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Rangers' Choo Shin-soo back where he belongs: leadoff spot

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Published : 2017-05-11 14:46
Updated : 2017-05-11 14:46

Texas Rangers' outfielder Choo Shin-soo apparently likes the view from the top of the order.

Batting leadoff against the San Diego Padres at home in Arlington on Wednesday (local time), Choo went 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored, helping the Rangers to a 4-3 victory.

It was Choo's second straight game as the leadoff man. A day earlier, Choo was 1-for-2 with two walks and also got hit by a pitch, while scoring twice.

In this Associated Press photo, Choo Shin-soo of the Texas Rangers hits a single against the San Diego Padres at Globe Life Park in Arlington in Arlington, Texas, on May 10, 2017. (Yonhap)

After those two productive games, Choo's batting average went up from .243 to .269, and his on-base percentage rose from .345 to .383.

For the season, he has four home runs, 14 RBIs and three steals.

Though Choo has appeared more at the leadoff spot than at any other position in the lineup -- 411 out of 1,204 career games -- the South Korean has played only three games there for the Rangers this season. With manager Jeff Banister experimenting with Carlos Gomez and Delino DeShields at the top of the order, Choo has played at five different spots in the order this year -- first, second, seventh, eighth and ninth.

Given Choo's track record, though, it'd be wise to keep him at the leadoff spot.

The sample size for 2017 is tiny, but Choo has gone 5-for-8 with four walks and a hit-by-pitch in three games as the leadoff man this year.

For his career, Choo has been a .282 hitter with an on-base percentage of .389 from the leadoff spot. Choo is a lifetime .280 hitter with a .382 on-base percentage overall.

He enjoyed perhaps his most productive season in 2013 with the Cincinnati Reds as the primary leadoff man, scoring 107 runs and drawing 112 walks while hitting 21 homers and stealing 20 bases. He had a .423 on-base percentage to rank second in the National League and fourth in all of baseball.

Choo parlayed that into a seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers. While a series of injuries and inconsistencies have hampered Choo for the most part, he has remained productive at the top of the order when healthy.

With his combination of patience and pop at the plate, Choo is a solid option as the leadoff man for a Rangers club stuck near the bottom of the American League in team on-base percentage. They're getting the majority of their offense from long balls -- second in the AL in home runs but second from last in batting average -- and it's not been a winning formula so far in 2017. Despite winning their past two games, the Rangers are still the worst team in AL West at 15-20.

Gomez has batted just .221 in 19 games as a leadoff man, while posting a .294 on-base percentage. DeShields can be a threat on the base path with speed, but he hasn't been getting on base all that often. In 13 games at the top of the order, DeShields batted .225 with a .333 on-base percentage.

The absence of injured slugger Adrian Beltre has left the Rangers needing more power in the heart of the order, and Gomez has been the team's cleanup in each of the past four games. DeShields batted ninth on Wednesday after appearing as the leadoff man in his previous dozen games. (Yonhap)