After agreeing to a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in February, Francisco Rodriguez was expected to serve in a setup capacity in 2014 for a bullpen that largely struggled a season earlier.
Instead, manager Ron Roenicke surprisingly tabbed Rodriguez to close out an Opening Day win over the Atlanta Braves, and the 32-year-old right-hander hasn't looked back since.
Rodriguez has converted all 13 save opportunities the Brewers have presented him thus far, tying the MLB record for most saves before May 1, first established by Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Seattle Mariners in 2001, per Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com.
In addition to notching all his save chances, Rodriguez has yet to allow a run over his 16 innings of relief work, posting an impressive 23:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The unexpected dominance of Rodriguez, along with the equally improbable standout performances of fellow bullpen contributors Zach Duke, Tyler Thornburg and Will Smith, has been a major reason behind the Brewers' league-best 20-8 record to date.
Right-hander Jim Henderson has pitched respectably as well in middle relief after he was dropped as closer heading into the season, but there would seem to be no reason for him to revert back to his former role with Rodriguez showing no signs of slippage whatsoever.
Rodriguez's 13 saves through 28 games put him ahead of pace to shatter his own MLB record of 62 saves in a season, which he set as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2008.
However, it's expected the Brewers will manage his workload a little more carefully as the season wears on, which could make him hard-pressed to break the mark. In addition, it's also likely the Brewers will find themselves in fewer games where save opportunities present themselves, further hurting Rodriguez's odds.
Sasaki himself presents a good case study in the randomness of save chances, a statistic that often has more to do with team context than a player's individual skill level.
After recording 13 saves in April 2001, it wasn't until June 19 that Sasaki was able to double his total. In all, he would pick up a respectable (but not record-setting) 32 saves after April, finishing five saves behind the New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera for the league lead at the end of the season.
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