Rangers right fielder Shin-Soo Choo was not in the lineup Tuesday night at Globe Life Park.
He got the night off, at least from starting, in an attempt to help him snap out of the worst start of his career.
Choo is hitting a miniscule .096, the lowest in the league among qualifiers. There are 191 players ahead of him.
He’s 0 for 19 in his past six games and 0 for 20 overall. He’s battled slumps in the past, but this one seems particularly debilitating for Choo, who was uncharacteristically animated after one of two strikeouts Monday night.
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“When you’re not doing well, the pitcher’s tough. It’s like the pitcher is going corner, corner, nasty pitch, that’s what I feel like,” Choo said before Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Mariners. “I take the good pitches and it’s a check swing. I don’t want to show it on the field, you know my kids are watching on TV at home, and I want to be the same person no matter what, playing good or not. So hopefully my kids didn’t see last night.”
Choo, however, doesn’t look completely lost at the plate. He has five of his seven walks in the stretch and has also twice reached base by getting hit by pitches.
Don’t laugh. When a hitter is slumping, especially one such as Choo, who has hit .300 or better in three previous seasons, first base starts to feel like a mirage.
Every pitcher looks like Nolan Ryan in his prime and no matter how well you make contact your ball always seems to find someone’s glove.
“This is not easy, but I’ve gotten through this when its happened in my career,” Choo said. “It looks bad because it’s early in the season and there’s only 50 at-bats. I still believe in who I am. I trust my career. I still believe in myself. When you’re not doing well and the team is losing, that’s the toughest part. If I’m doing bad but they keep winning it’s not really a big deal. I can get through it. It’s not really a big page of my life. I’ve had more tough times in the minor leagues. For me, this is nothing.”
But Choo, who has a large contract and has been counted on to be a big piece of the Rangers offense has been the biggest poster boy for the team’s offensive struggles so far in 2015. The Rangers are the last the in majors with a .213 team batting average and are tied with the fewest hits at 138.
Banister cautioned patience after another solid start, this time by Ross Detwiler, was wasted. Detwiler, having been skipped in the rotation after struggling in his first three starts, took the loss after allowing two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“It’s a long season. We haven’t finished April yet. Obviously, this is not the April we set out to have,” Banister said. “If we press this early this isn’t the group of guys I think we have. They’re not going to press. We’re having some struggles early. It’s not the middle of the season it’s not the end of the season, it’s early.”
For the Rangers, timely hits and collecting bunches of hits have been hard to come by. Elvis Andrus, who stretched his hit streak to five games with a lead-off single in the eighth, was stranded when Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre flew out and Robinson Chirinos grounded out.
Choo, who was on deck in the bottom of the ninth as a potential pinch-hitter when Rougned Odor popped out to end the game, continues to keep working in the cage, studying video of his swing, trying to detect anything that will help him snap out of his slump.
“Whenever I make contact, someone is there,” he said. “I see the ball well and then I get contact and it’s not becoming hits. I look at video every day and try to figure it out. Just do my routine stuff. Come in on time every day. Routine is very important to me. Keep working hard.”
Banister hopes the day or days off will help Choo relax, similar strategies that have work to some degree with Leonys Martin and Detwiler.
“Just unplug from the starting slot and get some extended work time, and then get him back in there,” Banister said. “If you want to call it clearing his head, for me, he’s not clearing his head, it’s a natural work time ... it’s more of a maintain and maintenance of the swing to where now we can go in there and really spend forth more effort, more energy on where is the stroke at, let’s find that stroke. And if it’s 25 swings, it may be 100 swings to really work and hone that stroke, and that to me is the difference.”
Here’s a look at previous hitting slumps for Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is currently 0 for his last 20 before getting Tuesday night off.
1 for 19
1 for 21
1 for 20
2 for 21
1 for 21
1 for 19
1 for 16
1 for 27
1 for 22
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760