ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 30: Relief pitcher Randy Choate #36 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the game at Tropicana Field on April 30, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The early season whipping boy of the Rays fanbase, Randy Choate has battled through his rough start, and is pitching at a level that most of us consider to be more Choate-like. After allowing seven earned runs in his first five appearances, Choate has gone nine straight appearances without allowing an earned run. Remember, that run against Kansas City was unearned.
Despite Choate's early season struggles, Joe Maddon has continued to hand the ball to his lone bullpen lefty in critical situations. Including last night's bases-loaded two-out jam in the eighth inning of a close game, Choate's gmLI, or the leverage index when he enters the game is 1.75. For those unfamiliar with leverage index, here is a quick note from the Sabrlibrary. An average (or neutral) LI is one, high leverage is 1.5 and above, and low leverage is below one.
The 1.75 gmLI for Choate is the second highest on the team behind closer, Rafael Soriano (1.82).
Because of the implosions in early April, Choate's overall numbers are ugly. Including last night's game, Choate ERA is still 7.88. His 4.70 FIP (fielding independent pitching) is still elevated due to a home run per nine of 2.25. After allowing home runs in back-to-back appearances, Choate has not surrendered a long ball since April 13th; a span of nine appearances.
While the ERA and FIP are not very pretty, Choate's strikeout and walk rates are very good. His strikeout per nine (K/9) is 9.0 while his walks per nine is 1.13. That a strikout-to-walk ratio of 8.0 All numbers represent career-best marks, although it's just an 9.0 inning sampling. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is still up there at .355 compared to his .302 career mark; suggesting more regression is likely.
Part of the reason behind the high BABIP is a 25.0% line drive rate. Choate had an LD% of just 9.9% last year, which is extremely low, but has maintained a more normal 18.8% for his career. Regression is also likely here.
Choate is the poster boy for one of DRB's favorite words: Regression. Assuming his home run rate, BABIP, and LD% continue to move toward career levels, Choate will likely end up with a really good season considering his xFIP (expected FIP) right now is 2.47. Again, his sample size is smaller than most because he rarely completes a full inning, but it seems the ball is once again sinking, and Choate is back to doing what he does best; getting lefties out (2.65 FIP, 1.57 xFIP vs. lefties in 2010) and keep the ball in the park.
Welcome Back, Randy. We hope.