The New Eduardo Rodriguez

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Eduardo Rodriguez

It’s a compliment to Eduardo Rodriguez to say he has been a disappointment the last two years. One of only 18 players to pitch at least 100 innings this season at the age of 24 or younger, the left-hander is just about league average (ERA+ 104; 1.296 WHIP) and has a career ERA+ of 103. However, his rookie season of 2015 was exciting enough (ERA+ of 112; win-lose record of 10-6) that many expected much more from Rodriguez as he gained experience.  To be fair, his learning curve has been disrupted by a knee injury in both 2016 and 2017.  In 2017, he was pitching very well (ERA 3.54, 1.148 WHIP in 61 innings) until his injury in early June; since his return on July 17, he has looked much worse (ERA 5.47, 1.481 WHIP in 49 ⅓ innings).  Unlike his previous years, in 2017 Rodriguez has shown a marked platoon split, with left-handed batters OPSing .918 against him while right-handed batters have managed only .721.  That split has gotten worse since his return; before his injury, his R/L OPS splits were .681/.845, while after they have been .726/.950.  

What he throws.  Rodriguez probably throws five different pitches, although several blur into each other.  His main pitch is his four-seam fastball (“FF”).  In his rookie season, he threw exceptionally hard for a left-handed pitcher, but he has lost velocity each season since, and now averages an unexceptional 93.2 mph.  His sinker, or two-seam fastball (“FT”), is a little slower than his four-seam fastball, averaging 92.1 mph, and has significantly more horizontal movement (10.7 inches vs 5.7).  He uses two breaking balls, differing mainly in velocity; previously I called the faster group a slider and the slower set a curve, but here I will call them a cutter (“FC”) and slider (“SL”) respectively. All his pitches are pretty much average in terms of velocity and movement.  


Pitch usage and trends.  Rodriguez remains mainly a two-pitch pitcher; his four-seam fastball (63.3% of pitches) and changeup (17.7%) together make up 81% of his pitches.  His other pitches are much less frequent.  His cutter (8.6% of pitches) and slider (6.6%) are not uncommon, but his two-seam fastball (3.9%) is mainly an afterthought.

Although his overall numbers are similar to last year’s, he seems to have gained more faith in his changeup to left-handed batters this season.  In 2016, he was much more likely to use his faster breaking pitch (which I am calling a cutter here) against lefties, while this season he seems to be much more balanced.

After returning from his DL stint, Rodriguez has changed his pitch repertoire somewhat, significantly increasing his cutter usage (3.9% of pitches before the DL; 12.6% afterward) and reduced his changeup usage to compensate (his injury disruption is show with a blue line on the charts below). Aside from that, his pitches have looked much the same before and after the injury.

Pitch value. Rodriguez’ main pitches, the four-seam fastball and changeup, are both solidly above-average pitches in terms of both total bases yielded per 100 pitches, and balls per 100 pitches.  His three secondary pitches, however, have been either simply bad (cutter) or have shown a heavy platoon split (two-seam fastball and slider).  

 In 2016, his cutter and slider were both much more effective than they have been this season, although the slider still showed the marked platoon split. His two-seam fastball was also more effective, but since it is thrown so rarely that hasn’t impacted Rodriguez’s overall numbers much, except to the extent it sets up his other pitches.  

Pitch location.  Comparing the location of Rodriguez’s pitch types in 2017 vs. 2016, the main difference is in his cutter.  Where in 2016, his cutter typically at the bottom corner of the strike zone (outside to left-handed batters, inside to righties), in 2017 the pitch has switched sides (outside to righties, inside to lefties) and is much higher in the strike zone.  The cluster of cutters in the same location as 2016 were thrown before his injury; he seems to have deliberately chosen to target a different area with his cutter following his return to the majors.

  

Featured image courtesy of fenwaypark100.org

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