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Francisco Rodriguez's weird year: MVBrewer Number 7

K-Rod had a year of wild extremes in the general departments of luck and skill.

Mike McGinnis

Francisco Rodriguez posted a downright confounding season in 2014. Pitchers have control over certain things and are left to the mercy of chance on others. K-Rod's season was a mix between good and bad in skills, and lucky and unlucky in chance, in extremes that you rarely see. There's a decent argument to be made that he was among the more valuable Brewers, but it takes a bit more digging to get down to what really happened.

Here are some of those selected skill stats from K-Rod this year: 27.2% strikeouts, 6.7 % walks, 2.91 expected FIP (based on a normalized rate of fly balls turning into home runs), and a 2.58 Skill-interactive ERA. These are all the numbers of an elite reliever, and his walk rate was a career best that didn't come with a big reduction in strikeouts. These are all good things.

Meanwhile, here some numbers of a non-elite reliever: 14 home runs allowed in 68 innings pitched, 23% of flyballs allowed leaving the ballpark. That has something to do with random chance and something to do with throwing a lot of hittable meatballs.

The most interesting thing about K-Rod's home run problem, though, is that he had a reasonably successful year overall in terms of run prevention. That had a lot to do with some of those other luck stats. He stranded 93% of runners on base (most of whom he put on base in the first place). There's no reason to think that pitchers should inherently be better or worse with runners on base, so a rate a lot better than the league average of about 75% should be seen as mostly good fortune. In addition, balls put in play only became hits 21% of the time against him this year-- that's not normal and was the second-lowest BABIP allowed of K-Rod's career (his career average is 28%).

To conclude, in the 3 broad areas of what me might call "pitcher luck", K-Rod probably got really lucky in two and pretty unlucky in one. In the broader areas of things we might call "pitcher skill", K-Rod did really well in a few areas and really poorly in a few others. As I often say around here, K-Rod going forward will probably lie somewhere between all those extremes. He can still be an effective relief pitcher, but if another club saw this season as some sort of indication that he's a legitimate closer again who just happened to get unlucky with home runs, let's let that team pay his salary for a few years.

Best Game

It probably wasn't K-Rod's best performance overall, but on June 8th, 2014, the Brewers finished up a series win in Pittsburgh with a 1-0 win. Yovani Gallardo pitched 7 scoreless innings, but Rob Wooten got in trouble in the 8th. K-Rod came in with 2 outs in the 8th and got out of the inning. Then in the 9th, he walked 2 batters but worked his way out of the jam to let the Brewers come away with the win. They ended that game with a 38-26 record and a 4.5 game lead in the NL Central. Here's the final out:

Contract Status

K-Rod signed a 1-year, $3.25 million contract this spring. It seems likely that he won't be back for another season with the Brewers. I've heard that one before.

Previous MVBrewers

Previous MVBrewers posts can be seen at the links below, or in their own dedicated section:

  1. Jonathan Lucroy
  2. Carlos Gomez
  3. Wily Peralta
  4. Kyle Lohse
  5. Yovani Gallardo
  6. Mike Fiers