Astros offseason: Shin Soo Choo, Matt Holliday, and wRC+

Gregory Shamus

How does Shin Soo Choo compare to Matt Holliday in creating runs?

"With regard to an offensive player, the first key question is how many runs have resulted from what he has done with the bat and on the basepaths. Willie McCovey hit .270 in his career, with 353 doubles, 46 triples, 521 home runs and 1,345 walks -- but his job was not to hit doubles, nor to hit singles, nor to hit triples, nor to draw walks or even hit home runs, but rather to put runs on the scoreboard. How many runs resulted from all of these things?" - Bill James - The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract

Bill James had the right idea when it came to quantifying how much an offensive player contributes, since really it only matters how many runs a player produces. Although James did not create the Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) statistic, he did lay the groundwork for it. A quick explanation of wRC+: League average is 100. Each point over 100 is a percentage better than average and each point under 100 is worse than average.

One of the best players at creating runs over the past few years has been Matt Holliday. Over the course of his career with the Colorado Rockies and the St. Louis Cardinals, he has averaged 140 wRC+, peaking at 154 in 2011 with St. Louis and bottoming out at 104 in 2004 with Colorado.

What does this all mean? Over his career, Matt Holliday has excelled in creating runs and on average creates 40 percent more runs than the league-average player. Between his rookie season in 2004 and last year, he was the 12th best offensive player in baseball by wRC+.

Shin-Soo Choo has quietly been one of the better run producers in baseball since he came to the Seattle Mariners in 2005 from South Korea. In his time with the Mariners, Cleveland Indians, and Cincinnati Reds, he has averaged a 135 wRC+ with his best season being last year scoring a 151, and worst being 2005 with the Mariners and scoring a -22. (Although in that season he only had 21 plate appearances in 10 games) . His worst full season was 2012 and he still scored a 131 wRC+. With a lifetime 135 wRC+ he outscores players like Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez.

When you compare Choo and Holliday and boil it down to purely creating runs, they are very similar. Just looking at last season, Choo was 9th in the league with a wRC+ of 151 and Holliday was 11th with a wRC+ of 148, and over the course of their careers Choo has averaged only 5% less runs created than Holliday.

The similarities don't end there. Choo's career on-base percentage (OBP) is .389 and Holliday's career OBP is .387. Choo's weighted on base average (wOBA) is .374 and Holliday's wOBA is .394. Holliday is ahead in this category due to having more career home runs

If the Astros are serious about getting a premium grade run producer to build a team around, Choo is their guy.

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