Ji-Man Choi – .415 wOBA Without The Shift
wOBA, or weight on-base average, is a more advanced version of slugging percentage and OPS. It gives specific values to an HBP, walk, single, double, triple, and a home run. Batting average and OBP can’t tell the difference between a walk and a double, but slugging percentage values a double twice as much as a single. This is the answer wOBA attempts to answer. It’s also on the scale of OBP.
In 2022, when Ji-Man Choi stepped to the dish without the shift, he had a .415 mark. This was the 11th-highest wOBA with no shift in at least 50 plate appearances. So why is this of note? Well, there are two reasons.
The first is the shift ban. Technically, the shift, in general, is not banned, but the way we know it now will no longer be allowed. Teams must have two infielders on each side of second base with both their feet on the dirt. While this won’t stop a second baseman from moving closer to first base, a shortstop moving a few steps closer to second base, or the outfielders shifting, it should tone down what we have seen, at the very least. Choi was shifted on a whopping 84% of the time last season.
The second reason is when Choi was shifted on, it severely brought down his overall ability. Choi had a .415 wOBA when the shift wasn’t on. But when the shift was put into motion? Choi had a .304 mark. That’s a 111-point difference. For reference, a 111-point difference in wOBA is the difference between National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt (.419) and Ben Gamel (.308) last year.
Of course, nobody is expecting Choi to go from a .322 wOBA in 2022 to rivaling Paul Goldschmidt just because of the toned-down shift. But an increase from .322 to .350-.360 is well within reason. That’s going from a 110 wRC+ to 125-135 wRC+. You can’t deny the stark contrast between how good Choi was without the shift. Choi should be one of the most beneficial players of the new shift rules. With a fully healthy elbow, Choi has the best opportunity as any Pirate to break out next season.