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Article: Rodney Living His Own Experience

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:35 PM

For the past number of years, Fernando Rodney has come on to close baseball games for any number of big league teams. He’s been asked to pitch one inning, get three outs, and preserve the lead for his respective ball club. Over the years, he’s added the shooting arrow celebrating and a new number to his age tally. What he’s patented during his 16 major league seasons though, is the Fernando Rodney Experience. On Thursday it caused a lot of Twins fans to lose their collective minds.On the season, Rodney has been called upon eight times. He’s converted two save attempts while taking two losses and three blown saves. After his latest go-round with the New York Yankees, in which he recorded no outs and gave up three runs (two earned) his ERA sits at an ugly 6.75 across 6 2/3 innings pitched. From those numbers alone, you can choose to take the road of the collective majority and call for his head. The alternative is to look a bit deeper.

This isn’t uncharted territory for Rodney, and really, it shouldn’t be for Twins fans either. On April 29th last season, Rodney owned a 12.60 ERA and was allowing opposing batters a 1.066 OPS off of him. He’d taken two losses and two blown saves over just 10 innings pitched for the Diamondbacks. All worse numbers than where he’s currently at for the Twins, Fernando then went on a run. For the rest of the season, Arizona called on him to pitch 45 1/3 innings. He turned in a 2.38 ERA, allowed opposing batters just a .442 OPS, and saved 33 contests while blowing just four more games.

So why should you as a Twins fan be able to relate? How about because the same transformation happened right here at Target Field last year. Matt Belisle, who eventually replaced Brandon Kintzler as closer, owned a 9.00 ERA on May 7th. On that day he gave up six runs to the Boston Red Sox while recording just one out. From that point on though, the 36 year-old was lights out. In his final 47 1/3 innings for Paul Molitor last season, Belisle owned a 2.66 ERA and a .617 OPS against. Also an elder statesmen of the game who looked cooked in the early action, then a turnaround came.

Now, for Rodney, the blueprint towards effectiveness seems pretty clear. Over the course of his career, Rodney’s plan of attack has been to lean on a strong fastball that touches the upper 90’s, and then come back often with a changeup that presents something like a 15 mph decrease in velocity. Through his 16 big league seasons, he’s averaged usage rates on those two offerings at 43% and 36% respectively. For the Twins this year however, something is way out of whack, as the bow hunter is throwing fastballs 64% of the time while serving up his changeup just 20% of the time.

It’s easy to suggest that being 41 years-old could have some sort of effect on his performance, but the reality is that this same pitcher was 40 and effective one year ago. Instead of assuming a decline that the numbers disagree with (his average fastball velocity is exactly where it was last season), the more plausible explanation seems to be a process that’s deviated from what has worked so wonderfully in the past.

Right now, and likely because of his pitch mix, Rodney is simply failing to keep hitters off balance. Knowing the fastball is coming more often, he’s been more predictable to sit on. Despite allowing just three home runs all year a season ago, he’s already served up two with April still having yet to fade away. The K/9 and BB/9 rates are actually wonderful for a guy who tiptoes both lines so feverishly, but it’s the 13.5 H/9 (nearly double his career average) that’s causing problems.

Download attachment: Dbvlbv0XcAAs4ww.jpg-large.jpeg

The Minnesota Twins have a few things they need to digest and address with their current closer. Arguably the most important is figuring out why the changeup usage has fallen off a cliff. It’s currently registering as the best quality of pitch average over the course of his career, and he’s not going to it at all. His fastball has never been less quality than it is right now, yet he’s leaning on it so heavily. Figuring out whether it’s a confidence thing, or just some ill-advised change in process is a must.

From there, Paul Molitor and Garvin Alston must decide if the process can be rectified while keeping him in his current role. Ideally the Twins should want to have the flexibility of inserting arms like Addison Reed or Ryan Pressly at whichever point in the game high leverage first presents itself. Saving impact arms like that for what could be low leverage outs in the 9th inning would be wasteful. If Rodney can’t tweak his process while remaining in the closer role, they have to be willing to alter his usage until things are back on track.

At the end of the day, I think there are a couple of really important takeaways here. Rodney is in no more of a dire situation than the Twins are as a whole right now. Being swept is hardly ideal, but they’ve played just 12% of their total schedule and there’s so much baseball ahead. On top of that, Paul Molitor’s bullpen is best constructed with the arms currently in it. There are contributors down on the farm, but none of them represent a golden ticket. Getting each of the guys currently beyond the outfield wall right is Minnesota’s best hope.

There definitely comes a point in every player’s career where it’s simply time to hang it up and be real with the fact that the game has left you. Despite being 41 years old, there are plenty of reasons to doubt this being that crossroads for Fernando Rodney. The hope would be that in a few months, this date would be the one we look back upon and note it as having been the turning point.

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#2 mikelink45

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:45 PM

Wow - I thought you were going to make me feel better!Well you didn't so I will go back to hoping for the best, because this is what we have. 

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#3 Borealis

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:52 PM

Nice perspective Ted.

Contrary to many, I think we need to stick with him a bit longer. Rodney had a terrible April last year and then went on to have a pretty good season. No guarantee he will repeat this, just really hopeful he does because of the negative trickle down effect it would have if he needs to be replaced. Reed seems perfect as our jack of all leverage version of Andrew Miller. And though the idea of Presley in the closer role does have some intrigue, it would lead to another high leverage vacancy.

I get that fans are disheartened and some are looking for a fall guy, but there’s plenty of blame to go around.

Man the pitch today reminded me of the Adam Jones pitch. Two terrible results on two good pitches out of the zone. Closers that get a track record can shake off bad luck this, so that’s the hope here.
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#4 IndianaTwin

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 07:09 PM

Good perspective, including your notes on pitch usage.

 

A change-up is a touch pitch. I wonder if part of not using it as much is not feeling like he has that. So far, his number of days of rest has gone 5-0-4-0-6-1-6. That's essentially a starter's pattern, not a closer's. It doesn't seem too surprising to have inconsistent results with that kind of a pattern. 

 

And to anticipate the Molitor-bashing, sure, it would have been ideal to use him on Monday or Tuesday, but it's also tough to do that in a non-save situation when you don't know if you might need him the next three days in a row.  

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#5 jaimedude2

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 09:34 PM

After re-watching the 9tg ing Rodney pitched well enough to finish and wing that game. Even the hone run pitch it was a fastball driving in, just a touch high. Rodney hasn't been that bad. On the other hand, Logan Morrison cannot be gone fast enough.
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#6 yarnivek1972

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 09:38 PM

Maybe we should ask Jason Castro why he isn’t calling it more.

He supposedly works magic with pitching staffs. That’s why he’s being paid $6 mil per year. Right?
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#7 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 10:20 PM

Garver was catching.Of 8 pitches, 7 were fastballs, one was a change-up, a swing and miss by Gregorius.

 

In retrospect, Rodney has to throw more change-ups.

 

Sanchez and Gregorius, both dead red guys.

 

Twins not only playing poorly, but doing baseball dumb.

 

Bad combination.

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#8 h2oface

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 01:51 AM

If Rodney is on your team, and you are a fan, you will suffer.

The only perspective for me is I hate to ever see him.

Before this year, and definitely now.

I can't wait to see him gone.

I said that when he was signed, and am not surprised.

The fact that he sucked like this at the start of last year, and got all the way back to a 4.23 ERA on the season AS A CLOSER, only makes things worse. Wow, a 4.23 for the season. That means the FO will hold on to him far too long. 

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#9 ashburyjohn

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 06:33 AM

If Rodney is on your team, and you are a fan, you will suffer.

The only perspective for me is I hate to ever see him.

Before this year, and definitely now.

I can't wait to see him gone.

I said that when he was signed, and am not surprised.

Worst limerick ever.

 

In fairness, the best limericks ever will get a person banned at TD.

 

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#10 Darius

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 06:37 AM

Rodney being awful for stretches in the past, but eventually figuring out, isn't a great reason to keep him in the close role. In fact, it's the opposite. Why not pull him and out him in a lower leverage role UNTIL he figures it out. That seems like a pretty obvious solution, IMO.

Also, I'm not sure I buy that blowing 4 saves after he "figured it out" really warrants the term "only." If you're blowing 5+ saves a year, and giving away wins for a month before you get yourself on track, you are a bad closer, and shouldn't be in that role. I don't care what your ERA is at the end of year. Consistency from a closer is key.

A team like the Twins fighting tooth and nail for a wildcard spot needs every game, and can't afford the sit around and wait for an aging closer to work himself back into pitching shape for two months.

This is classic paralysis due to overanalysis, and it's going to cost the Twins a playoff spot.
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#11 jun

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 07:13 AM

Rodney's stats so far in 2018: 6.2 IP, 12 hit, 2 BB, 6.75 ERA, 2 base runners per inning, 2 home runs allowed. That's not closer material. He is in danger of blowing a three run lead every time he pitches.

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#12 Thrylos

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 07:21 AM

 

 

Rodney is in no more of a dire situation than the Twins are as a whole right now. Being swept is hardly ideal, but they’ve played just 12% of their total schedule and there’s so much baseball ahead. On top of that, Paul Molitor’s bullpen is best constructed with the arms currently in it. There are contributors down on the farm, but none of them represent a golden ticket. Getting each of the guys currently beyond the outfield wall right is Minnesota’s best hope.

 

A couple things here:

 

- Unfortunately the sweep by the Yankees made a lot of Twins' fans to forget the sweep by the Rays, a bottom feeding team that allegedly "tanked" this season. Say whatever you want about the Yankees, but being swept by the Rays is inexcusable. 

 

- I'd disagree about the assessment that the current pitching stuff is the best the Twins can do.In addition to May and Romero in the farm (and I am not even counting Santana) who will likely be improvement over Lynn and Hughes in the rotation,pushing those 2 in the pen, the Twins can go out there and trade.That is an option.If we are saying that the Curtisses and Slegerses and Jays cannot be trusted to contribute in 2018, they should be trade bait and go before they get lost to waivers or Rule 5.

 

- If I were the Twins right now, I'd keep a close eye on Kohl Stewart (forget his ERA) and potentially see what he can do in the pen.

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#13 Number3

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 07:28 AM

I always thought that the Twins' "Failvey"/Levine geniuses acquired Rodney simply to put closer in the done category and go play golf or to lunch or whatever. If Ted is aware of Rodney's past as well as his use of different pitches in the present I assume that the Twins' managment/pitching coach are as well? (Question mark used intentionally).

Also, I wondered why Rodney wasn't used at all (or very little) during the 6 previous losses. Does he refuse to pitch in other than a closing situation or is this just more of Molitor's 2 page book on how to manage?


#14 Craig Arko

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 07:39 AM

In the technical philosophical sense, we’re all living our own experience. :)
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#15 Tom Froemming

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 08:15 AM

 

Of 8 pitches, 7 were fastballs, one was a change-up, a swing and miss by Gregorius.

 

In retrospect, Rodney has to throw more change-ups.

It definitely seems like he needs to make that adjustment. Rodney typically deploys that excellent changeup once he's gotten ahead in the count. The Yankees seemed to say "screw it, let's not give him the chance to get ahead" and ambushed the fastballs.

 

It'll be interesting to see if other teams use that same strategy. One the one hand, you're basically eliminating his best pitch, but on the other hand, it seems like a good idea to take a few pitches because Rodney walks so many guys. It'll be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.


#16 ashburyjohn

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 08:58 AM

In the technical philosophical sense, we’re all living our own experience. :)

imagesCAK3BS9B.jpg

 

Heavy solipsism, man.

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.-- Robert Louis Stevenson


#17 Craig Arko

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 09:30 AM

imagesCAK3BS9B.jpg
 
Heavy solipsism, man.

Like, wow.

332583F0-7B05-4849-9BB2-ADF177591381.jpeg
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#18 kab21

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 09:37 AM

I think I predicted a 4.75 ERA with 40+ saves for Rodney this year. Yep, that is the closer that the Twins have this year.

Yippee!

Is 2016 2017 2018 the year that a good pitching prospect is truly blocked by 5 good pitchers in the starting rotation? 

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#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 10:27 AM

The Rays did not tank this year. They traded an old, overpaid player and got something in return. Projections had them with a similar record as the Twins, until the Rays lost two starting pitchers before the session started. They also added decent veterans. In no way were they tanking the year.

As for Rodney... Results matter, just as process does.

One of the best opening day rosters in years. Now go get 'em.


#20 gil4

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 12:48 PM

 

In the technical philosophical sense, we’re all living our own experience. :)

His experience is intersecting with my experience more than I would like.

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