Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Believe it: Shin-Soo Choo is the Indians' Best Player

I made a comment last week that Shin-Soo Choo has supplanted Grady Sizemore as the Best Player on the Cleveland Indians.

Is this really a controversial statement?

Consider this fine piece by Paul Cousineau.  He beat me to the punch, although I had originally beaten him to the punch, except I am more of a lout.  (I didn't write the piece last week, nor this weekend, nor before now.  Mea culpa.)

Here's the angle I meant to take on it: I claim that Shin-Soo Choo might now be a better player than Grady Sizemore EVER WAS.

In 2006, Sizemore hit .290/.375/.533 with 28 homers, 22 steals and 6 caught stealing.  He was 23 years old.

In 2009, Choo hit .300/.394/.489 with 20 homers, 21 steals and TWO caught stealing.  He was 26 years old.

Now, given that OBP is more important than SLG (correlates more highly to scoring runs), the second line is arguably better than the first, but it's a subtle point.  OBP might not be worth THAT much more.  Maybe Sizemore's 2006 was better than Choo's 2009.

Consider this, though: in 2009, Choo hit .275/.369/.456 against left-handed pitching.  Sizemore in 2006?  Not so much: .214/.290/.427.  And this isn't an anomaly that simply goes away: Sizemore STILL can't hit lefties.  Oddly, it was Choo who was acquired at least partly because he was a "platoon player."

But more importantly, Choo APPEARS to be hitting EVEN BETTER this season than last.  If he has actually made a tangible improvement to what Cousineau points out was ALREADY a tremendous season ... well, that player is better than Sizemore's best year.

Here's the thing: Sizemore posted that season at age TWENTY-THREE.  That's simply astonishing stuff.  At age 23, Choo was not a major-leaguer.  At age 23, Grady Sizemore was All-Star Caliber.  Given normal improvement curves, Sizemore should be ... shoot, Joe DiMaggio.  To post that season at 23 is stupendous.

Unfortunately ... and this is what few Cleveland fans admit ... this remains his best season.  Grady Sizemore has NOT improved.

This isn't to say that he Certainly Won't.  And even if he doesn't, so what?  Is a .290/.375/.533 player who covers a lot of ground in center valuable at all?  Hell, yes.  TREMENDOUSLY valuable.  That's a heckuva player.

Of course, due at least in part to an injury-plagued 2009, his three-year splits have him as a .266/.373/.472, with (averaged) 25 homers, 27 SB, 8 CS, who hits .246/.352/.408  against lefties.  That player is still quite good.

That player is not as good as Shin-Soo Choo is right now.

Now, of course, Choo is off to a hot start (well, actually, a liquid nitrogen start followed by a molten tungsten stretch) and Sizemore is battling a strained back to the tune of .209/.292/.372.  With the most recent events being strongest in our memories, it seem obvious that Choo is playing better right now.

The point is, Choo is playing better than Sizemore did when he was St. Grady.  If Sizemore becomes St. Grady again, Choo will STILL be playing better.  And if Sizemore DOESN'T regain his Gradiness ... um ...

... yeah.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more (even though I'm watching the game right now and Choo has just struck out for the 4th time in less than 24 hours). I hope Grady returns to his former self but I feel a lot more confident when Choo is at the plate. Steve, as usual, you have the numbers to back it up. I just go off my gut and the eye test as to how a given player is going.

    What was your opinion on the return of Russ Branyan.... yeah mine too!