Retiring southpaw relievers both rank in top three for one-batter, one-out appearances
By Andrew Simon
Over the past two weeks, two men who epitomized the term "LOOGY" have brought their careers to a close.
LOOGY stands for "left-handed one-out guy," and it's a description Randy Choate used Wednesday when he told WFAN's Sweeny Murti that he is retiring.
"I was just fortunate enough to have a role where it could lead to some longevity." said Choate, who spent last season with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate. "I was in the era of the LOOGY and able to take advantage of that."
Choate's retirement came a week after that of Javier Lopez, whose ability to muffle dangerous left-handed batters helped the Giants win three championships between 2010-14.
Lopez (839 games) and Choate (672) had ranked first and third, respectively, in career appearances among active southpaws. Joe Beimel (676), who like Choate last pitched in the Majors in 2015, is second.
But where Lopez and Choate really stood out was in the sort of work that gives LOOGYs their name. Here are the all-time leaders in most career appearances of exactly one batter faced and one out recorded, via Baseball-Reference.com:
As that list indicates, the one-out reliever is a relatively recent phenomenon, arriving as bullpen usage has become more and more specialized.
As recently as 1959, Major League pitchers combined for fewer than 100 such appearances. That number climbed from 319 in '89 to a record 1,046 in 2015 before falling back to 888 last season.
That trend has allowed many pitchers, especially lefties, to carve out long careers working mostly in short bursts. Myers is the all-time champion in that department, having thrown 541 2/3 innings over 883 appearances for nine teams across 13 seasons.
But Choate has an argument as the ultimate LOOGY. Of the 11 pitchers (all lefties) with at least 100 career one-batter, one-out appearances, he stands on top with those games accounting for 27.5 percent of his total. Lopez is next at 23.5 percent, followed closely by Myers (23.3 percent).
Over his final seven big league seasons (2009-15), Choate's 153 one-and-done appearances were 36 more than the second-place Lopez and accounted for nearly one-third of his total. With the Cardinals in '15, Choate threw only 27 1/3 innings while going less than a full frame in 62 of his 71 games. Lopez put up similar numbers for San Francisco in his farewell campaign, throwing 26 2/3 innings over 68 games, 60 of which were of two outs or fewer.
Those assignments don't come by accident. Among left-handed relievers who have faced at least 1,000 left-handed batters, Choate's .550 OPS allowed ranks first, while Lopez's .572 mark ranks fourth.
But with Choate and Lopez now out of the picture, who is taking up the banner for the LOOGY? Here is a look at three lefties who perhaps could challenge that pair someday, given that the job doesn't discriminate against older pitchers.
Boone Logan, Indians: The 32-year-old, who recently signed with Cleveland as a free agent, is tied for 14th all-time with 97 one-batter, one-out appearances. He has reached double digits in that category in six of the past seven seasons, with 29 total for the Rockies from 2015-16. Logan held lefties to a line of .142/.222/.255 in '16.
Marc Rzepczynski, Mariners: Through his age-30 season, "Scrabble" has logged 72 one-and-done outings, despite beginning his career as a starter from 2009-10. Before signing with the Mariners this winner, Rzepczynski had logged 49 such appearances since '14, a total that trailed only Lopez across MLB.
Jerry Blevins, Mets: He recently signed a deal to return to the Mets, who used him in a career-high 17 one-batter, one-out appearances last year. Only Lopez had more. Blevins, who missed most of 2015 due to injury, has 60 of these in his career while holding lefties to a .588 OPS.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.