While discussing the virtues of Mark Buehrle earlier this week, I made sure to point out that the White Sox lefty is only 30 years old despite having the veteran reputation of being older. In the comments of that thread, somebody mentioned that Wandy Rodriguez could be the next pitcher to not only match Buehrle in terms of consistent durability but also with regards to consistently high win values. I hate to break it to those on the Wandy-Wagon, but this is not going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, Rodriguez has pitched quite well since 2007, but he is currently in the opposite situation of Buehrle. Though Rodriguez may have the reputation of a younger prospect-type pitcher who has finally turned a corner, raise your hand if you knew, without looking it up, that he, too, turned 30 years old this year. Buehrle jumped onto the scene at the tender age of 21 and has been pretty fantastic ever since. Wandy debuted at the age of 26 and did not really become effective until he turned 28.
At 30 years old, Rodriguez likely still has several effective seasons in the tank, but there is absolutely no comparison between he and Buehrle. Through nine starts this season, however, Rodriguez has been tremendous. In 59 innings, he has surrendered just 43 hits with a 53/16 K/BB ratio. Put together, Wandy has already amassed +2.1 wins on the heels of a 1.83 ERA and 2.52 FIP.
Since his 2005 call-up, Wandy has essentially improved in FIP, UBB/9, K/9, HR/9, and WAR each season. He relies more on acumen than raw stuff since, well, 88-89 mph with average-ish movement isn’t all that impressive.
The two big red flags relative to his current production level are the strand rate and percentage of home runs per fly ball. The league averages for both metrics are 72% and 11%, respectively; Wandy currently sits at 80% and 1.6%. The 80% strand rate becomes more significant given his individual context; Wandy has been at 72% or lower in all four of his previous seasons. When the home run rate and strand rate both normalize, his numbers are going to venture into the wrong direction.
Even so, ZiPS sees Rodriguez capable of a 4.32 ERA and 3.83 FIP over the remainder of the season, meaning his bottom line marks of 3.51 and 3.37 would still be career bests. After two consecutive +2.7 win seasons, he is currently on pace to produce right around +5 wins.
Wandy is certainly deserving of attention and multiple looks, but do not get him confused with someone like Johnny Cueto or Ubaldo Jimenez, young flamethrowers who seem poised to turn a corner before turning 26. Rodriguez’s future may include a few more +3-4 win seasons, but he does not belong in the category of young studs finally reaching their potential.