Ever since debuting with the Boston Red Sox back in 2015, Eduardo Rodriguez has shown the makings of a top of the rotation ace. However, the former top prospect has battled through injury and inconsistency throughout his young career, as one expects from a younger player. Rodriguez enters his age-26 season as arguably the best number five starter in all of baseball. Can the young lefty finally put together a full, consistent
Boston Red Sox 2019 Preview: Eduardo Rodriguez
Like most of Eduardo Rodriguez’ seasons, 2019 was a tale of two halves. After missing the first run through the rotation with a knee injury, Rodriguez made his season debut on April 8th against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing three earned runs in 3.2 innings. From there, Rodriguez went on a dominant hot stretch, finishing the first half of the season with a 3.44 ERA and a 3.58 FIP. While he didn’t go deep into games (more on that later), he was fantastic at limiting runs, which is the ultimate job of a pitcher. He struck out 25% of the batters he faced and walked an acceptable 7.2% of batters.
The second half, however, wasn’t as good. Things got off to a bad start when Rodriguez suffered an ankle injury on a freak collision while covering first base. Said injury cost him 40 games before returning on September 1st. Initiailly returning as a starter, Rodriguez posted a 5.79 ERA and a 4.13 FIP before being sent to the bullpen for the remainder of the season.
Rodriguez made the postseason roster but didn’t do that well in the games’ biggest stage. Rodriguez made six relief appearances and one start during his postseason run, compiling a 6.30 ERA in 10 innings of work. It’s worth noting that four of Rodriguez’ runs as a starter were allowed in the sixth inning when his pitch count was in the 90s. Rodriguez hadn’t started in over a month and really shouldn’t have been in the game at that point, something Cora acknowledged after the fact. Still, it wasn’t a great end for Eddie.
What to Work On
Rodriguez has all the talent in the world, but he needs to work on his consistency. Rodriguez has been plagued by injury throughout his career and has never put together a full season of work. His career high in innings came in 2017 when he threw 137.1 innings. That’s not that many for a starter, and the Red Sox will need more from Rodriguez moving forward.
Additionally, Rodriguez needs to work on going deeper into his games. Rodriguez is notorious for taking his dear sweet time on the mound and driving up his pitch counts. Throughout the 2018 season, Rodriguez pitched six or more innings in just nine of his 23 starts. With the Red Sox bullpen looking like the biggest question mark on the roster, Rodriguez will need to go deeper into games in order to minimize the bullpen’s effect on the game.
The best for Rodriguez to do this is by limiting his free passes. Rodriguez walked 3.12 batters per nine innings, which perfectly matches his career average. This walk rate isn’t terrible for a reliever, but a starting pitcher needs to be better at consistently locating the ball and throwing strikes. If he can do this, he’ll go deeper into games while also lowering his ERA and FIP.
Steamer Projections expects Rodriguez to finish his season with a 4.03 ERA and a 4.05 FIP in 136 innings of work. The innings total would be close to his career high, while his ERA and FIP would represent a step back from 2018. In both accounts, I feel Steamer is being a little too rough on Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’ ERA and FIP have gradually improved every year since he’s been in the majors. Entering his age-26 season, there’s no reason expect Rodriguez to post his worst ERA since 2017 and his worst FIP since 2016. If anything, his numbers should improve from a season ago.
Call me an optimist, but I expect Rodriguez to set a career-high in innings pitched. Normally when Rodriguez misses time it’s due to a systemic injury, like a knee bruise. However, in 2018 Rodriguez missed time due to a fluke collision at first. Rodriguez probably would have met his innings total were it not for that freak play. This may be overly optimistic, but look for Eddie to have the best season of his career in 2019.
Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com
(Oct. 22, 2018 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)
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