Quick question: Before the season started, who had the Cleveland Indians atop the A.L. Central, leading the league in run differential and seemingly trading back and forth daily with the Philadelphia Phillies for the best record in baseball by mid-May? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Just about everything has been clicking for the Tribe as of late, but amidst the fanfare and joy that only the best home start since 1901 can bring, it seems there is one Indian who has yet to join the party: Shin-Soo Choo.
By: Jeff Beck
Photosource: Keith Allison
Choo is off to an uncharacteristically slow start, hitting for an average of .227, an on-base percentage of .311, and a slugging percentage of .348, second worst in all categories among players with at least 100 plate appearances for the Tribe. The troubled outfielder has had a sobering performance at the plate, coupled with a recent drunken performance behind the wheel when he was arrested May 2 on a charge of driving while under the influence.
I’m here, with the help of renowned criminologist Robert Agnew’s General Strain Theory, to tell you that the two could very well be linked. Before you go rolling your eyes, hear me out. Agnew has been rocking this theory since ’92 and it has become famous in nearly all sociological circles. So listen up, because Agnew might be able to put some distance between Choo’s batting average (.227) and his blood alcohol content (.201).
In short (because Agnew’s theory is quite long) deviance like drunken driving occurs when strain is put on an individual due to negative outcomes in their social environment. The part of the theory that is most relevant in this case is strain occurring when a person’s expectations don’t meet their actual achievements. In other words, when someone is expecting to do something and they don’t, they turn to other means for satisfaction. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Our man Agnew says, “expectations derive from the individual’s past experience,” and it’s fair to say Choo had high expectations for himself at the plate coming into this year. For the past two years, he has gotten off to hot starts, specifically when you look at his on-base and slugging percentages. His 2009 numbers before May were .409 OBP with a .479 SLG. Metrics before May in 2010 were even better as Choo compiled a .429 OBP with a blistering SLG of .500. Expectations? Check.
Now we turn to actual achievements. Before May this year, Choo’s numbers dropped considerably. His OBP fell to .325 putting him at a “poor” rating when compared to all players in the league, according to Fan Graphs. His SLG fell to .400 putting him just above a poor rating. Expectations not meeting prior achievements? Check.
According to Agnew, when expectations and achievements don’t jibe, the individual could turn to drugs (alcohol, anyone?) to manage the strain. In our case, this culminates with grainy police cam footage of Choo unable to decipher his left hand from his right.
So what in the world will revive Choo from this slump both on and off the field? It’s simple: a hug. According to his theory, Agnew says one of the best ways to cope with strain is through emotional support. When an individual has positive support around them, the effects of strain are downgraded and the person will ultimately turn away from wrongdoing.
So there you have it. The reason for all of this mess with Choo can be solved with a simple embrace. This is my call to the Indian’s dugout — get out there and give your favorite South Korean a hug. According to the research, he could really use it.