For the fourth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season. Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series. All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis. Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.
Player: Randy Choate
Season stats: 1-0, 1 SV, 3.95 ERA, 71 games, 27.1 IP, 29 H, 2 HR, 5 BB, 22 K, 1.244 WHIP, 3.68 FIP, 0.2 bWAR
Hero/Goat: Goat 1
Overall grade: C-
Positives: Was very effective at Busch Stadium, posting a 1.98 ERA and a 12/1 K/BB ratio in St. Louis….had a strong May and June, allowing only two runs in 13.1 innings over the two months….was solid with two outs, limiting batters to a .229 average in that situation….overall, when men were on base, batters hit .185 against him, a mark that fell to .080 when there was just a runner on first.
Negatives: The only LOOGY on the staff and he still did not make the postseason roster….the first batter he faced had an .828 OPS….batters that led off an inning against him hit .414 with a .917 OPS….he was more effective against lefties than righties, but left-handers still hit .265 off of him and both home runs he allowed were to southpaws….he also hit 6 batters, all lefthanders, so overall 31 of 94 plate appearances against the batters he was supposed to specialize in wound up with a negative result.
Overview: Almost everyone at the time wondered about the wisdom of giving Choate a three-year contract. A one-year deal with an option? Perfect. A two-year deal? Maybe. A two-year deal with an option? Pushing it. Three guaranteed years for a left-handed specialist? That seemed at odds with John Mozeliak’s reputation as a savvy GM, especially when Choate would be 40 at the end of it. Maybe if Choate had been the Randy Johnson of LOOGYs, but he’s never been that dominant.
Unsurprisingly, his magic against those he was supposed to be the hardest on slipped this season. 33% of lefties reached base against Choate, which is why so many people took to screaming YOU HAD ONE JOB at him much of the season. As the year went on, it got worse. On July 7, Choate came into a game against the Cubs with the Cards trailing 3-2. Three batters later, it was 6-2 and Choate was gone, having allowed a home run to Anthony Rizzo. After that game, batters hit him at a .333 clip and while a 3.38 ERA doesn’t look that bad, when you factor in how many of his batters were probably stranded by other folks (and how many charged to others he may have allowed to score, though his strand rate at that time was 64%) and you can see how bad it had to get before Matheny took notice. It’s still stunning to some folks that Choate didn’t play in October.
Outlook: The Cards have talked about being less specialized, as perhaps folks like Tyler Lyons or Marco Gonzales, batters who can get righties out as well, could be used in situations normally reserved for a LOOGY. It seems likely the club won’t employ a specialist next year, but even if they don’t, it won’t be Choate. Choate, who has said he wants to play at least five more years, may have to either get a cheaper deal on a second-division team or go on a minor league invite to spring training. It seems unlikely that any stat-fluent organizations are going to take a gamble on him next season.