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Reds won’t move Shin-Soo Choo to left field with Ryan Ludwick out

Apr 4, 2013, 10:47 AM EDT

Reds' Shin-Soo Choo prepares to hit against the Diamondbacks during their MLB Cactus League spring training baseball game in Scottsdale Reuters

Ryan Ludwick‘s torn shoulder labrum gave the Reds a potential excuse to move Shin-Soo Choo out of center field–where he’s basically never played regularly–and use Chris Heisey there.

Heisey is going to sub for Ludwick anyway and has significantly more center field experience than Choo, but manager Dusty Baker told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that moving Choo is not even a consideration:

He’s been there all spring. We got him over here to play center field. He’s equal to Heisey in center field. You don’t want to tear up everything.

Ludwick is expected to miss at least three months, so it would hardly be a short-term switch, but unless top prospect Billy Hamilton forces his way into the Reds’ plans with a huge start at Triple-A they’ll stick with the Choo in center field and piece together fill-in work in left field.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Nothing to see here except for the beginning of a sneeze for OG.

    • Old Gator - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM

      Gezundtheit.

  2. js20011041 - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Moving Choo to left probably should have been then move right from the beginning. Honestly, I don’t know why Ludwick is blocking anyone. I’m not familiar with Choo’s contract, but I believe he’s a FA after this season. Unless their looking at letting him walk after this year, keeping him in center makes no sense. Hamilton might very well be ready this year, but should definitely be ready for a job next year.

  3. dcpowergator - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Yeah, that totally makes sense. #loldusty

  4. spudchukar - Apr 4, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    Gotta agree with Dusty on this one. Just cause Heisey has played more games in CF, doesn’t mean he is better at it. He isn’t even a good left fielder. The Reds believe Choo can handle the CF job. Personally, I think they are going to suffer with that decision. That said, Heisey would be even worse. So at least Choo will be gaining experience.

    The reason Ludwig is “blocking” Heisey and Hamilton is because he is better. Better offensively and defensively than Heisey, and the Reds need a solid run producing power hitter in the middle of the line-up, between Votto and Bruce, especially against left-handed pitching.

    My guess is Phillips will eventually man the clean-up role. It cannot be Choo, that would create a 3 straight lefty line-up. Frazier is the other option, but that would be a lot of pressure. Just checked yesterday’s line-up, and yes Phillips was indeed in the clean-up spot.

    • jm91rs - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      Ludwick is not better defensively than Heisey. No chance. Offensively he’s more proven than Heisey, so I’ll agree that starting him over Heisey made sense, especially considering the year Ludwick had last year after that awful April and May.

      Heisey is much faster than Ludwick, but didn’t play great center when subbing for Stubbs in the past, so if there’s not much difference between the two you might as well keep with Choo.

      Choo has, in 2 days, done what Drew Stubbs could not do. Get on base and make good base running decisions to score key runs (the run to tie game 1 and the winning run last night). The drop off defensively isn’t so great, the offensive increase more than makes up for it, especially in a small outfield like Great American.

      Phillips like batting cleanup for what it’s worth, so I don’t think the loss of Ludwick is a big deal beyond the fact that bench is pretty depleted one game into the year.

    • blacksables - Apr 4, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      What are you doing? You made an informed baseball judgement and were right about it, using only your knowledge of the game and absolutely no statistics.

      How dare you be right? Didn’t you know that isn’t allowed around here?

      • blacksables - Apr 4, 2013 at 1:02 PM

        That was for spud and his anarchistic ways.

  5. Uncle Charlie - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    For as many good/great players that the Reds have, boy oh boy do they have a lot of holes in their lineup.

  6. js20011041 - Apr 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Ludwick is not better defensively than Heisey. Per fangraphs Heisey was positive 2.5 runs last year. Ludwick was negative 4.1. Heisey also had the edge in baserunning at a positive 1.5 to Ludwicks suprising only negative 0.2 runs. Ludwick’s bat gives him the edge over Heisey if we’re comparing them in a vacuum.

    But that’s not the whole story.

    Choo was negative 16.7 runs last year in RF. It’s very easy to see those numbers getting even worse by moving to CF. The decision isn’t simply Heisey or Ludwick. You’re looking at a combination. Are the Reds better off with Choo in left and Heisey providing probably around league average defense in CF? Or are they better with Ludwick in left and Choo providing what is likely to be pretty awful defense in CF? Keep in mind that you’re also expecting Ludwick to repeat a level of production from 2012 that he hadn’t produced since 2008. I think that in regards solely to 2013, it’s probably a push. But you also have to consider Billy Hamilton. Will he be ready to come up later in the year and provide a lot of value just with baserunning and defense? Keeping Choo in CF eliminates that option. I really don’t know what the answer is, but it’s my personal preference for teams to not put awful gloves in spots like CF or SS.

    • jm91rs - Apr 4, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      I agree with all of your comments except you don’t consider that Choo has not proven that he’s a bad center fielder yet. He did fine there this spring and he’ll do fine there with Bruce and Heisey at his side covering some ground. Half of his games are played in the small outfield of GABP, which won’t hurt anything.

      No one is blocking Hamilton, he’s simply not ready. If they get into the race at the end of the year and Hamilton is playing great in AAA, while one of the corner outfielders struggles, then I can see moving Choo to make room for Hamilton. Until then though it’s all speculation. Making a move now with the hope that Billy Hamilton can get through AAA as fast as he got through AA is probably not the best thing.

      Choo is not playing CF because they think he’s a great fielder, he’s playing CF because they don’t need a LF or RF and they DO need a leadoff hitter.

  7. spudchukar - Apr 4, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Cherry-picking one-year advanced defensive stats, which by all accounts are particularly questionable rings hollow. Incidentally, Baseball-reference.com disagrees with fangraphs.com, so there is that. But what humors me the most is the quoting of a couple of statistics to support your beliefs, and then question them when they don’t support your thoughts.

    The hypocrisy is palpable. As a Cards fan I was fortunate to watch Ludwig patrol RF for a number of years. He is quite good at coming in on balls, more than adequate in the gaps, and possesses a strong, accurate, quick release throwing arm. Occasionally he has difficulty on balls hit over his head, but overall he is an under-rated outfielder who is above average defensively.

    The Reds know Heisey can never handle center field. Which was why Choo was acquired. But Stubbs is an outstanding defender, and will be sorely missed, particularly on the road. Is it possible Choo’s offense can make up for deficiency in center field? Maybe, but despite Stubbs’ strikeout rate and low OBP, the Reds managed to win plenty while he roamed the outfield. The trade-off will be the source of many arguments, but one thing is for sure, the Reds will not be nearly as good defensively in the outfield and will have to make up for it with more runs, which is not a given.

    • js20011041 - Apr 4, 2013 at 3:14 PM

      Using the most recent set of data (last years) isn’t cherry picking. It would be cherry picking if I used random sets of data to make my point. I still stand by my belief that Choo should play left. I think Ludwick’s bat is probably offset enough by playing Choo in CF that we’re talking about a pretty small difference either way. I’m not quite sure why you think Heisey can’t handle CF, but Choo can. I haven’t watched a ton of Reds games the last few years, but from what I’ve seen, Heisey seems to run pretty well. You’re also not taking into account the fact that playing Choo in CF blocks Hamilton. When he’s ready, i think an outfield of Choo, Hamilton, and Bruce is better than any combination of Choo, Bruce, and either Ludwick, or Heisey. I find it perplexing that you’re using your eyes (presumably untrained an inexperienced at that) to grade defensive performance. Haven’t we come far enough to at least know better than that?

      • spudchukar - Apr 4, 2013 at 4:24 PM

        Why would you presume anything, and even the most ardent Sabermetric followers admit defensive stats have a long way to go? And you too, have fallen into the trap that many stat geeks fall prey to. Using Sabermetric measurements for player evaluation is fraught with problems.

        The value of advanced statistical tools is to challenge other and older statistical methods. Things like BA, Wins, and Errors, once considered to be valuable measurements, have been replaced by more meaningful ones. But few knowledgeable Baseball people ever relied on said stats. It was baseball writers, fans, and a few fools that judged players abilities solely on the antiquated stats, giving awards to favorites, when more deserving players went unrecognized.

        But stats are still an approximation of a real event. Baseball is complex. Advanced stats aid evaluaters, but can never replace “eyes”, “experience”, and “judgement”.

        If players were solely appreciated by stats, how would potential, inherent flaws, and learning curves ever find their way into the decision making process. Stats are always past tense. Some players develop more slowly, some excel in the Minors, but never find success in the
        Bigs.

        Weaknesses are exposed in the Majors, often dooming certain players. Some have difficulty “putting it all together”, but the experienced eye recognizes the tools are there, but the execution isn’t, making patience the desirable choice of action.

        So the answer to your embarrassingly condescending closing question is no we have not come “far enough”, and the team or management that relies solely on stats to evaluate their talent will find themselves woefully ignorant, in comparison to the club who utilizes all available methods of evaluation which includes those ever complicated “eyes”, and the thought processes they inaugurate.

      • js20011041 - Apr 5, 2013 at 7:25 AM

        Well, you gave a scouting report on Ludwick’s defense, so please tell me how it was obtained. I don’t want to hear anything about how long you’ve been watching baseball or how you watch every game on TV. That’s not how you scout defense. If you’re scouting defense, you’re going to the park specifically to see a single player play and you’re not taking your eyes off that player to watch the game. You have to see where he’s starting from and the routes that he’s taking. You have to have done this over many games. You can’t judge defense by watching the game on TV and you can’t judge defense solely by turning your eyes to a player once the ball is hit to him. Quite frankly, you’ll also had to have done this for many different players so that you know what the hell you’re comparing it to.

        Eyes deceive. If you watch Derek Jeter play defense and you see him snag a ball in the hole and do his jump throw to first, you’ll think he’s the best SS in baseball. If you look at his defensive stats however, you’ll see that he’s actually been one of the worst defensive shortstops for well over a decade now. I don’t trust my eyes, let alone some pseudo scout who thinks that because he’s been watching baseball for however long, that statistics can’t tell him anything about the game. Now, if you’ve got some background in scouting, that’s a different story. I have a ton of respect for scouts and I am not, as you mentioned, a stat head. I simply realize the limitations of the human eye. Especially the eye of an untrained fan who quite possibly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If you find that condescending, then get a better argument.

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