Courtesy of FantasyRundown.com
That is not a typo. All winter long I have read that Francisco Rodriguez is one of the most overrated closers in all of baseball. In fact, an unnamed fantasy Web site recently ranked him eighth amongst closers this season…yup, eighth. Is it possible that he has been called overrated so often that he is now underrated?
Look, I will be the first to agree with the notion that there is no way he even comes close to posting the 62 saves he did in 2008. Rodriguez had a magical season last year; I mean, the Angels provided 89 save opportunities to their bullpen last season, head and shoulders above anyone else (Cardinals were second at 72).
Let’s also not forget his declining peripherals, posting his lowest strikeout rate (10.14 K/9IP) and K/BB rate (2.26) since he took over the closer’s role in Los Angeles. Finally, his decreased velocity is a clear red flag. Last year, Rodriguez’s fastball averaged 91.9 mph, down from 93.6 mph a year earlier.
But these are the facts I would use to scare your fellow fantasy owners prior to draft day. Looking deeper into the numbers, you will see K-Rod is still alive and well.
First, the move to New York is a positive. Instead of facing designated hitters in the American League, Rodriguez will be forced to face pinch hitters coming cold off the bench—the same group of pinch hitters that combined for a .229/.317/.345 line in 2008.
I'll also mention that the Mets provided their bullpen with the third most save opportunities last season, 71. While this number isn’t always consistent from year to year, the Mets have the offense to come back in the late innings, which will help add to Rodriguez's chances.
Also, Rodriguez claims he was toying with a changeup the first half of the season. Thus, his fastball didn’t have the same velocity. I am not sure how that affected his actual pitch speed, but in September he was clocked consistently in the 93-94 mph range.
In fact, Rodriguez’s second-half numbers look a lot like his career averages: 12.3 K/9IP, 4.5 K/BB ratio, and a 2.05 ERA. I would be worried about Rodriguez if the numbers were reversed, but he got stronger as the year went on.
In summary, Francisco Rodriguez is still a top-three closer in any format. Expect the same dominant stuff and great results from the kid until his arm falls off (which I guess will happen someday). Just don’t tell your friends; keep forwarding them the “K-Rod is Overrated” articles.