Shin-Soo Choo and his HBP-fueled OBP

Andy Lyons

If you'll forgive me for engaging in a bit of statistical trivia, I must point out something that amuses me a great deal.

Sunday in Cincinnati, Shin-Soo Choo was hit by two pitches. This made nine for the season. That's a lot of pitches hitting a person.

How much a lot? Garrett Anderson played in the major leagues for 17 years, during which he collected 2,529 hits. Garrett Anderson was hit by eight pitches in his career.

Or to put that another way, Shin-Soo Choo is 5,893 percent more likely to be struck by a baseball this season than Garrett Anderson was in his whole career. Give or take a few thousand percents.

Statistical trivia aside, one good thing about getting hit by 5,893 percent more pitches than Garrett Anderson is that it does wonders for your on-base percentage. And after Sunday's plunk-fest, Shin-Soo Choo's sitting on a .523 on-base percentage. This is notable for two reasons: a .523 on-base percentage is amazing, and last year the Cincinnati Reds' leadoff men were horrible.

Actually, is there something worse than horrible? Last year, Cincinnati's leadoff men -- and at this point, there's little reason to shame anyone Zack Cozart and also a bit of Brandon Phillips and Drew Stubbs -- combined for a .254 on-base percentage. How worse than horrible was that? The next most horrible leadoff men, the Dodgers' leadoff men, were 27 points of on-base percentage better.

The bad news is that Zack Cozart's still in the lineup, and still can't get on base at all. Worse, Dusty Baker has insisted on batting Cozart second in the lineup for more than a week now because ... well, probably because he's a middle infielder without any power and that's what managers do with guys like that. You know, because of tradition and stuff.

The good news is that Shin-Soo Choo has not only boosted the Reds at the top of the order; he's also reached base far more often than Drew Stubbs did last year, and it's really Stubbs who Choo is replacing, both in center field and also as The Guy With Some Pop and Some Speed. Of course, Choo's also The Guy Who Walks a Lot and Gets Hit By Pitches, and that wasn't Drew Stubbs at all.

Last year, Stubbs scored 75 runs in 136 games. This year, Choo has scored 17 runs in 18 games.

It all seems so brilliant, doesn't it? Well, let's not start shaking each others' hands yet. There's still the little matter of defense, and the truth is that Choo probably is not the equal of Stubbs -- now playing for the Indians, by the way -- in center field. But the Reds were right; while the defensive gap between them exists, it's just not big enough to make the switch look anything but positive. Stubbs is pretty good in center field, and Choo's probably going to grade out as a bit worse than average. But the gap between their production as hitters is far larger. And I mean projections-wise, not just the obviously unsustainable things we've seen from Choo this month.

A caveat, though: Getting hit by pitched baseballs is a tough way to make a living. Don Baylor got hit by 35 pitches one year, and played in 160 games. Craig Biggio got hit by 34 pitches and played in 162 games. Ron Hunt got hit by 50 pitches one year and played in 152 games. It can be done.

But if you're building a recipe for getting hurt and spending a few weeks on the Disabled List, getting hit by three or four pitches per week is one of the key ingredients.

So we'll see how long Big League Choo can keep this up. And for the Reds, it's hardly trivial.

For more about Shin-Soo Choo and the Cincinnatis, please visit SB Nation's Red Reporter.

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