Shin-Soo Choo

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Shin-Soo Choo

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Biographical Information[edit]

Shin-Soo Choo has been in the American major leagues since 2005.

He was named MVP and Best Pitcher in the 1999 and 2000 President's Cup, a Korean high school tournament. Choo was a member of the Korean Junior National Team which won a gold medal at the 2000 Junior World Championship.

Choo was signed out of Korea by scouts Jae Lee and Jim Colborn for the Seattle Mariners in August 2000. He worked his way up the Mariners minor league organization, hitting mostly over .300 with moderate power. He was a minor league All-Star in 2001, 2002, and 2004, and in 2002 was the Mariners Minor League Player of the Year. He had a cup of coffee in the majors in 2005, and was also brought up briefly in 2006 when Jeremy Reed was injured.

As a player on the AAA Tacoma Rainiers, he had with an average over .320 and slugging of approximately .500. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians organization on July 25, 2006. In his first seven games with the Indians, he was hitting .440. He hit .295 for the season for Cleveland that year. In 2007 he appeared in 58 games with the Buffalo Bisons and 6 with the Indians.

In 2008, Choo finally hit his stride. Playing in left and right field in the majors, he amassed 28 doubles and 16 HRs in 317 ABs, finishing with a line of .309/.397/.549, all three of them the best on the Indians. Though he played sporadically at first, he gradually worked his way into the lineup, appearing at both outfield corners and hitting fifth. His power, batting eye, and outfield versatility has made him one of Cleveland's bright young stars, and the best Korean-born hitter in the major leagues.

Choo was the main DH for South Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, usually hitting 5th behind Hyun-soo Kim and Tae-kyun Kim. The lone active major leaguer on the runner-up team, he hit .188/.409/.563 with 5 runs and 4 RBI in 7 games; two of his 3 hits were home runs. He hit a 3-run homer off Carlos Silva in the semifinal win over Venezuela and a solo shot against Hisashi Iwakuma in the 5-3 finale loss to Japan. With the Indians in 2009, he picked up where he left off the previous season, spending the entire season as a regular and as one of the team's best hitters, playing mostly right field. He hit .300 with 20 home runs and 38 doubles, while scoring 87 runs and driving in 86 in 156 games.

Choo was the right fielder for South Korea when they won Gold at the 2010 Asian Games; the Korean government had promised military service exemption if the team won Gold, meaning that Choo would not miss any major league time to military service. His statistics in the majors in 2010 were virtually the same as the previous year's: a .300/.401/.484 batting line in 144 games, with 22 homers and 90 RBI.

On May 2, 2011, Choo was arrested in Sheffield Lake, OH on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was already the sixth major leaguer caught in such circumstances since the start of spring training, prompting calls from fellow players for Major League Baseball to start meting out penalties to future players guilty of such conduct. The arrest affected him, and he struggled at the plate in the season's early months, hitting only .244 through late June. He explained that the source of the problem was "between the ears" as he let criticism for his off-field behavior affect his on-field performance. His trying season took a turn for the worse on June 24th when he was hit by a Jonathan Sanchez fastball on his left thumb, putting him on the disabled list. He was re-activated on August 12th. Choo later explains that a lot of his struggles that year were a result of being the sole Korean player in the major leagues and the star of his country's national team, putting additional pressure on his shoulders. He added that he had received counseling to help him deal with the condition, and he hit much better after returning from the disabled list. He finished the 2011 season with his worst statistics yet since becoming a starter, a batting line of .259/.344/.390 with 8 homers and 36 RBI.

Choo had a bounce-back year in 2012, playing 155 games with a batting line of .283/.373/.441, with 43 doubles, 16 homers, 88 runs scored and 67 RBI. His homers and RBI totals were relatively low as he was moved to the lead-off spot in mid-year, and changed his approach at the plate to some extent as a result. After the season, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds on December 11th, along with Jason Donald in return for Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorius, with the Reds expected to keep him in the lead-off role. Indeed, he got off to an exceptional start in that role for the Reds in 2013, as after 18 games, he was leading the National League with 26 hits and had a tremendous .523 on-base percentage thanks to 11 walks and a whopping 9 hit-by-pitches at that early stage. He had also scored 17 runs and managed 10 extra-base hits, for an OPS+ of 209. He slumped in June. costing him an opportunity to play in the 2013 All-Star Game, but came right back in July to register the longest hitting streak of his career at 15 games. On September 23rd, he got the hit that sent the Reds to the postseason, a 10th-inning single off Sean Henn of the New York Mets that drove in Devin Mesoraco for a 3-2 win. He finished the season with a batting line of .285/.423/.462, with 34 doubles, 21 homers, 107 runs scored, 112 walks and a league-leading 26 hit-by-pitch. He played in the postseason for the first time of his career, going 1 for 3 with a homer, an RBI and 2 runs scored in the Wild Card Game, although his efforts were in vain as the Reds lost, 6-2, to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Choo became a highly-sought free agent after the season, and on December 21st he signed a seven-year deal with the Texas Rangers worth $130 million to become their new lead-off hitter. The first year of the deal, 2014, turned out to be disastrous for the Rangers, who were never in contention because they were racked by injuries, and disappointing for Shin-Soo. He played 123 games and saw his batting line fall to .242/.340/.374, with 58 runs scored, 13 homers and only 3 stolen bases. His OPS+ was just at the league average of 100. On August 24th, the Rangers announced he would not play again that season after surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow.

On July 21, 2015, Choo hit for the cycle in a 9-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. He doubled in the 2nd, homered on the 4th, singled in the 5th, then in the 9th, against Rex Brothers, he drove a ball over CF Charlie Blackmon's head and ran all the way to third base to complete the rare feat. He was the second major league player to do so that season, after Brock Holt of the Boston Red Sox, and the first member of the Rangers since Alex Rios in 2013. He finished the season on a strong note as he was named the American League Player of the Month for September when he hit .404 with 26 runs scored, 6 doubles, 5 homers and 20 RBIs, just as the Rangers surged to a completely unexpected division title after their difficult 2014 season. For the season, he hit .276 with 32 doubles and 22 homers, scoring 94 runs and driving in 82. In the Division Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, he went 5 for 21 (.238) with a homer as the Rangers were eliminated in five games.

Choo went on the disabled list only a week into the 2016 season, because of a strained calf muscle. He has started the year 3 for 16 (.188) with a home run in 5 games. He returned on May 20th after rookie Nomar Mazara had played very well in his absence. In his first game back, he drew a pair of walks and scored a run, but then left the game in the 3rd inning because of a tight hamstring and went right back on the DL. he was activated on June 13th and managed to stay healthy for just over a month until he made his next DL stint, from July 20th to August 4th, this time because of inflammation in his lower back. He played 12 games in August when injury struck again on August 15th, this time a hit-by-pitch that broke a bone in his left forearm. The pitch came from Ross Detwiler of the Oakland A's on a checked swing and it was likely to be season-ending. In 45 games, he was hitting .247 with 7 homers and 17 RBIs. However, he did manage to come back for three games at the very end of the season, going 2-for-12. He also played once in Texas's loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALDS, going 0 for 3. He returned in full health in 2017, playing 149 games and hitting .261 with 22 homers, 78 RBIs and 96 runs scored. The Rangers missed the postseason, however. In November of that year, he took part in the Olympic torch relay race in his hometown of Pusan, in preparation for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015 & 2017)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2013)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Anthony Castrovince: "Choo's motor not slowing down with age",, March 24, 2017. [1]

Related Sites[edit]