Shin-Soo Choo's Korea team took the Asian games and the series win means that the dark cloud of mandatory service over Choo's head has been lifted. As described in this linked post, the South Korean government promised an exemption for every player if they went on to win the Asian games. Can you imagine if they had lost!? No Choo can go back to being the most under appreciated player in Major League Baseball.
No only is Choo under appreciated, he's also been a doggone steal for the Indians. How Choo has played parts of six seasons and has been playing for just over minimum salary is beyond this Fan. Choo is finally eligible for arbitration this year so he can finally get paid what he is worth. It hasn't been a fun few years for the Indians, but when it comes to Choo, everything went right for the Indians. Consider how they got him in the first place.
The Seattle Mariners, in a blunder that sums up how they got to where they are now, traded Choo to the Indians for Ben Broussard. Broussard fizzled and Choo sizzled. The deal makes Mark Shapiro look like a genius. And consider that Choo's play has been valued the last three years at $13.5 million, $22.4 million and $22.3 million and you have yourself a steal.
There isn't a significant measure you can find that drags Choo valuation down. He's an excellent right fielder and if it wasn't for Ichiro, he could be a Gold Glove candidate. His lifetime slash line is: .297/.399/.488 and take into account that those figures include several cups of coffee between 2005 and 2007. To understand how understated Choo is as a player, he's finished the last two seasons (his first two qualifying for the batting title) with OPS+ figures of 136 and 148. And he hasn't even gotten a sniff for an All Star appearance.
What probably hurts him is that the traditional counting stats haven't been high. He has topped out the last two seasons with 86 and 90 runs batted in. There simply isn't enough consistent base runners from his Indians mates to knock in a lot of runs. He has a very high success rate in high leverage and with runners on base. So it's not his fault the counting stats aren't there. And considering he was on base nearly 260 times, he should have scored way more than 81 runs.
Two things can use improvement. First, he strikes out a lot. But that figure came down significantly in 2010. In 2009 he struck out 155 times. In 2010, he brought that down to 118. Choo is also a slightly lower than league average against left handed pitching. He's not terrible against southpaws, but he's not terribly good either. He is a little better against lefty starters than he is against lefty relievers.
Choo has been an excellent player the last couple of years. To this writer, he is one of the ten best players in the American League. But you would never know it. You couldn't tell by his paycheck either. But thankfully, now that the Korean military cloud has passed over, Choo can become a rich man. Arbitration looms, and whatever he gets, he deserves.