Is Fernando Rodney a Regression Candidate?


It is rare in baseball, especially when the Mariners are concerned, to have a 9th inning man who is dependable. Fernando Rodney was the man in 2014, leading the American League in saves with 48, and representing the Mariners at the All Star Game. However, will Rodney be able to duplicate his success this season in the Emerald City?

Fernando Rodney signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent in 2014, and proceeded to have one of his best seasons as a pro. Rodney tied a career high 48 saves, and posted a 2.85 ERA across 66.1 innings pitched. He averaged 10.3 strikeouts per 9 innings, and issued just 3.8 walks per 9 innings. His 2.71 strikeout to walk ratio was the second best mark of his career, as was his 2.83 FIP. Rodney held the opposition to just 1.342 walks/hits per inning. Fernando Rodney had arguably the best season a closing pitcher has ever had while wearing a Mariners’ uniform.

Mar 8, 2015; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) reacts after walking a batter in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds during a spring training baseball game at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The hard throwing right-hander has been very effective this spring. Rodney has pitched 6 innings in spring training, and has yet to allow a run. He has given up just 3 hits, and has posted 7 punch-outs. However, his command issues have been alarming. Rodney has issued 5 free passes, and sports a measly 1.40 strikeout to walk ratio. Still, Rodney has done a nice job limiting base runners, as his 1.333 WHIP indicates.

The mathematicians over at FanGraphs anticipate a steep decline for Fernando Rodney in 2015. The Steamer is currently projecting a 32 save season for Rodney, and they predict his ERA will balloon to 3.29. They believe he will strikeout 1.13 fewer hitters per 9 innings. The FanGraphs Steamer is typically very conservative in their projections, but they are usually fairly accurate.

I tend to agree with the projections from the FanGraphs Steamer. Fernando Rodney has a reputation of being one of the most inconsistent late inning relievers in baseball. Mix that in with the fact that he is 38-years-old, and the chance of regression only improves.

Fernando Rodney’s archery inspired celebrations, and his fun loving attitude have endeared him to the fans and his teammates. Everybody enjoyed watching Rodney shoot his arrow deep into the Seattle night last summer and the celebration became commercial worthy when Logan Morrison joined the party. Mariners’ broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith described a story during a game last week that essentially was about how Rodney hardly ever goes out to the bullpen prior to warming up, and often can be found napping during games. These things are considered “quirky” when winning is involved, but if Rodney struggles, what we call quirks now will become big problems.

That is exactly what happened in 2013 when Fernando Rodney was closing games for the Tampa Bay Rays. Just like with the Mariners, Rodney excelled in his debut season with the Rays. He put together one of the best seasons a closer has ever had. He posted 48 saves, and had a miniscule 0.60 ERA. He was flat out unhittable. However, the following season was not so kind to the flamboyant reliever. He saved just 37 games, and registered a 3.38 ERA. The bleep hit the fan in the postseason, and all of a sudden he was shown the door in Tampa. Fans grew tired of his antics, and many were happy to see the back of him.

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I’m not suggesting Rodney will lose his job in Seattle; I’m not even suggesting he will be ineffective, but I do have some concerns about his performance down the stretch last year. He did not finish the season strong, he registered a disappointing 3.90 ERA after the All Star break. Rodney saved 21 games, and blew just 1 save, but he allowed 14 runs in 30 innings pitched. Opponents hit .271 against him, and he allowed 2 home runs in his final 4 outings. The lone blown save proved to be critical, as the M’s missed out on the postseason by just 1 game.

I like Fernando Rodney, I think he is a lot of fun, but I do not trust him. With so many quality arms out in the Mariners’ bullpen, if Rodney struggles, there is a long list of names ready to replace him. I truly hope things work out for Rodney this season, but the thought of him trying to secure a Mariners’ playoff win in a close game gives me heart palpitations.

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