Assorted Thoughts on Fernando Rodney | The Process Report

Assorted Thoughts on Fernando Rodney

1) Don’t trust anyone who credits regression to the mean as the sole culprit for Rodney’s demise. It’s a misuse and misunderstanding of the terminology. Rodney isn’t pitching poorly now to balance how well he pitched last season. That train of thought is along the lines of the gamblers fallacy, which differs from the concept of regression. Besides, were Rodney regressing to his mean he would probably post numbers in line with those he posted from 2009-2011: a 4.35 ERA and 1.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Not good for a reliever but better than his current numbers.

2) An inconsistent release point is the catalyst for the control issues. Rodney’s first pitch on Monday missed glove-side and low, but he’s been wild all over the place. The cause for the increased wildness might have something to do with Rodney’s timing. Last season he flourished with simplified mechanics: He reduced his leg lift and kept it simple, allowing his elite arm strength to do the rest. His location wasn’t always pinpoint but it didn’t need to be, either.

This season Rodney introduced new elements to his delivery, most notably a toe tap. The more moving parts an act requires, the tougher it is to repeat. Rodney’s toe tap complicates things for other reasons, as there does not appear to be any predictability to the taps. Sometimes he taps twice, sometimes he taps three or four times, as though he’s walking across the mound. Presumably Rodney added the tap as a trigger to shift his momentum, though it’s unclear why. This new, inconsistent piece of his delivery may be disrupting the timing between his body and his arm, leading to a smattering of release points.

3) So how does Rodney fix it? The answer would seemingly be to dump the toe tap. But there could be a reason why he installed it in the first place, even if only for comfort. Were the fix as easy as asking Rodney to stop tapping his toe the ostensibly it would have taken place a month ago. Shy of that the options are to let Rodney work on his timing while remaining in his present role, demoting him down the chain until he fixes things, or stashing him on the disabled list with a phantom injury.

Complicating matters is Rodney’s usage. Doug Melvin made a good point earlier in the season when John Axford struggled. If a starter is having issues with his delivery he’s got four days to straighten things out. If a closer is mired in a slump he doesn’t have much time to correct himself. After all, when Rodney enters a game it tends to be a high-leverage situation. It doesn’t help that the state of the bullpen so far has required Joe Maddon to use the occasional low-leverage spot to give someone else a confidence boost.

4) Sticking with Rodney, and the other pitchers who have struggled, is part of what makes Maddon Maddon. His ability to forge trusting relationships with his players might be his most important trait. Sometimes that means, as Joel Peralta explained, sticking with a reliever who struggled in his recent outings. The mental aspect is impossible to capture but there’s some obvious peace of mind benefits that come from a supporting staff.

Granted there is a time when loyalty gives way to utilitarianism—they call that the Percival zone—but Maddon’s unwillingness to dump Rodney from his ninth-inning duties thus far jells with his past. He doesn’t get spooked over a few bad outings. Unfortunately, should Rodney’s woes continue, Maddon might have to make a switch.



4 Comments

  1. Just curious – what is Rodney’s stat line if you for 2013 including the WBC? Did he overwork too much too fast and lose that tiny edge that can be the difference in professional sports?

    • Since his issues appear to be more mechanical than anything else, the WBC workloads really are not as important. He did begin the toe-tapping behavior in the WBC, but it was only a single tap and not the extended tapping we are seeing now.

  2. […] Rodney: Rodney’s early-season struggles skew his numbers the wrong way. He’s pitched better as of late, even if he won’t match […]

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