Braves: The red flags surrounding the newly acquired Richard Rodriguez

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The Atlanta Braves made a splash by acquiring Richard Rodriguez from the Pirates with minutes to spare at the trade deadline for Bryse Wilson and 2019 8th round pick Ricky DeVito

In fact, early in the season, Rodriguez was listed as a potential trade candidate.

On paper, this looks like a steal, and in all fairness, it may still be. Bryse Wilson, the key piece in return, could end up having a successful MLB career. However, he was running out of opportunities with the Braves. DeVito is more of a lottery pick style prospect with a ceiling as a reliever and is still in high A.

Richard Rodriguez is under team control through the 2023 season — another plus for a Braves team that needs steadiness in a suspect bullpen for this year and beyond. Looking at Richard Rodriguez’s season numbers, there is reason for optimism, as he’s recorded 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (which is very solid for a reliever), 14 saves, 2.82 ERA, only 5 walks to 33 strikeouts, and an insane .835 WHIP.

His elite numbers before June 15th

Before June 15th, Rodriguez’s numbers were arguably the best in the league. In 24 games, he allowed 0 home runs and posted a 1.78 ERA, a measly .169 batting average against, .213 slugging percentage against, and 20 strikeouts to 3 walks.

On May 27th, when he was first suggested as a trade candidate, his peripherals were so good; it was almost hard to believe:

  • 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%)

Red flags since June 15th

There is a reason June 15th has been selected as a measuring stick of red flags. This was when the memo for foreign substances was dropped.

Soon after, rotations per minute were watched closely, and unfortunately, it appears that Rodriguez was using a foreign substance.

On June 28th, it was released that Rodriguez’s fastball had dropped by 232 RPM. Only seven pitchers had a more drastic drop in that span.

There has been a direct correlation in statistical regression since June 15th

In 13 games since then, his slugging percentage against has more than doubled, and his ERA has skyrocketed to 4.85 ERA. The one positive is that he is still not walking many batters, with only 2 walks to 13 strikeouts.

His peripherals are also very concerning, though.

  • xERA has dropped 10%
  • xwOBA has dropped 10% (dropped 50% in the last 100 plate appearances)
  • xSLG has dropped 32%
  • xBA has dropped 16%

Remember, peripherals are based on pure pitcher performance, as in it does not matter what defense is behind him or what park he pitches in. It takes out the variables. There is no doubt about it; Rodriguez has regressed hard. It should also be said that his batting average on balls in play against him is still a very low (.286), suggesting this has not just been a string of bad luck.

This was still a much-needed trade

Although Rodriguez should not be counted on as a shutdown closer, he is still a much-needed arm. There is a chance that a change of scenery can help, and he has the potential to be much better than some arms currently in the bullpen. However, do not expect Rodriguez to be the same pitcher he was in 2020 and the first few months of 2021. His numbers have regressed based on his pure performance, without bad luck.

Photo: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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