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May 2, 2005

Posted: Monday May 2, 2005 2:15PM
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Because the world needs another sports blog ...

Choi to the world

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Hee Seop Choi has been an enigma wrapped in a riddle for the Dodgers. Despite a remarkable first half with Florida last season, during which he posted a .388 on-base percentage, Choi was given all of 62 at-bats to prove himself in Los Angeles after a midseason trade. His batting line of .161-.290-.259 landed him squarely on the bench during the club's successful pennant race. Critics of new GM Paul DePodesta howled that Choi was a bust. Statheads fired back that Choi just needed a real chance.

This season, as part of a platoon with righty Olmedo Saenz at first base, Choi had done almost nothing of note until posting the first four-hit game of his career on April 26 and then beating the Rockies with a grand slam on Friday. Suddenly, Choi's batting line (.263, .364, .474.) doesn't look so bad. Choi is the kind of player who is difficult for traditional, non-stathead fans to like. He strikes out a lot and walks a lot, thus hardly ever putting the ball in play. His production all seems to come at once. There is nothing sexy about the type of game he had last night -- 1-for-3 with a double and a walk -- but he was on base twice in four at-bats, and over the course of a season you want players who don't make a lot of outs and hit for extra bases. He's only 26 and had an impressive minor league track record (.384 OBP in 1,567 at-bats). At the same time, he's also been traded by two organizations -- scouts say he has too many holes in his swing -- and even the sabermetric-friendly Dodgers have been hesitant at times to commit to him. For now, Choi deserves the benefit of the doubt.
-- Jacob Luft (2:00 p.m.)

The beauty of Choi is in the eye of the beholder. He has yet to live up to his hitting potential, but he impresses in other ways. He slugs incredibly well against righties. He also is a spectacular defender, which is the latest hot trend of sabermetrically-inclined GMs. DePodesta loves Choi's D and power against righties, but platoons him because of his ineptitude against lefties.
-- Nick Welna, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (3:31 p.m.)

If you have a productive lead off man such as Cesar Izturis, having a guy like Choi in the No. 2 spot who either gets a hit, strikes out or walks would be a good thing because it cuts down on double plays. Wouldn't you agree? Especially with J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent, and Milton Bradley batting behind him.
-- Thomas Gangle, Bakersfield, Calif. (3:34 p.m.)

Choi is an excellent player, talent-wise. Look at his career stats. They are comparable to Phil Nevin's stats in his early years. Nevin turned out to be a solid, dependable hitter. Choi has a good chance of turning out to be like him.
-- Joe Martin, Bronx, N.Y. (4:01 p.m.)

The Dodgers should play Choi full time for a while and see what happens. At least then they will know what they have. Choi is young and has done fairly well when he's gotten consistant playing time. I don't think his OBP is as much of a positive since he is a first basemen. For the most part first basemen are expected to drive in runs out of the three, four or five hole. He walks alot, but the high number of strikeouts are hard to overlook. Players with high strikeout ratios are tolerated if they have the potential to hit 40-plus home runs and drive in 100 every year (ex. Adam Dunn). More than likely Choi is only good for a .260-.270 average and will give you 20-25 homeruns at best.
-- Patric Farrell, Tulsa, Okla. (4:10 p.m.)

The problem with Choi isn't so much a lack of skills. It's his position. Unlike a player such as Mark Bellhorn, whose numbers are similar, Choi plays a power position and is expected to be a primarily power/average hitter, not an OBP machine. If Choi was a second baseman, I'd love him. As he is, though, his skill set isn't as great as could be desired.
-- Sean, Boston (4:11 p.m.)

Granted, Choi might never become a prototypical, power-hitting first baseman. But if the Dodgers can get a .360-plus OBP and 20 home runs from a guy who makes only $350,000 this season, they will take it.
-- JL (4:55 p.m.)

Choi's lack of playing time may represent major philosophical differences between manager Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Tracy fired before the season is over. Tracy manages the team with outright hostility to DePodesta's organizational philosophy. It's evident in moves Tracy makes almost every day. Choi will thrive, against righties and lefties, if he plays every day.
-- Rob Moore, Los Angeles (5:00 p.m.)

Choi needs to be on a team that can afford to play him every day without the pressures of having to win now. He is still young and he needs at-bats. Eventually, after a few seasons, I would expect Choi to hit about .300 with an OBP above .400 and 40-plus homer power. But it will take a patient organization to get that out of him.
-- Randy Keeshin, Buffalo Grove, Ill. (5:10 p.m.)

I understand why the statheads like Choi, but he's incredibly frustrating to watch. He swings at terrible pitches and often looks clueless in the field. Hope DePo is right about him.
-- Bruce, Los Angeles (5:46 p.m.)

I'm a huge Angels fan and have come to greatly respect Darin Erstad. He posts a low OPS but runs extremely well for his position and plays the field brilliantly. He is great for the Angels, bad for your fantasy team. Choi may have posted great OBPs but who ever said that walks were essential to winning? He doesn't hit for a ton of power, doesn't run, plays marginal defense and hits for mediocre average. Choi may be good for a fantasy club, but not for the Dodgers.
-- Crall, Los Angeles (6:11 p.m.)

Choi may not be able to hit any pitch thrown to him like Ichiro or go deep on anything in the strike zone like Bonds or get "clutch" hits like Jeter, but that does not mean Choi has no value. He gets on base at least 36 percent of the time, has a great glove and, if you think about it, strikeouts aren't any worse than any other type of out. Instead of focusing on the negatives -- that he'll never be a slugging, All-Star first baseman -- just accept that he's acceptable for the position he plays.
-- Jake L., Bellevue, Wash. (6:16 p.m.)

(April 29) Hero to Zito | (April 28) Is Griffey done?