(Photo Credit: nesn.com)

By Joshua Nord – @NordJoshua

Before his start against the Mariners I had an article ready, celebrating that we might have finally seen what Red Sox Starter Eduardo Rodriguez can do. Before this start the lefty had been in a groove, a six start winning streak where it seemed like he was finally putting the pieces together. But then in four innings he was shelled by a potent Mariners lineup for five runs, four earned. What happened here?

To Sox fans who’ve been watching him as closely as I’ve been, it’s a familiar question: The Sox got E-rod, who was a blue chip prospect in a trade from Baltimore for Andrew Miller in 2014. Coming in with clear skill, but injury concerns, his time in Boston hasn’t been smooth. He showed promise in 2015, only to dislocate a knee cap a season later, which was re-aggravated in 2017. Rodriguez hasn’t really had a full season to prove himself to this team.

The Venezuela native started this year on the disabled list after finally having the necessary surgery to fix his knee. At times it has seemed like he finally turned a corner coming back to pitch in dominant fashion. In fact the Red Sox are most successful with Rodriguez on the mound, as they are 13-2 on his starts. Not only has he been getting great run support, which some other certain starters are lacking, but he’s been damn good in his own right. Let’s compare him to Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton, ignoring E-rods most recent start for the sake of keeping even numbers.

Eduardo Rodriguez: 11-3W/L-104.2IP-3.53ERA-1.23WHIP-122Ks

James Paxton: 6-3W/L-108IP-3.58ERA-1.09WHIP-133Ks

These are their last nineteen starts, dating back to September of 2017. James Paxton is a fantastic pitcher, Rodriguez isn’t far behind him and is four years younger. There is reason to be excited, and furthermore there is reason to think Eduardo Rodriguez can be a true ace.

Focusing on the current, his last time out it felt like the old Rodriguez, the one who struggled the last two seasons putting up ERAs over four. The one who could barely touch the fifth or sixth inning, and often times shied away from his secondary pitches. The one who often times nibbled on the zone for fear of his pitches getting driven deep. Rodriguez, for all his strengths, is still young, trying to be consistent in a game that’s as inconsistent as it can get. The Mariners are a tough team, they figure to be in the playoff picture if they can keep it up. Every starter has a few bad starts, but a pitcher with this kind of history is going to be under a microscope in a town like this.

Rodriguez is still learning, and will need to keep the faith in his secondary pitches. He throws around 50% fastballs, and uses his changeup and cutterfinally, but his slider still seems like an afterthought. It’s only being used under 10% of the time. But what’s most important to his development is his efficiency. The game has changed, starters aren’t expected to go to the seventh consistently anymore unless they’re an ace, but maxing out at four of five innings is a problem no matter how good you are. What’s causing this with him? Besides the walks, as he does have a relatively high WHIP at 1.29. It’s his inefficiency with 0-2 counts, yes that’s right, the most pitcher friendly count is what E-rod struggles with most. Opponents have a 148 OPS+ on him this season. The league average is 100. For those that dont know, OPS+ is on base percentage plus slugging and is adjusted to a number league wide. 148 is not a good number.

Perhaps that’s why last Mariners start stung so much. E-Rod has the potential to go out there and dominate with the best of them. At twenty five years of age, fans should be just as excited to see his development as they are for Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi. All of which is despite there his few hangups which have been setting him back from being one of the elite pitchers in the league. Eduardo Rodriguez is 9-2 and having a good season, especially for a season with all of his question marks. But his believers, and his detractors, know he can do even better.



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