Feb. 25, 2017
Former Cardinals "LOOGY" King, LHP/Reliever Randy Choate Hangs Up His Cleats
Former St. Louis Cardinals LHP Randy Choate closed his major league career with St. Louis in 2015 at the age of 39. He spent the 2016 season in the minor league levels, as he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. At age 41, he decided his time had come. He made the announcement last week, February 16, he was retiring from baseball. The "LOOGY" King has retired his cleats, exiting baseball after a 15 year major league career.
Did we, Cardinals fans, ever hear that term, "LOOGY" when Choate approached the mound? Our lefty specialist? We certainly saw him come in to face a lefty and shut the batter down for a final out in an inning. Even with his crazy side-winder mechanics, he was effective in his task. LOOGY is just that, "A left-handed specialist is sometimes called a LOOGY (or Lefty One-Out GuY), a term that can be used pejoratively and which was coined by John Sickels." (Left-handed specialist - Wikipedia).
His time with the Cardinals, he accomplished a feat that has yet to be matched. And, with "LOOGY's" becoming less a featured need for teams, he may hold the record forever. His 2015 season, not his best logged with the Cardinals; however, the season that he made the record. He pitched in 71 games for a total of only 27.1 IP. So, more effective vs. exceptional. There is no other lefty that has made as many appearances with so few innings pitched. In those few innings, Choate logged only five walks and 22 strikeouts. However, in the interim, he allowed 29 hits for 2 HR/12 ER with a 1.244 WHIP.
When Choate came to the Cardinals in 2013, that was his season best with the team. He closed the season 2-1/2.29 ERA/1.047 WHIP in 64 games and 35.1 innings pitched.
"When Jesse Orosco, who is considered the patron saint of loogies, was in his age 42 season with the Orioles in 1999, he appeared in 65 games and pitched 32 innings. That’s as close as Orosco came to what Choate’s done this season. Only one reliever has made at least 60 appearances with fewer than 30 innings. In 1992, Boston’s Tony Fossas barely snuck under those parameters — 60 games, 29 2/3 innings." (Ryan Fagan, Sporting News)
During his tenure in the majors, he made his debut July 1, 2000 with the New York Yankees. Since his beginning with the Yankees, he made his Loogie performances with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida-Miami Marlins, Dodgers and his final three seasons with the Cardinals. Choate sustained only one injury throughout his career, breaking a bone in his left hand during Spring training 2008. He had been signed to a one year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the season. Due to the injury and rehab, he was held in the minors and eventually signed to a minor league contract before being released as a free agent.
IF Randy Choate would have had his way, he would have pitched until he was 50, in the majors - he loved the game that much. He was a mentor in the Cardinals dugout for the young pitchers and a great addition in the locker room. However, spending a season in the minors. Not being called up by the Dodgers organization, I feel gave him time to reflect on any hopes of another team picking him up.
In his last season with the Cardinals, with fans groaning at times when he came to the mound. He was up and down the ERA scale; which as I recalled, lead to the Cardinals decision to let him walk to free agency. April - 9 G/6.75 ERA/2.2 IP. May - 13 G/2.27 ERA/7 IP. June - 14 G/0.00 ERA/6.1 IP. July - 15 G/9.64 ERA/4.2 IP. August - 12 G/4.50 ERA/4 IP. And, September - 0.00 ERA/2.1 IP in 7 games. As exceptional as we had witnessed Choate in 2013, that season was not realized in 2014 - 2015. Even so - "In his three years wearing a Cardinals uniform, he appeared in 196 games, hurled 98 2/3 innings, and recorded a 3.56 ERA. Lefties went 44 for 243 against Choate in those three years, amounting to a .181 batting average." (Nathan Grime, Redbird Rants) In his three years with the Cardinals, most innings pitched were .02 or less. When you think about it, pretty amazing. In my opinion, the true meaning of a "micro-specialist".
His legacy as a Cardinals, Randy Choate will more than likely hold the LOOGY record, games played/minimum innings pitched, in the MLB. As Ryan Fagan wrote: [In 2015] "His longest appearance is 1 2/3 innings, which he’s done twice. In terms of batters faced, it’s seven, back in May in a game against Cleveland. In that one, he threw 28 pitches (also a season high), allowed one hit and hit one batter but didn’t allow any runs."
CLOSE AN INNING
I only wish Randy the very best in this new venture he has decided to take. As I recall, overall, he was a solid lefty for our Cardinals. "Two outs on the board, runners on and Choate is called to the mound." One-Two-Three ~ "Stuck him out" comes to mind.