Prince Fielder was named the co-American League Player of the Week, and Adrian Beltre batted .462 with 12 RBIs on the just completed 10-game homestand.
But the Texas Rangers’ hottest hitter is the one who was their worst in April and was widely regarded as an enormous free-agent bust. As in $130 million worth of enormous.
Well, look at Shin-Soo Choo now.
No player in the major leagues had been on base more often (.568) in September than Choo entering a late game Tuesday at O.co Coliseum, and only one player in the majors had a better batting average than Choo (.441).
He just wrapped up a homestand in which he batted .514 (19 for 37) with a .617 on-base percentage.
“That sounds good,” Choo said.
This Choo is the player the Rangers thought they were getting when they signed him before the 2014 season to a seven-year, $130 million contract. It took almost two full seasons — though he was terrific to start 2014 — but Choo is finally comfortable and confident.
The timing couldn’t be any better as the Rangers fight for a postseason spot.
“Hopefully, I can keep doing this and then keep doing it in the playoffs,” Choo said. “I told a couple guys last year and early in the season this year, just joking around, ‘You’ve never seen me play. Not yet.’ Since the All-Star break, I feel more like the way I’m playing has an impact.”
Much of the success Fielder and Beltre have had the past two weeks has been because of Choo, who has been on base more than half the time. Not so coincidentally, the Rangers leapfrogged Houston for first place in the American League West.
He’s got a gap-to-gap approach. It doesn’t matter lefty or righty or off-speed. He’s locked in. You see the difference it makes when you have him on base. It changes the whole dynamic.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels on Shin-Soo Choo
His hot streak had boosted his average to .272 ahead of the opener of a three-game series against the Oakland A’s, and his .372 on-base percentage ranked eighth in the league. This comes after the right fielder batted .096 in April and started to sit against some left-handed pitchers.
Shin-Soo Choo’s batting average jumped from .253 to .272 after batting .514 (19 for 37) on the Rangers’ last homestand.
“Everybody gets down and then has hot streaks,” Choo said. “September is a hot streak. April was my worst month.”
June and early July weren’t great, either, but since the All-Star break Choo was batting .350 (69 for 197) in 56 games. He hit for the cycle July 21. He had reached in 19 straight games and 40 of 41, and the rest of his game has started to come around.
.568 On-base percentage for Shin-Soo Choo in September entering Tuesday, the best in the major leagues
“The easy thing is to look at the at-bats and the offensive performance,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Look at the way he’s run the bases, how aggressive and confident he is out there, his defense. It looks like he took a deep breath and went out and played his game, and his game is pretty good.”
The Rangers’ success has picked up Choo’s spirits, but Mrs. Choo gets an assist, too. His wife, Won Mi Ha, gave him a boost during the long drive from their Tarrant County home to South Padre during the All-Star break.
She told him that he was still standing despite all the criticism and to put it all behind him. She also told him that he needed to put a little more focus on what he does and let go of some of his concerns about the team.
The better he does, she told him, the better the team will do.
“She doesn’t know baseball,” Choo said. “She never talks about baseball, but she knows me better than anybody.”
.355 Shin-Soo Choo’s batting average, entering Tuesday, in his past nine road games
Now, the Rangers are getting to know the player they thought they had signed before the 2014 season.
Not one of their hitters has been hotter this month. No one in the majors has been on base more.
“It’s fun to watch and a joy to be around,” manager Jeff Banister said.