Red Sox: Eduardo Rodriguez the obvious number three starter

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 14: Eduardo Rodriguez
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 14: Eduardo Rodriguez /

Whether or not he’s hit his ceiling, Eduardo Rodriguez is the best option to start a hypothetical ALDS Game 3 for the Boston Red Sox.

As it stood a few weeks ago, following Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz in the Boston Red Sox rotation were a series of question marks.

Rick Porcello, despite his penchant for giving up the long ball, still had the recent memory of his 2016 AL Cy Young campaign going for him. Doug Fister was coming off six quality starts in seven tries, including a one-hit, complete game masterpiece against the Cleveland Indians.

But that is no longer the case, because Eduardo Rodriguez has emerged as the obvious candidate to take the ball in Game 3 of a hypothetical ALDS.

The 24-year old lefty is coming off arguably his best start of the season, spinning 7.2 shutout innings against the power-hitting Cincinnati Reds, striking out six while allowing just three hits.

It’s part of a month of September in which Rodriguez has posted a 1.78 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 30 strikeouts over 25.1 innings. Essentially, he’s been Chris Sale-lite.

But that’s just the icing on the cake that is the case that Rodriguez has been making all season. Comparing his overall numbers to Porcello and Fister, there really isn’t a debate over who is the better pitcher in 2017 (numbers from

Eduardo RodriguezRick PorcelloDoug Fister

To put it simply, Rodriguez allows fewer runs and fewer base runners. More than that, however, he’s the better pitcher.

His K/9 rate ranks 19th in the major leagues among pitchers with 100+ innings pitched, putting him ahead of the likes of Carlos Carrasco and Zack Greinke. His opponent contact rate is as close to Chris Sale’s (70.2%) as it is to either Porcello’s or Fister’s. And his swinging strike rate ranks 24th among major league starters, proving that his stuff stands with the best of them.

Meanwhile, Porcello’s inflated HR/9 rate and league-leading 36 homers allowed make him too risky a start for an influential Game 3, and Fister, despite flashes of brilliance, just hasn’t proven the consistency or the ability that Rodriguez has.

One counterargument is that the Red Sox are already throwing out two lefties in a row in Sale and Pomeranz. Wouldn’t it be smarter to mix it up with a righty to change the throwing angle on Houston hitters (assuming that current standings hold up) and counteract righty sluggers like George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa?

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Firstly, when it comes to starting pitchers, righty/lefty splits shouldn’t be considered as much as they should for relievers. Starters face around 20 batters a game, so each pitcher-batter matchup means relatively less. Generally speaking, it’s best to put the best starter on the mound.

Also, Rodriguez has posted significant reverse-splits this season. Against righties, he has allowed a meager .220/.291/.401 slash line, compared to a .284/.360/.455 line against fellow lefties.

The biggest reason? The emergence of Rodriguez’s changeup as a weapon to get righties out.

His changeup ranks fourth among pitchers this season in horizontal movement, with a fading action of 10.66 inches. It produces a ninth-highest swing rate at 58.35% and an 11th-highest whiff per swing rate at 39.42%.

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The case for Eduardo Rodriguez to start Game 3 of the ALDS isn’t a particularly difficult one to make. Not only has he been the better pitcher this year compared to his competition, but ability and stuff-wise, he’s simply the better pitcher overall.