Three Big Moments With Ivan Rodriguez

Ivan Rodriguez is reportedly slated to announce his retirement from baseball today. There will be much written about his impressive career, and much of it will focus on whether or not he will get into the Hall of Fame, even though his numbers pretty obviously warrant it. Personally, I think that sidesteps the issue of how such a great player had not one but two lame nicknames: “Pudge,” which would not be so bad if it had not already been used; and “I-Rod,” which involved the incredibly annoying “first initial-first syllable” lazy nicknaming thing. It makes it hard to give this post a decent title.

Rather than looking at a career overview, let’s focus on a few particular moments: Rodriguez’ three biggest in-game hits according to Win Probability Added (WPA).

3. May 31, 1995. Royals fans probably remember 1995 as the year they realized that Bob Hamelin might not be a true talent .400 wOBA hitter. The 1995 Rangers were a team on the rise, a team still a year away from winning the American League West. Rodriguez, just 23 at this time, would be a big part of that rise, but despite the mediocrity of both teams during the 1995 season, the game featured other impressive talents. The Rangers started Will Clark at first, and the Royals sent a still-in-his-underrated-prime Kevin Appier to the mound. Appier went eight innings, but he was matched by the Rangers’ Bob Tewksbury, who had a complete game. Things fell apart for “Ape” in the eighth. With the Royals leading 2-1, Appier got to two outs. Then Jeff Frye singled. Appier then allowed consecutive walks to Clark and Mickey Tettleon. With the bases loaded, Rodriguez stroked a base-clearing double for .556 WPA that put Texas up for good, 4-2.

2. April 8, 2007. If I had known the Royals were going to be so prominently involved in this post, I might have reconsidered doing it. This is surprisingly (for me) recent… although I guess 2007 was five years ago. It featured a Royals team coming off of its first off-season with Dayton Moore as the general manager — man, that Gil Meche contract is working out surprisingly well, this guy is going to be awesome! On the other side were the Tigers, who were just coming off a surprising run to the World Series, and Ivan Rodriguez was a big part of that. For the Tigers, Magglio Ordonez was starting what was to be the best year of his career by far. The Royals, however, had their own stars, sending Brandon Duckworth to the mound.

I wonder what Ducky is doing right now?

The 2007 season was also notable for being the last time Jeremy Bonderman did anything. He pitched well in this game, striking out 8 over six innings. The Tigers foolishly did not count on Duckworth’s domination, as he matched Bonderman pitch for pitch. Sort of. With the Royals leading 2-0 in the top of the ninth on the strength of a Mark Teahen (~!) home run and RBI single, rookie Rule Five pick Joakim Soria gave way to David Riske. After being unable to get a score all day, the Tigers got a double from Ordonez, a walk from Carlos Guillen, and then a three-run homer from their veteran catcher for .556 WPA and a 3-2 victory.

1. Remember the 2003 playoffs? Yeah, me neither. If there is one play I remember from the Giants-Marlins NLDS, it is the one that ended the series. The Giants had come all the way back from 6-1 deficit to make it 8-6. With two runners on, Jeffrey Hammond singled to right, where the ball was fielded by Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine (there are few things more hilariously appropriate than a dude like Jeff Conine being “Mr. Marlin”). Conine threw home, and J.T. Snow “charged” around the bases, and bowled over Rodriguez, who held onto the ball for the series-ending out. He memorably was still clutching that ball when during the post-game celebrations and interviews. It was a great game.

But since this post is about hits… Rodriguez had also been the hero just the day before in Game Three.. He started the scoring off by hitting a two-run homer off of Kirk Rueter the the bottom of the first. That 2-0 lead lasted until the sixth, when the Giants scraped out a couple of runs. The scoring stopped until extra innings, when San Francisco’s Edgardo Alfonzo singled in a run in the top of the eleventh to put the Marlins’ win expectancy at 9.8%. In came Giants closer Tim Worrell, who managed to load the bases (although he did get an out he on a sacrifice bunt from a baby-faced rookie named Miguel Cabrera). With the bases loaded and one out, the Marlins’ Win Expectancy was actually up over 50%, but Worrell got another out on a fielder’s choice. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Marlins’ WE was down to about 27%. But “Pudge-Rod” came through, singling in two runs for .737 WPA and a huge Marlins win on their road to a shocking World Championship.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

20 Responses to “Three Big Moments With Ivan Rodriguez”

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  1. AL Eastbound says:

    I was a Tigers season ticket holder for three seasons and will never forget the double take I did when Pudge made his first appearance of the spring looking sickly as if he had lost 50 pounds easily.

    I know it’s annoying and not fair all the time but this guy (IMO) was a “without a doubt” PED user who has seemingly gotten a fairly easy ride from the media/fans.

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    • Jim Lahey says:

      Really? I mean really? Did you just credit PEDs/steroids for his weight loss?

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    • Erick says:

      Really? “Without a doubt”? Except, of course, no positive test, not listed on the Mitchell Report, and not on the list of guys who failed in 2003. Clearly “without a doubt.”

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      • vivalajeter says:

        Was the complete 2003 list ever released? I thought only a few names have surfaced.

        As to the main point, I’m with AL Eastbound – I don’t really doubt that he was a user. I’d still put him in the HOF, but I’d be shocked if he was clean his entire career.

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      • Ryan Carey says:

        Canseco says he taught him how to juice. That’s all the proof I need. Every =one named in his book was a user. No one named has proven that they didn’t use. Doesn’t change the fact that he is the best AL C of his EAR – but sorry he was a juicer there is NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER!

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  2. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    I remember 2003 playoffs. I’m a Yankee fan, but after watching Pudge during that series, he became one of my favorite players during that series. I enjoyed watching him handle the young Marlins pitchers. He was very animated, and I appreciated the passion and how badly he wanted to win.

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  3. johnny 5 says:

    pedro was robbed, thats all i got to say

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    • johnny 5 says:

      i lied i got more to say .. pedro was robbed again later in his career when they handed his cy young to zito

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    • JimNYC says:

      Pedro Martinez in 1999 had perhaps the single greatest pitching season ever — the only one that comes close is Pedro Martinez in 2000.

      That said, I’m usually not a fan of giving the award to a pitcher unless there are no standout position players, I would have given the MVP to Derek Jeter that year (and also in 2006, but hey, can’t win ’em all… or any, if you’re Derek Jeter).

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  4. geo says:

    Brandon Duckworth: Currently pitching for Boston’s AAA Pawtucket affiliate, believe it or not. Did last year too.

    Yes indeed, Red Sox fans, you are only one step away from having Brandon Duckworth on your pitching staff.

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  5. Jacob says:

    Well considering Pudge was a nickname from his childhood…

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  6. Keystone Heavy says:

    I was wondering when Fangraphs was going to write something about Pudge. The news broke about a week or more ago, but it seemed to go unnoticed. I was wondering why they would write an article gushing over Tim Wakefield’s career, but not the #2 WAR catcher of all time.

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  7. Richie says:

    It’ll be interesting to see his 1st-year HoF vote totals. ‘Roids suspicion/knowledge pretty clearly depressed Bagwell’s totals. Pretty much have to be an apologist to deny that Ivan used. But then his overall case is better, and he continued building it – somewhat – from 2005 onward.

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    • Richie says:

      My prediction: Ivan will be the first crack in the dyke through which the best of the roidsters all eventually get into the Hall. Maybe not 1st ballot for Ivan, but pretty quickly thereafter. After which, once you let the one in, it’s harder to leave out the other transcendant performers on that same ground.

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  8. Bob Bovin says:

    When he was asked whether he was one of the 103 players who tested positive for steroids in 2004, Pudge replied “Only God knows.”

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