Thursday, June 10, 2021

Always Be Closing: Richard Rodriguez [While He's Here]


This is Richard Rodriguez, the undeniably impressive relief specialist for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is different from his predecessor in that he's not a pervert. 

Richard Rodriguez has been with the Pirates since 2018, coming up as, of all things, an Astros farmhand [yeah, how weird is that?], before being handed to Baltimore and then Pittsburgh. Since joining the Bucs, Rodriguez has been one of their more consistent relief options, with a 2.86 ERA in 182 innings of relief, and 207 strikeouts. To date, his best year has been 2018, where he came onto the scene with a bang, with 88 Ks in 69 innings, playing setup man for the aforementioned pervert. In 2020, once the air of skeeviness was lifted, Rodriguez had a bigger role, still mostly working the eighth but also being one of the senior most relief pieces there, and leading by example. Last year he fanned 34 in 24 relief innings, and saved 4 games towards the tail end of the season.

This year, Richard Rodriguez has been the only closing choice for the Pirates...a team that doesn't win many games, and isn't normally in position to win by the margin of a closed ninth inning. So, needless to say, Rodriguez has been used mostly in non-closing relief, with 10 game-finishing appearances that haven't ended in a save or a blown save, and a 1.85 ERA overall this year. His 3-1 record is the only palpable positive record in the Pirates' bullpen, and he has the highest WAR of any Pirates pitcher, including the starters, right now.

So what teams are learning this season is that Rodriguez can be used in a ninth inning situation, yet can also be used as a setup/middle reliever/mop up man. Therefore, Rodriguez is an ultra-versatile reliever who can be used in basically any situation, has a low ERA and is worth more than most Pirates, and is usually one of the sole factors keeping the Pirates from losses in several situations.

....So Rodriguez is probably going to be traded next month.

This is just how things go. True, he's under team control for a few more years, but he's at a point where he's cheap enough, and useful enough, to be a trade piece for contenders. I see teams like the Cardinals, Giants, A's and Astros looking at Rodriguez this month, possibly more. There is a lot of use people can get out of him over the rest of the season, and if the Pirates are going to keep divebombing, it makes sense to get him out of there while he's this good. 

I sincerely hope the Pirates have another potential relief specialist ready to go in the event Rodriguez is dealt. Preferably not a pervert either.

Coming Tonight- He was signed as a lower-rotation man to back up a three-man pitching hydra that never happened. Naturally, now he's the ace, and he's on fire. 

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