For the fourth time in five games, Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez failed to pitch five innings. While he struck out eight Atlanta Braves hitters in only four innings, he gave up six hits and four runs. After seeing his ERA stand at 3.82 on May 7th, E-Rod has seen that number jump up to 6.21. For a guy that was suppose to be the team’s ace with Chris Sale injured, it’s been a really tough year for the lefty. Nobody seems to have an answer either.
After last night’s game, manager Alex Cora could not offer any explanation on what’s going on with Rodriguez.
“Right now, I don’t know. Honestly, I think stuff-wise he’s good. The changeup was good, velocity was good, elevated fastball was good,” Cora said according to NESN. “He wasn’t able to finish them off in that spot and he needs to be more aggressive in that situation with the ninth hitter there with a pinch-hitter. And that walk put us in a bad spot.”
So, what has changed since we saw Rodriguez win 19 games in 2019 and had an ERA of 3.82?
Rodriguez currently has his highest career K/9 rate (10.53), and his lowest BB/9 (2.43). His 1.35 HR/9 would tie his career high but that’s not far from his norm. While his ERA is 6.21, his fielder independent pitching (FIP) is 3.63, indicating that he has done better than his ERA suggests.
This season hitters are batting .294 against Rodriguez, much higher than his career average of .248. Opponents are also hitting an absurd .380 on balls in play, a full .076 higher than throughout Rodriguez’s career. That high figure could indicate that he is suffering from some bad luck and a not-so-great defense. It is realistic to expect those figures to drop as the season goes on.
More Line Drives
While Rodriguez has been fairly good a limiting fly balls and home runs, he is not getting the same number of ground balls that he usually does. In 2019, 19 percent of batted balls against him were classified as line drives, whereas 48.5 percent were ground balls, according to Fangraphs. This season line drives have jumped to 25 percent and ground balls have dropped to 41.7 percent. What is Rodriguez doing different this year to allow that?
Fewer and Slower Fastballs
For one, he is throwing his fastball at an all-time low and is relying on his off-speed pitches more often. According to Fangraphs, this is the first season where Rodriguez is throwing his fastball less than 50 percent of the time. He went from throwing his slider 4.3 percent of the time in 2019 to 9 percent in 2021. His change-up percentage is also at a career high at 24.6 percent. It is important to note that his average fastball velocity is under 93 MPH for the first time in his career as well at 92.5.
Maybe E-Rod is still working back from his elbow inflammation early in the season. Maybe he is still working on mechanics after missing a full season. There is no way around how bad a 6.21 ERA is, but it’s unlikely to stay that high all year. At some point, those line drives are going to average out and he will give up fewer hits. Even with the dip in velocity, it’s not far from his average where he can’t bring it back up. It’s been a bleak season for Rodriguez, but there is still plenty of time and potential to turn things around.