New York Mets News

Francisco Rodriguez: He’s Actually Good

By Unknown author

So by now we all know the story.  Last August, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field.  The incident led to Rodriguez being suspended and placed on the restricted list.  After making one appearance for the team following the altercation, it was revealed that K-Rod had suffered a torn ligament in his right thumb, ending his season.

In all likelihood, this unfortunate skirmish will be how Frankie’s 2010 season is remembered, while he and his anger issues will be the focus of his spring training preparation.  However, what shouldn’t be overlooked is that Rodriguez actually had a very good year, and the Amazins will be counting on him to put up similar stats in 2011.

I’ll start by saying that K-Rod’s contract is ridiculous.  After seven fantastic years with the Angels (2.35 ERA, 1.114 WHIP, 11.7 K/9, 2.96 K/BB and a record setting 62 saves in 2008), Rodriguez cashed in and inked a three year, $37 million contract, including the much talked about the $17.5 million option for 2012 which vests if he finishes 55 games (I don’t care what anyone says, that option will influence how he’s used towards the end of the season).  There is only one closer who I’d give that kind of money to, and his name is Mariano Rivera.  Anyway, Frankie isn’t worth the money, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t valuable.

K-Rod’s first year in New York was a disappointment.  In 68 innings, he posted a 3.71 ERA (4.32 xFIP) and 1.309 WHIP while striking out 9.7 batters per nine innings and walking 5.0 per nine.  He struggled with his heater, which was worth, -0.06 runs per 100 fastballs, achieved a ground ball rate of only 35% and produced a WAR of just 0.2-the lowest of his career.  2010 though was a different story.

Rodriguez only saved 25 games in 30 opportunities last season, but saves really aren’t a good measure of a closer’s ability since they are very situation dependent (if anyone recalls, he entered one game against the Nationals when the Mets were leading 5-1 with two outs.  He allowed two inherited runners to score before picking off Roger Bernadina to end the game and record the save).  Prior to his season ending injury, Frankie compiled a 2.20 ERA (3.30 xFIP) and 1.151 WHIP, both significant improvements from 2009, to go along with a 10.5 K/9 and 3.19 K/BB.  He recorded 42.1% of outs on the ground and walked only 8.9% of batters, the lowest of his career (not surprisingly, his strike rate was 65%, a career high).  Further demonstrating what good control can do, K-Rod threw a first pitch strike 60% of the time (a career high excluding his short first season in 2002), threw 3-0 counts only 4% of the time, and got ahead of hitters 0-2 31% of the time (his career mark is 26%).

Furthermore, K-Rod’s pitches, for the most part, were more effective last year compared to 2009.  His fastball was worth 1.02 runs per 100 fastballs, the highest of his career, and his changeup was worth 3.97 runs per 100 changeups, the second highest of his career.  Overall, Rodriguez post a WAR of 2.1 last season.  He’s still not worthy of all that money, but much improved from ’09.

There is no reason to think K-Rod won’t produce the same, if not better, stats in 2011.  And for how reviled he may be due to his perceived shakiness and his off field problems, Frankie is probably the most reliable reliever in the Mets bullpen.  Still, unless the Amazins are in the thick of the playoff hunt, odds are his use will be altered as the season progresses, or he will be traded mid-season if things are really going terribly.  Either way, unless he is willing to sign next year for a lower salary, there is a good chance 2011 will be Frankie’s last in New York.  Let’s hope it’s a knockout season.