If you asked Braves fans where the team needed the most help before the trade deadline, a large majority would have said the bullpen. The outfield certainly needed revamping, but the bullpen was incredibly inconsistent throughout the first few months of the season and desperately needed a boost. So when it was announced that the team acquired Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez just before the 4:00 bell on July 30th, Braves Country exploded with gratitude.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t turned out like the Braves would have hoped thus far, and there were signs before the trade deadline that regression was around the corner for Rodriguez. With the Pirates, he was incredibly consistent, posting ERAs of 2.47, 3.72, 2.70, and 2.85 from 2018-2021. However, his numbers began to slip this season after foreign substances were banned for pitchers league-wide, as our very own Sam Peebles pointed out shortly after the Braves acquired him.
Here’s a look at his numbers before the ban on foreign substances:
- Expected Weighted OBA Against (xwOBA) – .186 (Top 100% of MLB)
- Expected Slugging Percentage Against (xSLG) – .269 (Top 94%)
- Walk Percentage – 1.5% (Top 100%)
- Expected ERA (xERA) –1.38 (Top 100%)
- Expected Batting Average Against (xBA) –.152 (Top 97%)
After the ban, Rodriguez’s fastball dropped by 232 RPM — one of the largest dips by any pitcher in the majors — and his numbers took a substantial hit as well.
Numbers after the ban on foreign substances and before being traded to the Braves:
Rodriguez’s slugging percentage against more than doubled, and his ERA skyrocketed to 4.85 ERA.
- xERA has dropped 10%
- xwOBA has dropped 10% (dropped 50% in the last 100 plate appearances)
- xSLG has dropped 32%
- xBA has dropped 16%
On the surface level, Rodriguez hasn’t been miserable with the Braves… yet. He’s posted a respectable 2.91 ERA in 21 appearances since coming over, but his six homers allowed, 6.71 FIP and 3.3 K/9 are concerning. Even more so, the eye test leads me to believe Rodriguez might be unpitchable in high-leverage situations moving forward. It’s almost as if he doesn’t even have a secondary offering, and he certainly doesn’t trust it. All Rodriguez does is pound the zone with fastballs, which just isn’t going to get it done consistently at this level. He must improve his control and develop a secondary offering he can rely on if he ever wants to get back to having the success he had from 2018-2020.
After he was clobbered by the Diamondbacks last night, I asked Braves Country when Rodriguez could ever be trusted in a playoff scenario. The answers were pretty much unanimous — only if the Braves are up or down 5+ runs.
Up or down 5+ runs 🤣
— zivko (@ziv_pez) September 21, 2021
The Braves gave up Bryse Wilson and Ricky DeVito for Rodriguez’s services. The good news is Rodriguez is under contract for two more seasons, so there is plenty of time for him to turn it around and become a productive member of Atlanta’s bullpen. Bryse Wilson and Ricky DeVito also haven’t done much for the Pirates since being traded. Still, I expect both of them to have major-league careers, meaning Rodriguez will have to bounce back substantially if the Braves ever want to consider this trade a win.