Posted June. 17, 2009 05:56,
The cleanup hitter holds special significance in baseball. In baseball comics, the protagonist is either a pitcher with a vicious fastball or a cleanup hitter with power.
When a national team is formed, the player selected to hit fourth draws major interest. The cleanup hitter is considered a problem solver and must have the ability and star power that the position requires.
In Korea, Lee Seung-yeop of Japans Yomiuri Giants comes to mind when thinking of a cleanup hitter. He batted fourth for Korea in last years Beijing Olympics, when his country won the gold medal.
The way a cleanup hitter is perceived is similar in the West or Asia. He needs the full trust of his teams manager.
Choo Shin-soo has solidified his status as the cleanup hitter of the Cleveland Indians of the U.S., having started almost all games this season. The 27-year-old has held the position since late April this year.
Choo was juggled around in the batting lineup from second to sixth between last season and April this year. Indians manager Eric Wedge spoke highly of Choo, saying he can play anywhere in the batting lineup wherever needed.
After Travis Hafner, who took over as Clevelands cleanup hitter in 2004, was ousted due to an injury, Choo assumed the No. 4 spot. Hafner has returned to the lineup but Choo remains cleanup hitter.
Among Asian players, Japanese players Tsuyoshi Shinjo (formerly of the New York Mets) and Hideki Matsui (New York Yankees) are the only two to have played cleanup hitter in the U.S. majors. Choo, however, is different from them in that he has earned his teams full confidence thanks to his outstanding offensive and defensive skills and hitting.
In a home game against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday, Choo started as right fielder. He hit his ninth homer of this season in going 2-4 at the plate and recording two steals. Cleveland lost 14-12, but he raised his batting average to .291.
Choo ranks 30th in batting average, 18th in runs batted in (40), and 11th in steals (11) in the American League.
Sports commentator Song Jae-woo said, Choo will be considered successful with 20 homeruns, 80 RBIs, and a batting average of .280 for the season. If he can continue his stellar performance, he will be highly sought after by other teams.