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With Opening Day nearly upon us, we’re going to finish out our bullpen projections by covering Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod has had a prolific career, and is second in active games played (799) and saves (348).
Rodriguez was signed as an amateur free agent by the Angels in 1998, but stalled in High-A until the team made what turned out to be a huge change– they moved K-Rod to the bullpen. The Venezuelan went from a 5.38 ERA over 20 starts in 2001 to a 2.27 over 50 games in 2002, which earned him his first Major League call-up.
As the youngest player in the American League that year, Rodriguez played an integral part in the Angel’s postseason, allowing just two earned runs over 18 2/3 innings and striking out 28. The Angels won the World Series, and K-Rod’s outstanding career was just beginning.
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For the next six seasons, Rodriguez pitched at an elite level for Los Angeles, leading the AL in saves three times, and setting the record for saves in a season in 2008 with 62, five more than the previous mark.
After his record-breaking season, the Mets signed K-Rod to a three-year, $37 million deal, which the Brewers saw the back-end of when they traded for him halfway through the 2011 season. The Brewers liked what K-Rod contributed to their playoff run (1.86 ERA) and brought him back on a one-year deal.
After struggling in 2012, the Brewers once again brought Rodriguez back, and he performed at a high level, so the down-and-out Brewers sent him to the Orioles for Nick Delmonico. K-Rod struggled after the trade, which again allowed the team to bring him back on a reasonable, one-year deal.
In 2014, Rodriguez made his fifth All-Star game, ending the year with a 3.04 ERA. Rodriguez gave up nearly two home runs per 9 innings, however, which led to a 4.50 FIP, albeit with a 2.91 xFIP. The team subsequently gave K-Rod his first multi-year deal in Milwaukee, a two-year, $13 million affair.
G 68 IP 65 ERA 3.63 FIP 3.80 WHIP 1.108 H/9 7.2 HR/9 1.2 GB% 42.6% BB/9 2.8 K/9 9.4 K/BB 3.36
I project K-Rod to be average this year, but being average as a closer is plenty useful. Overall I think the bullpen is just OK in 2015, but better than what Carson Cistulli at Fangraphs projects.
I don’t think the bullpen makes or breaks this team. That falls on the rotation, which could be a top ten group as easily as a bottom ten. The ‘pen just has to be adequate, and hope the guys throwing ahead of them are going deep into close games.