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Entries in Fernando Rodney (4)

Wednesday
Feb122014

Lefties Lay Off Rodney's Fastball/Changeup Combo

Excluding a select few bullpen iron men  like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, relievers just aren't built for sustained excellence. Their job -- hurling max-effort pitches, logging what amounts to two months' worth of innings for a starter -- is inherently volatile. Some 'pen arms manage to dominate for a decade-plus, avoiding injury and bad bounces that balloon ERAs, but many more devolve from relief ace to dud quicker than you can say "Derrick Turnbow."

Fernando Rodney hasn't quite fallen to such depths -- he just landed a two-year, $14 million contract from the Mariners, after all. But he's nonetheless a prime example of how transient the "relief ace" label can be. The changeup artist was considered a chronic underachiever entering the 2012 season, posting a career park-and-league-adjusted ERA just one percent above average (101 ERA+) and issuing 4.9 walks per nine innings pitched. Then Rodney, in his mid-thirties, suddenly became an arrow-slinging assassin. He walked a mere 1.8 hitters per nine for Tampa Bay in 2012, with the best single-season ERA+ (638) ever for a reliever working 60-plus frames. After a decade of disappointment, Rodney turned in a year that made Dennis Eckersley's fabled 1990 campaign (603 ERA+) look tame.

Was Rodney a changed man? Apparently not. While no one should have expected a repeat performance of 2012, he was pretty much the same strike zone-challenged pitcher who unnerved fans in Detroit and L.A. for a decade (4.9 BB/9, 113 ERA+ with Tampa in 2013). Left-handed batters proved especially troublesome. While lefties took wild swings against his fastball/changeup combo during his banner 2012, they learned to lay off and trot to first base in 2013.

Rodney enticed lefties to chase his pitches 38.9 percent of the time in 2012, blowing away the 28 percent average for righty relievers against opposite-handed batters and trailing only Red Sox teammates Koji Uehara (48.3 percent) and Junichi Tazawa (39.4 percent) among American League firemen. In 2013, though? Rodney baited lefty hitters 31.3 percent of the time, which matches his overall lefty chase rate during the Pitch F/X era (2008-present).

What changed? Lefties stopped bailing Rodney out by swinging at pitches so far off the outside corner that they'd need a telephone pole to make contact. Check out lefties' swing rate by pitch location versus Rodney's fastball over the past two seasons, and then against his changeup.

Fastball 

Lefties' swing rate vs. Rodney's fastball, 2012

Lefties' swing rate vs. Rodney's fastball, 2013

Changeup

Lefties' swing rate vs. Rodney's changeup, 2012

Lefties' swing rate vs. Rodney's changeup, 2013

Rodney's fastball chase rate against lefties dipped from 33.7 percent in 2012 to 24.7 percent this past season. That's awfully close to his overall 26.8 percent fastball chase rate versus left-handers during the Pitch F/X era. He also got fewer chases on the changeup: 47 percent in 2012, and 39.7 percent in 2013. His changeup chase rate against lefties since '08? 39.1 percent. With lefties showing more typical plate patience against him, Rodney surrendered a free pass to 15.2  percent of batters faced after walking lefties just 6.3 percent the previous season. Lefties reached base at a .363 clip, after being held to a .222 OBP in 2012.

Rodney will always have 2012, but he doesn't appear to be a fundamentally different pitcher than the guy who gave Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia heart palpitations for years. Unless lefties do him a favor by lunging at unhittable, off-the-plate pitches, Seattle's new crooked-capped closer figures to keep walking the yard.

Sunday
May192013

The Fernando Rodney Difference

It is uncommon for the Tampa Bay Rays to have a reliever to lead the team in saves for successive seasons.

Rays Saves leaders since 2000

Player SV Year
Fernando Rodney 48 2012
Kyle Farnsworth 25 2011
Rafael Soriano 45 2010
J.P. Howell 17 2009
Troy Percival 28 2008
Alberto Reyes 26 2007
Tyler Walker 10 2006
Danys Baez 41 2005
Danys Baez 30 2004
Lance Carter 26 2003
Esteban Yan 19 2002
Esteban Yan 22 2001
Roberto Hernandez 32 2000
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/19/2013.

Usually, the Rays anoint a new closer each season but this year Tampa went right back to Fernando Rodney who was successful for them last year converting 48 of 50 save opportunities.

But this season, he has already been denied shooting his imaginary arrow into the save-osphere, blowing three saves in 10 opportunities.

The ugliest blown save of the season may have occurred this past Thursday night when he entered the game with a 3-1 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the top of the 9th and issued a career-high three consecutive walks before Will Middlebrooks lined a bases-clearing double that blew the save and resulted in a 4-3 Rays loss.

The 2012 All-Star closer was missing the strike zone by a lot and over-throwing his fastball in the hopes of closing out this game.

2012 vs 2013

Rodney is a very different pitcher this season. Not only had Rodney led American League in saves in 2012 and he had a 0.78 ERA and a 0.777 WHIP. This season, he has a 5.28 ERA and a 1.761 WHIP.

  • In 2012, he pitched 74.2 innings, allowed nine runs, walked 15, and he gave up two homers. In 2013, he has pitched 15.1 innings, allowed nine runs, walked 15, and he has given up two homers.

Rodney pitched for the Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and you have to wonder if it took its toll in terms of velocity and control.

Rodney is a fastball/change-up pitcher

2012

In 2012, Rodney averaged 96 mph on his fastball, with a high of 100.4, and a low of 91.4. Batters hit .248 against it with two homers, 19 whiffs, and nine walks.

In 2012, Rodney averaged 82.5 mph on his change, a 13.5 mph differential, with a high of 88.7, and a low of 78.2

Batters hit .070 against it with no homers, 55 whiffs, and five walks.

2013

In 2013, Rodney has averaged 95.9 mph on his fastball, basically the same as last season, but you can see his location is nowhere as effective as last season, drifting lower in the zone.

He has hit a high of 100.1, and a low of 90.5. Batters are hitting .365 against it with one homer, six whiffs, and six walks.

In 2013, Rodney has averaged 84.2 mph on his change, an 11.7 mph differential, with a high of 84.2, and a low of 78.7

Batters have hit .094 against it with one homer, 17 whiffs, and eight walks.

As you can see, the reduced speed differential and less precise placement of the change is making both his change and fastball less effective.

Let's quantify that further

  • In 2012, batters swung at 50.1% of Rodney's change-ups; in 2013, it's 46.4%. 
  • In 2012, 70.4% of Rodney's change-ups were strikes or in play; in 2013, it's 60.6%. 
  • In 2012, batters swung at 50.1% of Rodney's change-ups; in 2013, it's 46.4%. 
  • In 2012, batters chased 42.5% of Rodney's change-ups; in 2013, it's 35.1%. 
  • In 2012, 40.6% of Rodney's change-ups were called strikes; in 2013, it's 28.4%.

You get the feeling that Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, the brilliant pitching coach for the Rays, won't let this continue much further. Invariably, the Rays don't have room for error and can't afford a shaky closer. If Rodney is unable to sharpen his control and spread the speed differential between his two pitches, don't be surprised if the Rays seek an alternative closer. 

Monday
Feb042013

90/30 Pitchers

It would be a good debate to decide who is more specialized: a closer or a DH?

On the one hand, a closer does all the things a pitcher does, just infrequently and briefly.

On the other hand, a DH basically only does one thing: hits.

Perhaps this is a reason why Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez are still waiting for a call from Cooperstown.

The role of bullpen pitchers have become more and more specialized with closers basically restricted to the 9th inning and teams attempting to more and more compartmentalize their 8th and 7th inning pitchers.

Last season, there were 15 pitchers with at least 30 saves. None threw more innings than Fernando Rodney.

RkPlayerIPSVTm
1 Fernando Rodney 74.2 48 TBR
2 Tyler Clippard 72.2 32 WSN
3 Jason Motte 72.0 42 STL
4 Aroldis Chapman 71.2 38 CIN
5 Jonathan Papelbon 70.0 38 PHI
6 John Axford 69.1 35 MIL
7 Jose Valverde 69.0 35 DET
8 Jim Johnson 68.2 51 BAL
9 Rafael Soriano 67.2 42 NYY
10 Joe Nathan 64.1 37 TEX
11 Craig Kimbrel 62.2 42 ATL
12 Joel Hanrahan 59.2 36 PIT
13 Chris Perez 57.2 39 CLE
14 Rafael Betancourt 57.2 31 COL
15 J.J. Putz 54.1 32 ARI
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2013.

Does that seem like a lot of innings or a few?

Here's some perspective: Over the last 20 seasons 389 relievers have accrued 30 saves in a season. Rodney's 74.2 IP puts him in a tie with five other pitchers for 121st on the list.

Reaching the 30-save mark is becoming less of a noteworthy feat.

RkYear#
1 2011 19
2 2006 19
3 2005 19
4 2007 18
5 2002 18
6 1996 18
7 1999 17
8 1998 17
9 2009 16
10 2004 16
11 2000 16
12 2012 15
13 2008 15
14 1997 15
15 2010 14
16 2001 14
17 1995 13
18 1993 13
19 1991 13
20 2003 12
21 1992 12
22 1990 11
23 1989 10
24 1988 8
25 1987 7
26 1984 7
27 1986 6
28 1985 6
29 1983 3
30 1994 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2013.

But throwing 90+ innings and earning 30+ saves is truly becoming a rarity.

The last one to do it being Ryan Dempster in 2005. That season, Dempster made 57 relief appearances throwing 58.1 innings, and six starts with 33.2 IP.

RkYear# 
1 1984 6 Bill Caudill / Willie Hernandez / Dan Quisenberry / Dave Righetti / Lee Smith / Bruce Sutter
2 1985 5 Willie Hernandez / Bob James / Donnie Moore / Dan Quisenberry / Lee Smith
3 1987 3 Tom Henke / Dave Righetti / Todd Worrell
4 1986 3 Dave Righetti / Lee Smith / Todd Worrell
5 2002 2 Danny Graves / Billy Koch
6 2000 2 Danny Graves / Derek Lowe
7 1988 2 Bobby Thigpen / Todd Worrell
8 1983 2 Dan Quisenberry / Bob Stanley
9 2005 1 Ryan Dempster
10 1997 1 Jeff Shaw
11 1992 1 Doug Jones
12 1991 1 Jeff Montgomery
13 1989 1 Mark Davis
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2013.

Here are the 28 pitchers since 1983 who have thrown 90+ innings and earned 30+ saves

RkPlayerYearSVIPTmG
1 Billy Koch 2002 44 93.2 OAK 84
2 Derek Lowe 2000 42 91.1 BOS 74
3 Danny Graves 2000 30 91.1 CIN 66
4 Jeff Shaw 1997 42 94.2 CIN 78
5 Doug Jones 1992 36 111.2 HOU 80
6 Jeff Montgomery 1991 33 90.0 KCR 67
7 Mark Davis 1989 44 92.2 SDP 70
8 Bobby Thigpen 1988 34 90.0 CHW 68
9 Todd Worrell 1988 32 90.0 STL 68
10 Todd Worrell 1987 33 94.2 STL 75
11 Dave Righetti 1987 31 95.0 NYY 60
12 Tom Henke 1987 34 94.0 TOR 72
13 Todd Worrell 1986 36 103.2 STL 74
14 Lee Smith 1986 31 90.1 CHC 66
15 Dave Righetti 1986 46 106.2 NYY 74
16 Lee Smith 1985 33 97.2 CHC 65
17 Dan Quisenberry 1985 37 129.0 KCR 84
18 Donnie Moore 1985 31 103.0 CAL 65
19 Bob James 1985 32 110.0 CHW 69
20 Willie Hernandez 1985 31 106.2 DET 74
21 Bill Caudill 1984 36 96.1 OAK 68
22 Willie Hernandez 1984 32 140.1 DET 80
23 Dan Quisenberry 1984 44 129.1 KCR 72
24 Dave Righetti 1984 31 96.1 NYY 64
25 Lee Smith 1984 33 101.0 CHC 69
RkPlayerYearSVIPTmG
26 Bruce Sutter 1984 45 122.2 STL 71
27 Bob Stanley 1983 33 145.1 BOS 64
28 Dan Quisenberry 1983 45 139.0 KCR 69
Provided by Baseball-Reference.comView Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/4/2013.