With the Rangers mounting a late playoff charge, don’t overlook how Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo have helped turn the tide for Texas.
Don’t look now but the Texas Rangers are back in this thing. In fact, they may be in the driver’s seat before too long. The Rangers currently find themselves in sole possession of the final AL wild card spot, and only four games behind the Houston Astros in the AL West.
Since the All-Star break, the Rangers have been a force to be reckoned with. The acquisition of Cole Hamels didn’t hurt, neither does the reloaded bullpen, and of course Derek Holland helps. But the play of shortstop Elvis Andrus and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo may be what actually turned the tide in Arlington these past few weeks.
Not long ago we were somewhat-actively looking to trade Choo and Andrus. Both players, signed to big-money/long-term deals, had been massive disappointments for the Rangers. Both players struggled from the field, as well as the plate. It’s no wonder the Rangers found themselves struggling, since two of their highest paid players, were also two of the lowest performing players.
Shin-Soo Choo is playing on what could be a 7-year/$130M contract that runs through 2021. Since joining the Rangers prior to the 2014 season, Choo has averaged less than .245 from the plate. In that same timespan he has boasted an on base percentage of .340 (OBP) and a wins above replacement (WAR) of less than 1.
Elvis Andrus is playing on an equally staggering, 8-year/$120M contract that runs through 2024. Over the past two seasons, Elvis has averaged around .260 from the plate, an OBP of .311, and a WAR of 1.2. Not exactly the kind of numbers you expect from your $15M per season player.
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Since the All-Star break, things changed for these two players, and the team as a whole. Shin-Soo Choo had some soul searching with his wife and came back a new man with a new attitude. His play followed suit and Choo has been batting .312 with an OBP of .424. Elvis Andrus has been batting .297 with a .319 OBP in his 155 games since the break.
Both players have had their share of defensive struggles as well. Shin-Soo Choo, never known for his defensive prowess, is now ranking in his position group’s top 10 in MLB fielding percentage. That according to ESPN Stats, his .984 ranks tied for tenth among right fielders.
Elvis Andrus still commits too many errors for anyone’s liking but he is slowly improving on his 19th ranked .969 fielding percentage and has expanded his range to score a 4.75 range factor score, 2nd among shortstops this season.
The Rangers recent turn-around doesn’t exactly have a clear-cut answer. Offensive stalwarts, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, are as strong as ever. Mitch Moreland has been a steady force and Delino Deshields has been invaluable.
The turnaround the bullpen and starting rotation have had is also unignorable. All of these pieces of the puzzle were needed for the Rangers to turn the tide on the 2015 season. But Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus have as big of a role as anyone else – if not bigger.
Considering how far expectations fell on these two players, their individual turnarounds may have had more to do with the Rangers’ turnaround than anyone else. They solidified the lineup, and the locker room, when the team needed them the most.
Can it continue?
We should hope so because no one wants to see the tide turn again, and without their steady play, that just may happen.
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