hits, any effect on walks, etc. Though Progressive was neutral in the other metrics, it actually inflates run scoring for lefties and isn’t far off from the GABP. The Reds scored two more runs than the Indians this year and that of course was with a pitcher instead of a DH. I think we can agree that the rest of the Reds offense is better than what the Indians will trot out. So the move should be favorable to his runs plus RBI total. The Reds are also not shy about running, so simply from a team switch perspective, Choo should not be affected from a stolen base standpoint.

Overall, the move is clearly positive for Choo, but I think the change in value is rather insignificant. At most, he gains a dollar or two of projected fantasy value in mixed leagues, which is about a 5%-10% boost.


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