K-Rod blew his fifth save of the season on Sunday in San Francisco.
Quite frankly, he’s lucky to have only five of those.
In his year and a half in New York, the Mets’ closer has earned a reputation of never making anything easy, and rightfully so. He’s always had a knack for putting runners on base, especially early in the inning, and making things difficult for himself by struggling to throw strikes while those runners are on base.
Most recently, he fell in love with his changeup, of which manager Jerry Manuel and pitching coach Dan Warthen said he was throwing much too often. In response, Rodriguez would make his next appearance (Sunday) and throw far too many fastballs, many of which the Giants put in play for base-hits.
I thought it would be interesting to compare K-Rod to the four closers that are currently closing out games for teams in a playoff spot in the National League. Those teams currently in playoff spots are the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, and Cincinnati Reds.
Braves’ closer- Billy Wagner. 21 for 24 in save opportunities. He has a lower ERA, WHIP, more strikeouts, less walks than Rodriguez. Must I go on? He’s a big part of why the Braves are a first-place team at the moment. He’s been pretty close to lights out, something K-Rod has been far from this year at times.
Cardinals’ closer- Ryan Franklin. His ERA is at a rather high 3.41, but you need to remember as a reliever, one bad outing, and that ERA is screwed for a month. His WHIP is slightly lower, he doesn’t walk anybody (six in 37 innings), and he’s only blown one save in 18 chances in 2010. Franklin might be a little more hittable, but he avoids the base on balls, which is Kryptonite to any closer. Franklin’s got the edge on Rodriguez, too.
Padres closer- Heath Bell. A reliever Mets fans couldn’t wait to run out of town is currently slamming opponents’ late game rallying hopes in San Diego. He leads the National League with 26 saves in 29 opportunities. His WHIP is actually slightly higher than Rodriguez’s 1.32 at a 1.34, but has a slightly better ERA at 2.01 and a better K/9. At this point, I’d say Heath Bell and Francisco Rodriguez are just about even, but based on the struggles of K-Rod lately, I’d pick Bell if I were being held at gunpoint and forced to choose between the two.
Reds’ closer- Francisco Cordero. 25 saves in 31 opportunities. His ERA (4.01) and WHIP (1.52) are both way higher than Rodriguez’s. He doesn’t have the same ability to throw pitches by hitters (35 K in 42.2 IP) as K-Rod (56 K in 47 IP). He’s actually blown more saves than Rodriguez. As much heat as Rodriguez’s taken of late, he’s definitely a better option than Cordero at this point.
So, there we go. Two closers that are more dominant than K-Rod, one that is just as good, and one that is somehow, having a worse year than K-Rod.
Which, honestly, surprises me. Before writing this article, I was under the assumption that all four of these pitchers were having superior years to Rodriguez (this is why you do your homework, kids). Now the question is: Is Rodriguez really as unreliable as he seems?
Obviously, there are teams that have closers either on the same level or below K-Rod’s that are having playoff-caliber years. So just how important is K-Rod’s success to the Mets? Can they make the playoffs with him pitching as he is right now? At the moment, K-Rod has never had a HUGE save for the Mets. But that’s not his fault, because he’s never been given the opportunity. The Mets stunk last year, and this year is far too early to consider any save “huge” as of yet.
But when that opportunity comes, will K-Rod come through?