Thursday, April 4, 2013

First series of the season is a microcosm of Choo's game

Choo got dirty on Opening Day
Yeah I used the word "microcosm" and I'm pretty sure I used it in the right context. Anyways, the Reds just won 5-4 over the Angels and took the last two games of the series from them after dropping the Opening Day game. There were lots of good things on which to focus like the pitching and there were some bad things like Jay Bruce's struggles with runners on the bases, but today I'm mainly focusing on the newest addition to the Reds lineup, Shin-Soo Choo.

In short, Choo's performance in the opening series of the season was almost an exact snapshot of what we (or at least I) thought Choo was.

In the first game, against Angels ace Jered Weaver, Choo was pretty much the entirety of the offense. In 13 innings, the Reds managed just one run on three hits, with two of those hits belonging to Choo, who also scored that run on a wild pitch. He finished the game 2-for-5, with a double, the run scored, and a hit-by-pitch, while also striking out once.

What else could Reds fans ask of Choo? He was brought in to get on base and he wasted no time doing it, reaching first base as a result of his first official at-bat with Cincinnati after getting plunked by a Weaver pitch, then followed that up with the two hits. Throw in the run scored, and I'd call that a successful debut. Oh, but we can't forget about the flyball to the centerfield wall which Choo misplayed in 12th inning on a Peter Bourjos triple, but in the end Bourjos was stranded so no harm, no foul.

In the second game on Opening Night, Choo and the Reds faced off against Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson. True to his career numbers (.248 vs LHP, .307 vs RHP), which say that Choo struggles to hit left-handed pitching, Choo failed to get a hit on Wednesday evening. In fact, in six total plate appearances against lefties this season, Choo is hitless. We knew his average suffered against left-handed pitching, but he still got on base. He reached twice with a walk and another HBP. The guy just gets on base and once again, that's exactly the reason he was acquired by the Reds.

The Reds first win was an exciting one
As I tweeted after the game, we saw the Reds execute a plan to perfection on their game-winning sequence in the bottom of the ninth inning. Choo reached base on that HBP, then was bunted to second by Chris Heisey, and subsquently scored on Joey Votto's first hit of the season to give the Reds their first win of the season, and in walkoff fashion. It was a thing of beauty. Get Choo on in front of Votto and let Joey do his thing. Look forward to a lot more of that over the next 159 games.

Lastly, in the series finale, we got another glimpse of what Choo can do as he blasted a leadoff home run on the first pitch delivered by Angels starter Joe Blanton. He then proceeded to single in the fifth inning before scoring on Heisey's two-run homer. No, he didn't reach base with another HBP, but he finished 2-for-4 with the homer, RBI and two runs scored. That's a pretty nice way to cap off the opening series for Choo.

Overall, after the first series of the season, Choo is batting .333 and getting on base at a .467 clip, while scoring four times through the first three games. In reality I'm not sure we could have drawn up Choo's debut any better than it actually went. He got on base in a variety of ways and scored many times. He hit a leadoff home run. He also struggled against left-handers and misplayed a ball to center field. His defense overall though was good and he nearly gunned down Albert Pujols at the plate in today's game with an absolute laser of a throw, where Ryan Hanigan failed to tag Pujols in time for the out.

That is all exactly what I expected to get from Choo once the Reds traded Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorius to get him. Hopefully he continues to impress from the Reds leadoff position and the Reds continue to win games as a result. They surely got off to a good start taking two of three from a dangerous Angels team which many expect to contend for the American League pennant. Only time will tell and hopefully time is kind.

Did you expect anything else from Choo?

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