The Fernando Rodney Experience has always been a thrill ride. Throughout his career he has had a way of building up the drama and the tension during all of his appearances. For the last several season he has managed to get himself out of the jams he creates and post some of the best results based stats in MLB. However this year the Experience has turned into a straight up horror show.
Looking at the normal stats Rodney's year has been terrible. He has an ERA of 5.50, 4 blown saves, and has managed to lose his job as the closer to a rookie. These stats show us how bad he has been but don’t give us a clue as to why. Let's dig deeper into the advanced stats to find a source for the abysmal performance.
Looking at Rodney's advanced stats we can see that his pitch selection this year of 64.3% fastballs and 35.2% changeups is right in line with his career averages. As far as pitch selection goes he doesn't seem to have changed anything. So it doesn't seem to be an issue with the pitch type he is throwing but instead what is happening to those pitches after he throws them.
During Rodney's career his ability to throw faster than most other pitchers has been one of his biggest assets. Rodney throws fast, with lots of movement, and with medium amounts of control. This has made it hard for opposing batters to catch up with his pitches and actually make good contact. They were left guessing, which has let him rack up strikeouts.
This year Rodney's strikeout percentage (K/9) is down. He has only been able to ring up 7.00 batter per 9 innings. This is his lowest rate since he was a rookie. However, his walk rate (BB/9) is holding steady. We see him giving up 4.25 free passes per 9 this year, which is actually slightly below his career average of 4.40 So he still isn't able to control his pitches, but that randomness isn't resulting in confusion for the batter anymore.
Let's take a deeper look at his pitches. His average fastball speed is 95.1 mph compared to his career average of 95.7 mph. He doesn't appear to have lost the speed that brought him success. However, his swinging strike rate (SwStr%) is down to 8.2% from a career average of 11.3%. Despite still throwing hard Rodney isn't able to make people miss and when a batter doesn't miss a 95 mph fastball bad things can happen.
In 2015 Rodney is giving up home runs on 16.2% of the flyballs that batters hit (HR/FB). This is a really high percentage. Of qualified relievers, Rodney's HR/FB is 13th worst in all of MLB. Additionally, this high rate isn't something to be expected. His 2015 number is the highest of his whole career. The previous worst was 12.8% with 2005 with the Tigers. Over the last five seasons the worst rate Rodney has posted is 7.1%. In recent history he has actually been pretty good at preventing homeruns.
So what does this all mean? If you want to remain optimistic it means Rodney has room to improve. He can work on regaining the movement of his pitches. Also he is probably going to stop giving up so many dingers. He has a good sample size and a recent run of success saying giving up homers just isn't one of his weaknesses. Basically Rodney has just had a string of self really bad luck that has been exacerbated by a changing in his pitch movement.
On the flip side, if you want to be a pessimist, this probably means Rodney has lost something and he probably isn't getting it back. The ex-closer is 38 years old now and the league has figured him out. He is showing that he can't make a baseball dance like he used to. Now instead of making batter look foolish he is giving those that can catch up to 95 mph something they can drive. When you can line up a 95 mph fastball you can make it soar, often into the stands.
Decreased swinging strikes and increased HR/FB are a receipt for bad results, which is exactly what Rodney has had so far. Regardless of what you think the future holds for the Fernando Rodney Experience one thing is for certain, he was terrible in the first half. Let's hope something puts an end to the horror show.