For the first three seasons of his career, Wandy Rodriguez was nothing more than your average, run-of-the-mill starting pitcher. He had an ERA that ranged from 4.58 to 5.64, a HR/FB rate perpetually above 10%, his walk rate was too high and his strikeout rate was too low. There was very little worthwhile contribution from him to the fantasy baseball community. But then Wandy turned a corner in his fourth full season and from there, began to blossom into a pitcher of value. Sure, he had his explosive moments on the hill, but overall, he settled in nicely as one of the Astros more consistent and reliable starters. His ERA stayed below 4.00, the home runs came down, and he started posting a K/9 that was steadily just above 8.00 each season. However, last season there was regression across the board save for the ERA and suddenly the numbers were starting to look horribly similar to his early years, including a horrific 13.0% HR/FB rate. Now, with the Astros moving to the American League West soon, the question is whether or not Wandy can right the ship or have we seen the best that he has to offer?
The first thing to look at, obviously, is Wandy’s career interleague numbers, particularly those against AL West opponents.
Not so great, are they? And that’s without ever facing Oakland, a team that has been known to be a bit of a punching bag the last few seasons. Of course, sample size plays a major factor in looking at these numbers. The stats against the Mariners and Angels, both good and bad, must be taken with more than just a grain of salt. Even the numbers against Texas, given just the 33+ inning cross-section, aren’t the most reliable. But in looking at the overall for him, you can’t help but see that his numbers are nothing short of mediocre. True, 130 innings isn’t even a full season, but we have to use what we’ve got and what we’ve got isn’t all that great. Virtually all of his numbers are below his career averages.
The bottom line is that moving from the NL to the AL can be a taxing switch for any pitcher, even if he is moving to what could be a weaker division with better pitcher’s ballparks. The hitters are different, the way you approach them from the hill is different, and let’s not forget the ol’ DH instead of a pitcher’s slot to hinder the number of strikeouts. Not to mention the fact that he will now be facing some of the more potent lineups in the game. Texas is a fierce opponent, but now tack on teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Rays. Heck, even the Orioles can pound the ball with the best of them. It is not an easy move and very few are truly successful when the switch occurs.
Now there’s definitely a chance that this all becomes a moot point here in the offseason. The Astros put Wandy on waivers last season hoping to find a taker for what has been deemed a fairly burdensome contract. They did not, but given the current crop of free agent pitchers, there’s still a chance that he gets dealt to another club and possibly stays in the National League. That would be a best case scenario for him. However, if it doesn’t happen, then you might consider his 2011 regression to be the start of the downward spiral and hedge your bets in next season’s fantasy draft.