After the Miami Marlins plunked Choo twice in Sunday's game, Choo has now racked up nine hit-by-pitches in 19 games. It should be noted that it's not exactly like Choo is normally a hit-by-pitch machine (his career high is only 17, so he's over halfway there already).
The Reds signed Shin-Soo Choo to be their leadoff hitter (and to improve upon last year's dreadful on-base percentage out of the first position in the batting order). So far, from the Reds' perspective, things are working out well -- Choo has managed a .512 on-base percentage in 2013. However, while Choo getting on base benefits the Reds, one can't help but wonder: Why is Choo getting hit so much already, and should the Reds do something about it?
Reds manager Dusty Baker is an "old school" kind of manager. He likes to say things that hearken back to the days of yore before things like slugging, on-base percentage, and acronyms like WAR and WHIP existed. He believes the best way to get out of a slump is to keep playing a guy without demoting him in the lineup (see Corey Patterson, Willy Taveras, etc.). Baker is even known to let pitchers dictate how long they stay in a game (especially guys like Bronson Arroyo). Baker is, to a man, a player's manager -- and the Reds players seem to love him.
All that said, it becomes even more surprising that Dusty has allowed his leadoff guy to be plunked so many times without any sort of retaliation.
After all, in the old days guys always settled squabbles on the field, right?
So why is it that Dusty hasn't ordered a guy like Mat Latos to drive a fastball on the inside of the plate to one of the opposition's stars? There are probably two reasons. First, the Reds have been in a number of close games. For those games, it seems doubtful that Choo was hit purposely -- and the Reds certainly didn't want to put a free runner on base for the other team. Second, the Reds are already down one starting pitcher to injury (ace Johnny Cueto), so they can't afford any suspensions to their starting staff. There is also the possibility that Baker watched Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers get his shoulder crunched by an irate Carlos Quentin and has decided to not risk one of his pitchers suffering a similar fate.
Unfortunately, those are purely logical reasons -- and things like retaliation are rarely (if ever) based on logical decisions. Instead, it's a surprise that an old-school manager like Dusty continues to let Choo become a human pincushion without any retribution from Reds' pitchers. It seems highly unlikely that Choo will continue to be hit by opposing pitchers at the same rate, but, if he does, expect to see Reds pitchers plunking the opposition at a similar rate.
After all, that's the way it used to be done.
Chris Reed lives in Pennsylvania but has been a Reds follower for about thirty years. He has written extensively about the club for over a decade on various blogs and websites. He founded Nachos Grande, a blog that combines his love of the Reds and that of baseball cards.
- Sports & Recreation
- Cincinnati Reds
- Dusty Baker