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Choo Now Holding His Own vs. Ex-Teammate Ichiro

Posted May. 26, 2009 05:24,   


“Ichiro Suzuki might be switched from right field to center field due to Choo Shin-soo’s poor defense.”

Japanese media in July 2006 cited the defensive weaknesses of starting Seattle Mariners center fielder Choo, who played with Ichiro, in successive games.

They also accurately predicted that the club would ask the more experienced Ichiro to move to center field, but the Japanese declined the move.

Debuting in the U.S. Major Leagues in 2005, Choo played 14 games for the Mariners, going 2-29 for a hitting average of .069. He had no chance against teammate Ichiro, the gifted hitter from Japan who had swept a flurry of awards since joining the Mariners in 2001, including the American League batting crown, Most Valuable Player, and rookie of the year.

In 2006, Seattle traded Choo to the Cleveland Indians after the Korean had spent most of his two seasons with the Mariners in the minors. He hit .295 in 45 games for Cleveland, but an injury caused him to struggle.

In the 2007 season, he played only six games.

Choo, however, began to impress in June last year after fully recovering from injury. He hit .309 in 96 games with 14 homers and 66 RBIs.

He has continued his stellar performance this season. Against the Cincinnati Reds yesterday, Choo started as right fielder and cleanup batter, and went 2-5 at the plate for his 15th multi-hit game of the season.

Choo is hitting .306 for the season with 25 runs, 26 RBIs, six stolen bases and five homers as of yesterday. Ichiro has a higher batting average (.319), but has just 16 runs, 13 RBIs, six stolen bases and four homers.

Known as an all-around performer, or "five tool player," at Busan High School, Choo boasts hitting ability, slugging capacity, speed, strong defense and a rocket throwing arm. He is also beating Ichiro this season in on-base percentage plus slugging percentage (OPS), an indicator of a strong batter.

Choo also ranks seventh in walks in the American League with 30 this season.

Ichiro missed eight games early this season, citing the aftereffects of playing in the World Baseball Classic. He is again hitting .300, however, and is on pace to reach 200 hits for the ninth straight year.

It might be irrational to compare Choo, who has recently become a full-time player, with Ichiro.

The Japanese will earn 18 million U.S. dollars this season, more than 40 times than the Korean’s salary of 420,300 dollars. Yet Choo has come a long way nonetheless.