What Fernando Rodney Experience?
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsWhen the Twins first signed Fernando Rodney last winter, it caused some concern among Twins fans. This concern wasn’t exactly unwarranted, given the fact that Rodney was about to enter his age 41 season, and he was coming off perhaps two of his most Fernando Rodney-esque seasons of his career.
Between 2016 and 2017, Rodney had a 3.80 ERA (3.45 FIP) with a 10.37 K/9 and a 4.70 BB/9. After last season, Arizona Diamondback fans couldn’t see him out of town fast enough. Part of Rodney’s problem in Arizona was perception. Rodney, got off to a terrible start in 2017, posting a 12.60 ERA through the month of April. However, from May 1st onward, Rodney was lights out to the tune of a 2.38 ERA and an opponents’ OPS of .442. Unfortunately for Rodney, relievers don’t throw enough innings to help salvage great overall numbers, as the lowest his ERA ever got was 4.17 towards the end of the season.
The “Fernando Rodney Experience” came just as advertised during his first month in Minnesota. In his first appearance as a Twin, Rodney gave up a walk-off home run to Adam Jones. His next seven outings after that were pretty rocky as well, with Rodney blowing three of his first five save opportunities mixed in with a couple excellent performances, giving Twins fans a full taste of what the “Fernando Rodney Experience” is all about.
This stretch ultimately cumulated in the Bronx when Rodney gave up a three-run walk-off home run to Gary Sanchez, giving the Yankees a 4-3 victory and completing a four-game sweep in the most Twins vs Yankees way imaginable.
Since then, Rodney has been lights out as the Twins closer. While the Twins bullpen has blown plenty of late leads over the past couple of months, Rodney has been a steady ship going 15 for 15 in save opportunities.
Not only has Rodney been perfect in save opportunities since April 28th, but he has also done his part in keeping the blood-pressure level of Twins fans to a minimum. In his 15 save opportunities during that stretch Rodney has been perfect in 11 of them. In the four times where he did allow someone to reach base, the game tying run never even made its way into scoring position.
Overall, Rodney’s numbers over that time have been excellent. In 19 2/3 innings pitched, he has an ERA of just 1.37 (2.70 FIP), with a K/9 of 9.61 and a BB/9 of 3.20. He has also holding opposing batters to a .134 AVG and an OPS of .395.
So, how has Fernando Rodney stayed at the top of his game despite his age being on the wrong side of 40? A big factor in Rodney’s success has been his improved walk rate. As has almost always been the case with Rodney, if he is able to keep his walk rate down at a respectable level, he becomes one of the best relievers in the game. However, when he struggles with his command, you get the, well, “Fernando Rodney Experience.”
This season, Rodney has had some of the best control of his career, as he is walking just 3.08 batters per nine innings, down from his career average of 4.39 BB/9. As it stands, this is the second best mark of his career, behind only his 2012 season when he walked just 1.81 batters per nine on his way to a 0.60 ERA over 74 2/3 innings.
Additionally, Rodney has done an excellent job of maintaining his velocity as he has aged. Ten years ago, when Rodney was still a spring chicken at the age of 31, he was averaging 95.5 mph on his sinker. In 2018, that number has only fallen off slightly to 93.8 mph. This was due in large part to a surprising increase in velocity that Rodney experienced during his mid-30s, reaching as high as 96.9 mph in 2013.
Sure, as he continues to age, Rodney’s velocity will drop to a point where it is no longer an effective weapon, but for now he still has it. When you factor that in with his improved control, and a changeup that is as dominate as ever, Rodney is still a force to be reckoned with at the back end of the bullpen.
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