Today we take a look at Brewers All-Star and Closer, Francisco Rodriguez. Known better as K-Rod, Rodriguez came to the Brewers from the Mets around this time in 2011, when the Brewers were looking to strengthen their bullpen for a run at the playoffs.
After another season and a half as the Brewers’ set-up man, the Crew traded the distinguished reliever to the Orioles before the deadline last season. K-Rod had been lights out with the Brewers in 2013, but struggled in Baltimore, making him easier to re-acquire out of free agency prior to this season.
Over parts of the last four seasons (177 appearances), K-Rod has posted an ERA of 2.93 with the Brewers and has saved 40 games, most coming this season after taking over the closer job from Jim Henderson. The surprise was evident when on March 31st, the Brewers opener, Rodriguez came out in the ninth to close out a 2-0 affair against the Atlanta Braves.
It was later announced that Henderson’s demotion was due to the management’s concern about his velocity and struggles in Spring Training, concerns that have since been validated by his 7.15 ERA in 11 1/3 innings and long stint on the disabled list. Also rewarding management’s decision, Rodriguez has been impressive in his return as a full-time closer, leading the league in saves with 27.
Rodriguez is also on pace to set his lowest H/9 in ten seasons, and the lowest BB/9 of his impressive career. This leaves him with a 0.877 WHIP, which would also be the lowest of his career, and the first time he would have posted a WHIP under 1.000 since he was a 21-year-old reliever with the then Anaheim Angels.
Rodriguez is a crucial piece to the Brewers’ middle-of-the-road bullpen, and while the ‘pen could undoubtedly use another piece or two, Rodriguez’s return to form after his struggles with the O’s has been huge for the Brewers, as he has locked down games with a 90% save success rate.
At the beginning of the season, the relatively cheap K-Rod deal looked like a way for the Brewers to bolster their bullpen while also holding an important trade piece, should the (then) four-time All-Star perform to his career average. Now with the Crew trying to maintain their lead in the NL Central, the deal looks even more savvy, one that installed a top-of-the-line closer into the bullpen for a huge discount.
Should K-Rod end the season on his current pace, he may become too pricey for the Brewers ‘pen next year, though his now fruitful history with the Crew would hopefully sway him in Milwaukee’s direction. For now, though, Rodriguez is a veteran guy who the Brewers trust to shut down close games and anchor their bullpen.