What Makes Richard Rodriguez So Good?

This headline could have been so many things. Why can’t anyone hit his fastball? Why can’t players square up anything RichRod throws? I’ve scarcely been so confused watching a player succeed.

Sure, it’s going well and we should let sleeping dogs lie right?

He has a 0.00 ERA in 2021, and he’s given up 1 single. A batting average of .031.

We’re talking heart of the lineup, bottom of the lineup, pinch hitters, designated hitters.

I’d love to sit here and tell you he’s painting corners and keeping hitters off balance, but take a look at his results.

If it’s in or around that zone, he’s thrown it. And largely, nobody has hit it.

In fact the only thing I can see with Richard is that he’s a flyball pitcher and he’s given up a few that might be homeruns if he were in a different ballpark.

Looking back to 2019 because you have to go back there to find a time when he struggled all you’ll find is that people were hitting his slider down in the zone and some fat fastballs right down the middle. I’d love to tell you that’s what he’s changed, and he’s missing the middle of the zone, but you saw that chart up there, he isn’t shying away from throwing the ball down the middle.

The Spin rate on his fastball is near the top of the league, and his average velocity has ticked up from 92.9 to 93.2, basically a statistical anomaly.

The one thing that has really moved for Richard is actually a combination of things. His average launch angle given up is now 29.7 up from 16.6, couple that with the change in his hard hit rate which sits at 31.8, down 19.2 from 2020’s figure of 51. This means more harmless fly balls and pop ups.

Shockingly his Whiff Rate is actually down this year to 28.6 from 36 which is totally counter to his performance. And the last number I’ll get into is his first pitch strike percentage which is up to 72.7 from 63.4.

So why is Richard Rodriguez so good?

Well, all of those numbers indicate that he’s found a way to turn at least in the early going, what used to be homeruns or at the very least damage into harmless contact.

He also has always done a good job of being tough to pick up, which doesn’t physically add velocity but virtually makes the ball get on the hitter faster. Coupled with elite spin rate and you have one hell of a tough guy to barrel up.

How tough? He hasn’t had one ball barreled this season against him.

He isn’t a prototypical closer. I’m not sure another team would use him in that spot, I’m not sure he’ll get closer value on the market. I’m not sure how batter after batter can stand there knowing exactly what he’s going to throw them and still continue to miss it.

In fact I’m only sure of one thing with Richard Rodriguez, this is one of the best waiver claims this team has ever made, and man is it fun to watch a pitcher so comfortable with himself that he just does it like a robot with zero fear.

Another team might not use him as a closer, but he and his non-existent ERA make him an excellent choice to be the Pirates closer.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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