How Eduardo Rodriguez Got His Groove Back

After an impressive start to his career, Eduardo Rodriguez hit the first bump in the road in his major league career. Being able to overcome adversity is key for any professional baseball player. Ian York takes a look at how Eduardo Rodriguez got his groove back.

Eduardo Rodriguez has been a bright spot in a generally gloomy Red Sox season. After his promotion to the majors, Rodriguez pitched three very effective games (May 28, June 3, and June 9), giving up 0, 1, and 0 earned runs, respectively.

His fourth start was less exciting:

Against Toronto on June 14, Rodriguez was charged with 9 earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings.

Was this another case of a rookie pitcher who stopped fooling major-league batters as soon as the scouting reports came out? That question lasted until his latest start, June 19, when (as the charts above show) he seemed to be back to his old self, giving up just one earned run in 6 ⅓ innings.

There were a number of things different about Rodriguez’ fourth outing. For example, in that game, he used his slider much less than usual (less than 2.5% of pitches vs. his usual 10-15%):

The reduced slider usage is unsurprising given that Rodriguez has preferred to throw his slider to left-handed batters and he faced only one LHB against the Blue Jays. A more significant difference was his fastball velocity. Rodriguez has elite fastball velocity. After his first game, we noted that “only four left-handed starters in baseball have had a faster average fastball this season.” Rodriguez has increased his fastball velocity in his subsequent games – with the notable exception of that one poor start:

(PITCHf/x has trouble interpreting Rodriguez’ pitches, apparently because its algorithms refuse to believe that he occasionally throws a changeup at close to 90-mph. Some pitch labels have been manually adjusted to correct this.)

A more detailed look at his fastball velocity by inning of each game:

Rodriguez normally hits his peak average fastball velocity in his first inning, and then it tapers off. On June 14, his first-inning fastball was slower than in any of his previous games, and by the 5th inning he was nearly 2 mph slower than his average – a very hittable 91.8 mph fastball. 

How did Rodriguez respond to this decline in fastball velocity? As the charts show, in his next start he threw a harder fastball then he had in his previous four appearances.. His average fastball velocity in his June 19 outing, at 94.7 mph, was the 6th-highest for a left-handed starter this year (behind James Paxton twice, Chris Sale, David Price, and Francisco Liriano – good company to be in). He also threw a higher percentage of sliders: 21.6% of pitches to left-handed batters and 14.9% of pitches to righties

Rodriguez is certain to hit some more bumps while adapting to the big leagues. However, his ability to respond to his first bad outing by completely reversing the problems is very encouraging for Red Sox fans.

Ian York has written quite a bit about the strike zone and the way the umpires call it.

Follow Ian on Twitter @iayork.

Check out Brandon Magee’s article about some odd ground rules around Major League Baseball.

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