Can Rodriguez save Cherington’s Red Sox future?


Ben Cherington has been under the Mendoza Line for GM’s and the noise in the background is calling for his head to placate Red Sox Nation. Can Eduardo Rodriguez be his savior?

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The Red Sox Cherington is possibly hanging on to employment by the thinnest of silk threads as virtually every move made by baseball ops has resulted in prolonged anguish for the Red Sox fans as said moves have simply disintegrated. But there is one and that one could well save Cherington.

The Red Sox were going nowhere in 2014 and as the trading deadline approached a flurry of moves were initiated to jettison players who were facing the glories (and riches) of free agency. One such player was Andrew Miller.

Miller represents a classic example of just sometimes patience does payoff and for the Red Sox it did. Miller became a lefty specialist of note and instrumental in the Red Sox 2013 season and may have even a greater impact in the lore of Red Sox history down that baseball road.

On July 31st of 2014 the Red Sox swapped Miller to Baltimore for left-hander Rodriguez– who was the third ranked prospect in the Baltimore system according to Baseball America.

The switch had immediate results for E-Rod as he tossed his Bowie BaySox uniform for a Portland Sea Dogs one. Rodriguez ERA dropped from 4.79 at Bowie to 0.96 at Portland. BB/9, S/9 and WHIP also plummeted with the change in scenery. Maybe E-Rod was tipping pitches back in the Eastern League?

The rest is a story well documented as Rodriguez dominated the International League and got the call to Boston, where Elias Sports Bureau put in some overtime assessing the historical significance of his first three games. Then came the bump.

Rodriguez got pounded for nine runs so the gloss was over and the woe would begin. This young pitcher – only 22-years-old – did not collapse, but responded with a great follow-up start. This has since been repeated as every bump in development is followed by success. One step back and two steps forward. A game against the Rays that finished off July was an example of a young pitcher who had his best “stuff” disappear and yet managed to survive five innings allowing three runs. I found that performance impressive since it required not being rattled.

A statistical examination on Fangraphs shows E-Rod lives off a fastball tossing it almost 70% of the time with a velocity of 94.1 MPH, but his change is the one that keeps hitters reasonably honest. Rodriguez will use it 19.5% and will toss it at any time. The third pitch in his arsenal is a slider that E-Rod uses 11% on average.

One can sift through the PITCHf/x charts that show a pitcher who has reasonable movement on his fastball and change with a slider that needs some improvement. At 2.93 the BB/9 is an area that could be brought down a notch and that comes with experience.

Rodriguez will develop greater use of his secondary pitches as he refines them – especially his slider. This is part of the development process that took root in Pawtucket and certainly caught the attention of management with a well earned promotion.

What Rodriguez has shown is that he could well be a potential gem for the Red Sox. An ace? Way too early to make such pronouncements, but with another potential ten starts a far better indication will be available. And with each positive start Cherington and baseball ops will find a lifeline in a miserable season.

Cherington and Rodriguez may well have a symbiotic relationship as E-Rod’s success becomes Cherington’s success. Might save his job.

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