I know I'm not the only one who was nervous when the Brewers (or, more precisely, Mark Attanasio) re-signed Francisco Rodriguez to a two year deal this past winter to reprise his role as closer. K-Rod had just turned 33 and was coming off a season in which he allowed a career high 14 home runs and 23.3% HR/FB ratio and was actually valued as a below replacement level contributor, according to Fangraphs.
This season, however, you all voted Francisco Rodriguez as the fourth Most Valuable Brewer thanks to his terrific performance as the anchor in the back end of the bullpen. K-Rod appeared in 60 games for Milwaukee, throwing 57.0 innings with an excellent 2.21 ERA. He struck out 73 opposing batters while walking just 18 and posted a career best 0.86 WHIP. K-Rod's Deserved Run Average was a sterling 2.24 and he was valued at 1.7 WARP, the third highest total of his career. He saved 38 games in 40 chances, not blowing a save opportunity until August 29th against the Cincinnati Reds.
Rodriguez had one of the best seasons of his career despite being a very different pitcher from the one who broke in with the Angels in 2002. K-Rod's average fastball velocity of 89.7 MPH was the lowest of his career. He also threw his fastball at the lowest rate of his career, just 45% of the time. He relied nearly as heavily on his devastating changeup, which he threw 42.6% of the time at an average velocity of 82.9 MPH. Opposing hitters batted just .097 against his change, which was valued at 17.2 runs above average by Pitch F/X, the third best in the majors (despite pitching in relief!). He induced ground balls at a 46.4% rate, the second best mark of his career, and allowed just six home runs all year.
Given his success on the mound and pretty reasonable contract (he'll earn $5.5 mil next season and has a $8 mil team option/$2 mil buyout for 2017), we can probably expect Rodriguez to be shopped around on the trade market this winter. Unfortunately, his history of domestic violence issues are probably going to make it difficult for GM David Stearns to find fair value for his closer's services, and there wasn't much of a market for his services prior to this season's trade deadline.
He's not a great person, but Francisco Rodriguez is an effective pitcher and is considered a veteran presence in the Brewers' young bullpen. He'll more than likely be back to serve as closer in 2016, soaking up the saves that would otherwise help raise the arbitration costs of guys like Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. Though it'd be nice to trade K-Rod, that's not a terrible outcome, either.