Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez Battles Back

May 31, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) pitches during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
May 31, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (52) pitches during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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Red Sox phenom Eduardo Rodriguez is battling back from an injury…..And  reliable indicators suggest that he is winning!

A few days ago, my esteemed colleague Sean Penney wrote the following article in which he acknowledged some of the potential reasons that the 2016 variety of Eduardo Rodriguez is hardly recognizable from the 2015 version. While, I acknowledge Mr. Penney’s possible rationales for Rodriguez’s performance, along with his moderately optimistic hope that the 2015 E-Rod returns, I am far more confident for such a return.

On February 27, 2016, Eduardo Rodriguez was diagnosed with a patellar subluxation of his right knee, a temporary partial dislocation of the kneecap, in which the kneecap no longer travels centrally along the groove designed to enable smooth, pain-free motion. Instead, the kneecap is pulled to the periphery of the groove, frequently resulting in discomfort and joint instability.

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Over the past two days, I have scrutinized every pitch that Eduardo Rodriguez has executed for the Red Sox during the 2016 campaign, in addition to those thrown throughout his five rehabilitation starts in Pawtucket. In all honesty, as anticipated for a pitcher “rehabbing” an injury, Rodriguez was not overly impressive in Pawtucket. In terms of pure stuff, and taking into account the enormous talent differential between AAA and the Major Leagues, I would argue that his last game was unequivocally his best performance of the season, majors or minors. Obviously, if one is merely looking at the superficial results of his outing, such a statement may seem absurd; however, as I will extrapolate upon below, there are some indicators of future success other that what is depicted in the box score.

All available indicators, e.g., observable mechanics, radar gun evaluations, and relevant statistical comparisons clearly portray a pitcher still grinding through the residuals of an injury; however, by any measure that one selects, said pitcher is improving with every start.

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For those Red Sox fans apprehensive about Rodriguez’s recent struggles, all can rest assured that said struggles are attributable to the injury. Many fans, myself included, only compared his 2016 Major League statistics with those produced during 2015, and clearly recognized the enormous decline in performance. However, a similar comparison of his 2016 minor league statistics with those produced during 2015 would similarly indicate a large decline in performance, likely the result of an injured pitcher who is still working himself back to comprehensive health.

Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports /

In 2015, while pitching for Pawtucket, Rodriguez produced a sparkling 28.9% Strikeout Rate, allowed a HR every 76 Plate appearances, and had an FIP of 2.25.

In 2016, while also pitching for Pawtucket, Rodriguez produced a 19.1% Strikeout Rate, allowed a HR every 15 Plate Appearances, and pitched to a FIP of 5.21.

These statistics elucidate that the Eduardo Rodriguez who returned to the Red Sox in 2016 was not nearly in the same state of health as the one promoted to the Red Sox in 2015; hence, his existing struggles should not be so astonishing.

Is it possible that Rodriguez simply can no longer get big league hitters out? I suppose that anything is possible, however, I would like to share the reasons that lead me to believe otherwise.

The foremost indication that a pitcher is not pitching at full strength is a loss in velocity; even the most infinitesimal disruption in a pitcher’s chain will manifest itself as a forfeiture of power. Similarly, a steady gain in velocity is an unmistakable indicator that said pitcher is recapturing his health.

Eduardo Rodriguez has made four starts for the Red Sox in 2016. It is a most encouraging sign that his average fastball velocity has increased in every start.

His four starts to this point have occurred on May 31, June 5, June 11, and June 16. His average fastball velocities in those four games were 92.0 mph, 92.7 mph, 93.0 mph, and 93.4 mph, respectively.

Rodriguez is a power pitcher. When power pitchers are healthy, they generate strikeouts. It is worth noting that in Rodriguez’s first two starts, he struck out three batters in 11.2 innings. Conversely, in his last two starts, he has struck out nine batters in 9.0 innings.

Next: Red Sox Offense Falls Into A Slump

After considering Rodriguez’s injury, along with his increasing velocity, and increasing strikeout rate, Red Sox Nation has been granted every motivation to believe that E-ROD will be just fine.