Looking at the pitching waiver wire this week, the top two most-added names are newly-minted closers Jose Valverde & Edward Mujica, which is unsurprising. The third, seeing a whopping +40.2% add rate in ESPN leagues and 24% raise in start rate in CBS leagues, is none other than Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez.
I get why, of course. You look at the surface-level stats and they seem impressive. 2-0 in four starts! 16/3 K/BB! 1.66 ERA! What’s not to like?
Well…. a lot, really. Even at his best, Rodriguez was only mildly interesting in fantasy terms, compiling a decent amount of strikeouts to go along with .500 record and some decent ERAs in the 3-4 range. The 1:1 win:loss ratio wasn’t entirely his fault, since he’s been on some lousy Houston teams for most of his career, but that’s unlikely to change on what looks to be yet another forgettable Pirates club.
Unsurprisingly, that sparkling ERA isn’t close to his 3.62 xFIP so far in 2013, and while that’s not awful in and of itself, the 34-year-old Rodriguez — yes, he’s one of those guys who is older than you think he is — is clearly not trending in the right direction. Without the strikeouts, he loses a lot of his appeal, so I’ll advise you to take a deep breath before looking at this chart of his swinging-strike percentage:
That’s not great, and that’ll happen when you’re A) throwing more pitches inside the zone than ever (56.3%, by far a career high) yet B) allowing an 87.6% contact rate, another career high.
In his start on Wednesday night, his second after missing time with a hamstring pull, Rodriguez struck out five Phillies in 5.2 innings. Again, that looks nice enough on the surface, but when you look deeper into it, you realize that two of those came off of Roy Halladay, the opposing pitcher, and a third from Ryan Howard, who absolutely cannot hit lefty pitching. It’s not fair to completely ignore those, because they obviously still count, but it’s not exactly a sign of confidence for him going forward — nor, I might add, is the obviously unsustainable .200 BABIP.
Rodriguez is still capable of an excellent start every now and then, and he did shut down the red-hot Atlanta Braves over seven scoreless innings last week. Still, if the strikeouts aren’t going to be there, and the roster around him isn’t likely to gift him with many victories that he doesn’t earn himself, it’s hard to look at him and think that he’s someone you’ll want on your roster all season long.
That comeuppance could come as soon as his next start on Monday, where he’ll face the Brewers in Milwaukee. Ryan Braun and friends feast on lefty pitching, putting up a .347 team wOBA that’s good for third in the majors behind only Cincinnati and Oakland. You might take this opportunity to sell high, if you’re able.