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Entries in Randy Choate (3)


A Tale of Two Lefty-Killers

When the World Series kicks off at Fenway Park on Wednesday, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz should expect to see plenty of Mike Matheny. The Cardinals manager figures to deploy his two lefty-killers, Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist, to neutralize Boston's lead-off and clean-up hitters. Ellsbury (.863 on-base-plus-slugging percentage versus right-handed pitching) and Ortiz (1.092 OPS) crush righties, but struggle to square up same-handed pitching (.641 OPS against lefties for Ellsbury, .733 for Ortiz).

Choate, a 38-year-old slopballer, and Siegrist, a 24-year-old rookie possessing Aroldis Chapman-esque heat, share little common ground. But style differences aside, they both give opposing lefties nightmares.

The Slopballer

If you use the bathroom mid-inning, or grab a sandwich, or blink, you might miss Choate's work for the night. He threw an average of 7.6 pitches per appearance during the regular season, by far the lowest among relievers tossing at least 450 total pitches. That's because Choate is the game's ultimate specialist, facing lefty batters 70.2 percent of the time. Few lefty pitchers in history have smothered same-handed hitters like Choate -- he has the third-lowest opponent OPS ever in southpaw versus southpaw matchups:

Lowest career OPS for lefty pitchers vs. lefty batters (minimum 750 at-bats vs. LHB)


Choate has been even better in 2013, holding lefties to a .492 OPS. The side-arm hurler gets such excellent results despite radar gun readings that wouldn't get him pulled over on interstate highways. Choate's sinker has the second-slowest average velocity (85.9 MPH) among relievers, topping only submarine pitcher Darren O'Day (85.6 MPH).

While the pitch lacks zip, Choate's sinker is a ground ball machine -- batters are chopping the offering into the grass 76.3 percent of the time. Fellow Cardinal Seth Maness (77.2 percent) is the only reliever to generate a higher percentage of ground balls with his sinker. Choate peppers the bottom of the strike zone with the pitch, throwing his sinker at lefty hitters' knees 59 percent of the time.

Choate's sinker location vs. lefty hitters, 2013


His slider also comes in soft, with the second-lowest average velocity (76.1 MPH) among 'pen arms (Darren Oliver averaged 75.2 MPH). Batters nonetheless whiff half of the time they swung at Choate's breaker, compared to the 35.9 percent major league average.


Siegrist was in elementary school when Choate started his lefty-killer act, but St. Louis' young southpaw has already made some history of his own. Siegrist posted a 0.45 ERA during the regular season, second-lowest ever for a rookie throwing at least 35 innings. Who bested him? Buck O'Brien (0.38 ERA), a 29-year-old spitballer for the 1911 Red Sox. Hitters quickly figured out O'Brien's spit pitch, and he was out of the game a few years later. Considering his stuff and ability to battle hitters on both sides of the plate (he faced a nearly even amount of lefties and righties), Siegrist won't be vanquished so easily.  

Siegrist has little use for breaking and off-speed pitches, firing his fastball 85.7 percent of the time. And with gas like his, who can blame him? Siegrist's fastball averages 95 MPH, a mark best only by Chapman (98.4 MPH), Jake McGee (96.2 MPH), Jake Diekman (95.6 MPH) and Justin Wilson (95.2 MPH) among lefty relievers.

He pounds the outside corner with the pitch -- no lefty has thrown a higher percentage of heaters to the outer third of the zone (69.6 percent) when they have the platoon advantage. Siegrist's combo of speed and command has helped him limit lefty batters to a .388 OPS, best among left-handed relievers save for Luis Avilan (.383 OPS).

Siegrist's fastball location vs. lefty hitters


Randy Choate is quite a Card

Who do lefties hate more: Grover Norquist or Randy Choate?

Lefty relief specialist Randy Choate is on his way to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Check out his 2012 splits and you’ll see why it is a huge pick-up for the Cardinals ‘pen.

vs RHB as LHP 38 52 40 3 13 1 0 0 9 8 0.89 .325 .471 .350 .821
vs LHB as LHP 72 116 101 13 16 3 0 1 9 30 3.33 .158 .243 .218 .461

Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Original Table  Generated 12/5/2012.

Choate appeared in 80 games and only allowed 29 hits, only five for extra-bases.


Choate threw 649 pitches, 417 were sinkers, 205 were sliders, and only six were fastballs.

Here's what Choate's sinker looked like against lefties

The one homer that Choate allowed was to Miguel Montero on August 1, on a 3-2 sinker, that was more stinker than sinker

The seventh pitch of that at bat was right in Montero's wheel house.

Of course, it's unfair to highlight Choate's one mistake, but when you are a machine against lefties it is the unusual that is more interesting than the usual.

This should prove to be a good pick-up for the Cards giving them another lefty to compliment Marc Rzepczynski and Choate is much easier to spell and pronounce.



Randy Choate: Lefty Killer

With the Florida Marlins double-digit games behind, in both the National League East and NL Wild Card standings, and contending teams always looking for lefty relief help, expect to hear Randy Choate's name come up often in trade rumors this month.

The 35-year-old, signed over the winter to a two-year, $2.5 million deal, is death to all things southpawed. He has limited lefty hitters to a .206 batting average, a .282 on-base percentage and a .284 slugging percentage during the course of his big league career. Choate must be handled judiciously by his manager, lest right-handed hitters clog up the bases against him (.278/.397/.411 career line versus righties), but he's as good of a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) as you're going to find. The Marlins have gone to greath lengths to limit his exposure to right-handers this year, as Choate has enjoyed the platoon advantage against 54 of the 74 batters that he has faced.

Choate pounds lefties inside with a mid-80s sinker that has over 11 inches of tailing action in on the hands, or breaks out an upper-70s slider that darts far in the opposite direction. Here's what his sinker/slider combo looks like to those poor left-handed souls:

Pitch break frequency of Choate's sinker (left side of chart) and sliderOverall, Choate has thrown his sinker about 58 percent of the time and his slider about 42 percent. But he hasn't followed a typical pattern in terms of when he has tossed those pitches. In first-pitch counts, Choate has gone to his slider 65 percent of the time. In two-strike counts, he has thrown his sinker about 60 percent. Breaking balls in a fastball count, and fastballs in situations where most pitches call on the breaking stuff -- talk about messing with lefties' heads.

Choate's inside/outside approach and backwards pitching has produced a 22-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 63 percent ground ball rate against lefties. You'd have to think that teams vying for a division title or a Wild Card spot are salivating at the prospect of getting this LOOGY to shut down their rivals' big lefty bats.