The Fernando Rodney Experience — Is It Time To Move On?

Mariners Closer Off To Slow Start

In modern baseball, having a solid closer is a necessity.  Virtually all championship teams in recent memories have that one guy in their bullpen that always works the last three outs of a game when they have a lead of three runs or less.  For the Seattle Mariners, that man has been Fernando Rodney as of late.

Norm Charlton stepped in as the M's closer in late 1995 only to lose the role a couple of years later.

Norm Charlton stepped in as the M’s closer in late 1995 only to lose the role a couple of years later.

It hasn’t always been Rodney.  Closers come and go faster than some people change their socks.  Usually the closer goes when they lose their stuff or have just a few bad outings.  The closer is sometimes demoted to another role in the pen, DFA’d, or even traded away.   The M’s are no different in that regard either.

Bobby Ayala was a dominate closer for the M’s until 1995 when he simply lost it.  Norm Charlton stepped in for a while but he eventually lost it as well.  What about Jose MesaBrandon LeagueTom WilhelmsenKazuhiro Sasaki?  All of them have come and gone, in one way or another, as the M’s closer.

Getting back to Rodney as the M’s closer, he had what can only be viewed as a successful 2014 season in the closer role.  Rodney saved 48 of the 51 opportunities he had in 2014.  For you math majors out there, that’s a 94.1% success rate.  Now, it’s been a while since I was in college but in my day, 94% was good enough to earn you an A on the old report card.

In 2015, what little of it we experienced so far, has been a different story for Archer Rodney.  Rodney has just two saves in three chances for a 66.6% effectiveness rate closing games.  That’s a D on most report cards.  Then again, most tests don’t have just three questions on them either.

A lot of people are calling for Danny Farquhar or anyone else in the pen to step into the closer role for the Mariners.  They’ve apparently had enough of the Fernando Rodney Experience.  My question is–  Why?

Should the M's go back to Farquhar as a closer?  AP Photo/Nick Wass

Should the M’s go back to Farquhar as a closer? AP Photo/Nick Wass

Has our baseball audience become so fickle that they are ready to ouster a man for one failure?  I’m certainly not, but I’m sure some would argue that it’s not one failure that they are talking about.

I tend to agree, there is more evidence than one blown save here working against Rodney.  He’s given up six earned runs in 3.1 innings this season which gives him an ERA of 16.20.  He’s allowed seven hits and four walks in those 3.1 innings along the way.  None of those numbers are pretty.

Still, it is his first blown save since July 20th of last year and as far as the walks are concerned, well, he’s always had a problem with walks and manages to get away with it.  I his last two seasons, Rodney has combined for 64 walks.  That’s a lot, without question, yet he saved 85 games in that same time period.

The problem in the blown save was certainly compounded by a walk, but it was the hits he was giving up in the bottom of the ninth against the Dodgers that really did him in for the blown save.  There were three hits in that inning off Rodney.

The first hit was a leadoff single by Turner.  The pitch was down and right on the outside corner, which is exactly where every pitcher is taught to throw the ball– low and away.  All Rodney can do there is shake it off.

Rollins came up with the next hit, a sharp single to right-center that moved Turner to third base.  The pitch Rollins hit was over the plate but was not even a strike.  Rollins took it right off his shoe tops and somehow was still able to drive the ball to create a first and third situation.

Crawford was induced by Rodney into hitting one on the ground in the next AB.  Turner was thrown out at the plate on the play.  After that, Gonzalez walked to load the bases.

Pesky hitter Kendrick came up after Gonzalez.  Rodney threw him a fastball inside that jammed Kendrick but was somehow still able to muscle into the outfield despite his bat exploding into kindling.  That scored the tying and winning runs in Rollins and Crawford.

The walk never scored.  Two of those three hits were on pitches that were not strikes.  The third was on a pitchers pitch, right on the corner.   What more do you want any closer to do?

I’ve heard some folks talking about Rodney’s velocity being down.  That’s just not true.  The last three fastballs he threw in the game were clocked at 96 MPH, more than adequate.

Rodney will get a lot more chances before the M's pull the plug on him.

Rodney will get a lot more chances before the M’s pull the plug on him.

The Dodgers boast a roster with a $275 million payroll.  Could it be that they are just a tough team filled with great hitters?

Rodney’s not perfect as a reliever.  He’s downright awful in non-save situations and for the life of me I don’t know why Lloyd McClendon sends him out in those situations some of the time.  In 2014 hitters batted .290 against Rodney in non-save situations vs. only .229 during save opportunities. 

Even closers are still human beings and creatures of habit.  Rodney performs best a closer in save situations.  He’s not nearly as effective otherwise.

Why this is, who knows!  Maybe it’s mental.  Maybe he doesn’t get enough adrenaline without the thought of a save.  Maybe he likes to drive the people from the northwest on Twitter crazy.

Facts are facts and McClendon needs to avoid using Rodney when it’s not a save whenever possible because the numbers aren’t any better in 2015 for Rodney in those non-save situations.  Four of the six runs he’s allowed this year came in non-save opportunities.  In fairness to McClendon, his bullpen was taxed and he had little choice in one non-save situation this year but that’s not generally been the case the past couple of years in these spots.

For the fans screaming for changes at closer, sometimes you just have to tip your hat and move on.  The Mariners aren’t going to send Rodney down the road anytime soon.

Baseball, especially for pitchers, requires a short memory.  Rodney will move on and be fine.  So will the Mariners.  It’s much too early to jump ship on Rodney or anyone else.

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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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