With John Axford‘s colossal struggles as the closer this year, which has somewhat to do with reliever volatility and somewhat to due with command issues, Francisco Rodriguez is back in ninth inning for the first time since his Mets tenure.
In his first save opportunity since taking over the role, Rodriguez had a scary but effective inning. With a one run lead, he allowed the first two runners to get on, putting the Cardinals in a first and third situation with nobody out. He induced a ground ball with the infield in, then proceed to get a huge strike out of Skip Schumaker before inducing a fly out to end the ball game.
With Rodriguez’s numbers declining across the board from the past few seasons, I think these types of outings will be the norm for Rodriguez. His strikeout rate is down, walk rate is up, home run issues have continued plagued him all year, and his BABIP is above .320 for the second consecutive season.
The heavier focus on his two-seam fastball seems to be a questionable strategy, as he is actually inducing more ground balls and fewer fly balls with his four-seam fastball than his sinker. He also generates fewer swings and misses with the sinker, which he now throws over 35% of the time compared to roughly 11% for his career, according to Brooks Baseball which goes back only to 2007. He has had struggles commanding his fastball in comparison to his sinker, so the transition to the two-seam fastball becoming his primary offering may have to do with the lack of command of his four-seamer. Either way, he needs to either figure out how to command his four-seamer better or the lackluster results may become commonplace.
Rodriguez has been effective with high walk rates in the past, specifically in a three run stretch in which his rate was above 11.8% each year, but he was able to counteract the wildness with very high strikeout rates. Now, his 22.1% strikeout rate is the lowest of his career and he has had just one year with a strikeout-to-walk rate worse than his current 2.22 mark.
In fantasy, saves are saves, and Rodriguez is a must add in all formats if he has not already been acquired. If I have John Axford and looking for saves, obviously Rodriguez becomes a big target. I would rather move Axford to the team that has Rodriguez and subsequently trade for a relatively undervalued closer like Alfredo Aceves. Another option could be picking up David Hernandez and trading for J.J. Putz after moving Axford, just in case Putz gets traded at the deadline. I would rather avoid the Brewers closer situation than own the duo, as neither has been impressive and their home run issues are worrisome.