Game 22: Royals at Tribe

Are you worried about Shin-Soo Choo?

Indians manager Manny Acta certainly isn’t. Acta said again on Tuesday that it is still far too early to make too much of Choo’s uncharacteristic .207 batting average. The Tribe’s cool, calm and collected skipper said he will only start having some concern if Choo’s average is still in the .200 range come the All-Star break.

I’ve seen enough ball to know not to get overly worked up over less than a month’s worth of stats, too. Then again, I also covered Aaron Hill and Adam Lind for a few years. They went from Silver Sluggers in 2009 to Tin Cans in 2010. Pitchers began to approach them differently, and they struggled to adjust.

Here’s hoping Choo does not fall into that category.

It is worth noting that Choo has had his share of tough slumps before. Early-season woes tend to stick out more on the stat sheet.

Last year, Choo had a 29-game stretch from April 30-June 2 in which he hit .233/.331/.397. He also hit just .230 from Aug. 26-Sept. 16 last season. In 2009, Choo had a 22-game run between April 14-May 8 in which he hit .234/.378/.390. In ’08, he hit .195/.292/.312 in a 25-game period from June 14-July 18.

From 2008-10, Choo finished with an average of .309, .300 and .300, respectively.

Like Acta said today, though: “Batting average isn’t evertyhing.”

Fine, turning to our friends at Fangraphs.com, you’ll see that Choo has a Z-Contact % of 77.9 so far this year. Wait, a Z-what-now? That’s the percentage of times a player makes contact with pitches in the strike zone. Last year, Choo was at 87.1 and he put up an 83.1 in ’09. In fact, the current figure is his lowest ever.

You’ve got to figure, like his average, that rate will increase.

Choo’s swing percentage is basically down across the board right now. He’s swinging at fewer pitches outside and inside the zone. He’s swinging at 41.2-percent of pitches overall — down from 45.1 overall last year.

Being more selective? Maybe. But it’s worth noting that Choo is seeing 60.4 percent of first pitches for strikes. That’s the highest that rate has been for him since 2006. Right now, pitchers are not afraid to pound the zone to get ahead on Choo early. And when he’s swinging at said strikes, his contact rate is down.

That’s not a good early trend.

But, again, I can’t emphasize this enough, and neither can Acta…

It’s still early.

Here are today’s lineups…

Royals (12-10) at Indians (13-8)
at Progressive Field, 7:05 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY
1. Mike Aviles, 3B
2. Melky Cabrera, CF
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Billy Butler, DH
5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
6. Kila Ka’aihue, 1B
7. Alcides Escobar, SS
8. Matt Treanor, C
9. Chris Getz, 2B

Pitching: RHP Luke Hochevar (2-2, 5.12)

CLEVELAND
1. Grady Sizemore, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B
7. Michael Brantley, LF
8. Matt LaPorta, 1B
9. Jack Hannahan, 3B

Pitching: RHP Justin Masterson (4-0, 1.71)

–JB

4 Comments

A game that, on paper, we should win. I feel like this is a crucial series, not for any symbolic reason, but because taking this series will keep the Tribe in 1st place heading into the weekend — a weekend home stand, nonetheless. A first place team heading into the second month of the season might be enough to sell some more tickets. Now the weather in Cleveland just needs to get with the program.

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