Overreaction is (still) dangerous

At this point in the season it’s safe to say we are reaching have reached the point of beginning to eliminate small sample sizes in most cases.  Allen Craig is struggling. Shelby Miller isn’t pitching as well as his win-loss record and ERA indicate. Mike Matheny *loooooves* to double-switch. But what about those players for whom small sample size is life?

A quick post yesterday on KSDK.com about the Cards’ workout of Pedro Feliciano caught my eye not for the workout, but for a comment on the current state of the bullpen.

While Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez, and Trevor Rosenthal have been serviceable, the rest of the pen is a mess, with a revolving door of triple-A relievers trying their hand and Randy Choate getting battered to the tune of a near-7.00 ERA, something needs to be done, especially from the left side.

Putting aside first that Siegrist is left-handed and seemingly dismissed as such, the quick dismissal of Randy Choate is a little shortsighted. Sure, Choate was battered in his most recent game, but a reference to his ERA here isn’t really telling the whole story about how Choate has pitched overall.

First let’s acknowledge that Choate has only thrown a grand total of twelve innings so far in 2014. Second, despite getting more exposure to right-handed hitters this season than previously trusted with (arguably another product of Matheny’s stubbornness, but I digress), Choate has actually pitched quite well.  TO THE STATS!

Yes, Choate’s ERA is 6.75, but his FIP is 3.27. He is striking hitters out at about his career rate while walking far fewer. What has soiled his ERA is the game fresh in our memories (and surely that of the KSDK writer) in which Chaote allowed six earned runs in less than an inning to those dastardly Cubs. Let’s look at Choate against the Cubs for the 2014 season:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Anthony Rizzo 3 3 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 .333 .333 1.333 1.667
Nate Schierholtz 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000
Emilio Bonifacio 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Starlin Castro 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Mike Olt 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Darwin Barney 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Welington Castillo 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000
Ryan Kalish 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Junior Lake 1 1 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000
Luis Valbuena 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Travis Wood 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 18 16 9 2 0 1 7 1 4 .563 .556 .875 1.431
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used Generated 5/16/2014.

You’ll note that the Cubs on a whole have dominated Choate a little this season, obviously boosted by their outburst this week. Let’s clarify the picture a bit by looking at RHB and SHB against Choate.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Emilio Bonifacio 2 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Starlin Castro 2 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Mike Olt 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Darwin Barney 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Welington Castillo 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000
Junior Lake 1 1 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.000 3.000
Travis Wood 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Total 10 9 7 2 0 0 4 1 1 .778 .800 1.000 1.800
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used Generated 5/16/2014.

So over half of the Cubs’ plate appearances versus Choate have been taken by RHB or SHB, and he’s been battered. So 1) STOP IT MIKE, and 2) that batting average is still a little inflated, wouldn’t you say?

Looking at Fangraphs’ game logs, we see that the Cubs’ BABIP against Choate in the referenced game was .778 (also note the 81.00 ERA and 3.10 FIP). That’s obviously unsustainable. Also a small sample size, but we’re talking about one game completely blowing up a guy’s performance for the SEASON here. Choate’s life with the Cardinals is one huge small sample size.

So while acknowledging this is a slippery slope, let’s remove the Cubs debacle from Choate’s stats (as many Cards fans have from their memory). Now he’s got an opposing batting average of .175 instead of .292. Now his ERA is 2.38 instead of 6.75.

Such is the life of a relief pitcher, especially a specialized one like Choate.

Maybe overreaction is a bit extreme to describe the KSDK post – it’s more likely that the writer just quickly looked at Choate’s ERA, deemed that he has sucked, and published. Furthermore, usually with the Cardinals where there is smoke there is fire, so we also can’t diminish the workout of Feliciano, but I can’t imagine that Randy Choate is too worried about his job right now.

  • West Coast Redbird

    /rereads last SMS post
    /sighs
    /shakes head sadly

    Curse my short-term memory!

    • PitchersHitEighth

      Hahaha Mike! I’m obviously not much better as Craig appears to be heating up and Miller was nails today. Maybe if we just start writing about all of the players in rotation they’ll improve accordingly?

      • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

        DO IIIIIIIIITTTTT!!!!!!

    • Cardinal70

      To be fair, the last SMS post was about Stan Musial. The last WCR post, that’s a different story. [/pedantic]

      I’m with Nick on that. Let’s write about how Matt Adams has no power anymore next week!

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