In football all the longevity-related records are usually qualified—at least in conversation—with something like this: A real player, I mean. Not a kicker or a punter. I grew up a reasonably devoted Sean Landeta fan, so that's not me talking, but it's just how the game works. He turned 30 the same year as Herschel Walker; he's four years older than Michael Irvin; he played until 2005.
The St. Louis Cardinals signed Randy Choate to a three-year contract, which gives him just one guaranteed year fewer than Matt Holliday, but I don't feel a need to get accustomed to him in the same way because he is the punter. He comes into the game; I get unduly excited when he uses his weird alien talent to devastating effect against a bunch of unprepared normals; he leaves immediately, if all goes according to plan, and somebody else finishes the inning. He's has led his league in appearances twice, and he's pitched 50 innings once.
He pitched to five batters on Thursday, which was nearly 20 percent of his season-to-date total.
He's Randy Choate, and at his current pace he'll probably face 10 or 15 batters more than Trevor Rosenthal has so far.
Here are some lists.
Five Cardinals pitchers who faced more batters than Choate has so far
- Chad Hutchinson, 2001
- Mark Worrell, 2008
- Bryan Augenstein, 2011
- Josh Pearce, twice
- Carmen Cali, twice
When will Randy Choate face more batters than my favorite anonymous Cardinals journeyman?
- Troy Cate: Mid-August, 2013
- Mike MacDougal: Late September, 2013
- Jorge Sosa: May, 2014
- Sterling Hitchcock, Britt Reames: Early August, 2014
- Victor Marte: Mid-August, 2014
- Esteban Yan: Late 2014
- Ron Villone, Travis Smith: Early 2015
- Sidney Ponson: Late 2015
- Jeff Weaver: 2016
- Jeff Fassero: 2017
- Gene Stechschulte, Mike Matthews: 2018
- Kip Wells: 2020
- Brett Tomko: 2021
- Todd Wellemeyer: 2028
A few people have written recently (and pretty compellingly, I think) that a lot of things that make for optimal baseball strategy, from a sabermetric perspective—walks and strikeouts, particularly—are less-than-optimal for baseball as a spectator sport.
I'm conflicted about lefty specialists. I can grant these two points to the aesthetics crowd: The actual mechanics of putting in a lefty reliever and then taking him out again after six pitches are incredibly tedious, and the kind of specialization that breeds lefty relief pitchers makes baseball feel less like an organic game and more like a weirdly arbitrary out-making bureaucracy.
But I love lefty specialists because they're the ungainly result of the kind of what-if questions we normally can't answer. What if teams set up platoons based on the ability to hit certain pitches? Football fans are left to speculate about the value of ROBO-PUNTER (comment six), but every so often baseball surfaces players with one hilariously overgrown skill for managers' (and our) amusement. What if a guy just swung as hard as he could every time? What if you never swung the bat?
What if you were so mediocre against right-handed hitters that you basically had to walk all of them?