Back on June 30, the Marlins acquired Fernando Rodney from the San Diego Padres for A-ball right-handed pitcher Chris Paddack. It looked like a great move at the time for Miami. The team was playing well but the bullpen members not named A.J. Ramos were struggling a bit, and Rodney brought his 0.31 ERA and 0.872 WHIP in 28.2 innings with San Diego to the back end of the Miami pen.
Even though Rodney had converted all 17 of his save chances as the closer for the Padres, the Marlins made the right decision in giving Rodney the eighth inning and leaving the ninth for A.J. Ramos, who had already racked up 24 saves with a 1.74 ERA and 11.09 K/9 at the time of the trade.
It’s now easy to see that Rodney has struggled since joining the Marlins. He has posted a 6.46 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 15.1 innings with Miami (through 8/6), with his worst appearance coming Friday night in Colorado, allowing three earned runs in just a third of an inning. But, we look deeper into the stats to see what is really causing Rodney’s struggles.
The first number to look at for Rodney is his walk rate. While his strikeouts have pretty much stayed the same (10.4 K/9 with San Diego and 10.6 K/9 with Miami), his walks have gone up from 3.8 BB/9 with the Padres to 5.3 BB/9 with the Marlins. That starts with the drop in a simple stat: first pitch strike percentage. With San Diego, Rodney was throwing a first pitch strike to 65.1 percent of batters. With Miami that percentage has dropped to 50.7 percent. That means that almost half of the batters facing Rodney start ahead in the count, which ultimately leads to more walks and more hits.
But even after Rodney is surrendering these walks, he is still getting hit hard. Batters were only hitting .137 off Rodney in when he with the Padres this season, but they have now hit .258 off Rodney since he joined the Marlins. And those batters aren’t just hitting him more frequently, they are also hitting him harder. The hard contact percentage off Rodney has jumped from 19.4 percent to 36.4 percent in Miami.
Although this may go against the thought of some stat-heads, one of the big problems could just be that Rodney is more comfortable as a closer in the ninth, and the stats back that up. In 474 appearances in his career in the ninth inning, Rodney has pitched to a 3.06 ERA and has a 2.34 strikeout to walk ratio. However, in 242 career appearances in the eighth inning, Rodney has posted an ERA of 4.94 and has only a 1.58 strikeout to walk ratio. Here are all of his inning splits for his career.
There is, however, a good chance that even if the Marlins had put Rodney in that ninth inning role after the trade, he would have still struggled, according to Rodney’s FIP with the Padres this season. Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a stat that determines what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if he experienced league average results on batted balls (basically league average defense). Rodney’s FIP in San Diego was 2.29 while his ERA was only 0.31, meaning his ERA, along with other numbers, was bound to rise. It did in fact rise when he got to Miami, a team which ranks 16th in defensive efficiency, but it rose well above 2.29, proving there were other many other factors involved.
The good news for Fernando Rodney and for Marlins fans is that the future may be brighter if you look at FIP. Rodney’s FIP in Miami currently sits at 4.63 while his ERA is at 6.46, so the stats should get better for the Marlins set-up man. Miami will need those numbers to come down, as they will have to rely on Rodney near the back of the bullpen to help them make a playoff run in August and September.