2020 Projection: Will This Be The Year Eduardo Rodriguez Finally Emerges As One Of The Elite?

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The Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez is a bit of a polarizing pitcher, consistently viewed as a breakout candidate but just as consistently falling short. The 2019 campaign was no different, especially considering his frustrating split:

  • First Half – 102.2 IP, 4.65 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
  • Second Half – 100.2 IP, 2.95 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Obviously the WHIP didn’t see a strong improvement, though when you look at the overall skills (strikeouts, control and groundballs) he showed the signs of a pitcher who could emerge. Is the skillset for real, though?

Groundballs – 48.5%

This was a huge spike, given a career mark of 40.4%, and it grew even further as the season progressed with a 51.9% mark in the second half. When you look at the basic split there isn’t a reason to believe in the spike in groundballs:

Pitch TypeFirst HalfSecond Half
Fastball54.5%54.7%
Changeup22.1%25.0%
Cut-Fastball19.3%15.8%
Slider4.1%4.5%

However, when you dig deeper into the fastball usage you see that he’s been moving away from his fourseam fastball (39.43% over the final three months) in favor of his sinker (15.51%). With that pitch routinely generating groundballs (58.24% grounbdballs per balls in play) and his changeup also growing in it’s groundball ability (66.86% GB/BIP) it makes sense. Considering the usage/numbers, there’s reason to believe.

Strikeouts – 9.43 K/9

Even with the change in approach, which has justified the improvement in his groundball rate, Rodriguez continued to miss bats. In fact his 11.7% SwStr% and 33.9% O-Swing% represent career best marks, and that means that we could even see a little further spike in his strikeout stuff (he had a 12.66 K/9 in September).

Control – 3.32 BB/9

Overall the numbers look the same as in past years (3.18 BB/9 for his career), though there was a distinct split:

  • First Half – 2.81 BB/9
  • Second Half – 3.84 BB/9

If he can consistently show the first half mark, with the other skills? We could be talking about an elite pitcher.

That upside is only backed up by his consistent ability to generate weak contact, with a 28.7% Hard% (29.3% for his career). There should be significantly better luck than his .317 BABIP, and even pitching in the AL East the southpaw looks like a pitcher you want to own.

2020 Projection:

200.0 IP, 15 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 217 K (9.77 K/9), 70 BB (3.15 BB/9)

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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