Francisco Rodriguez Is Still the Man: Fans Need To Support, Not Complain

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Francisco Rodriguez Is Still the Man: Fans Need To Support, Not Complain
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I am so sick of hearing about how much Francisco Rodriguez sucks.

It seems all Mets fans can do these days is dish out the blame.

First, it was Jerry Manuel, then Oliver Perez, then Jeff Francoeur. Jason Bay's power has gone, Rod Barajas' swing has forsaken him, and Luis Castillo has no purpose on a Major League roster.

David Wright took a beating from his supposed supporters earlier in the year, and if people aren't criticizing Omar Minaya for how he handled Jenrry Mejia they are complaining about a lack of pitching, a lack of hitting, or both.

Now it's K-Rod's turn.

There has been very little praise this year for a team that is still right in the thick of both divisional and wild card hunts. In case you forgot, it's only July.

Rodriguez has had 68 save opportunities since he arrived in New York. He has converted 56 of these chances, or 82 percent.

It's reasonable, if not spectacular.

But keep in mind there have been 1,893 saves and 913 blown saves in the league since the start of the '09 season...just a 67 percent success rate.

Say what you want about Rodriguez, but he is well above average.

Of the saves he has blown in 2010, three were when he entered a one-run game and two were when he entered a two-run game. Of those one-run games, Rodriguez inherited a runner on second base.

K-Rod hasn't blown a save when he entered the start of an inning with a three-run lead—unlike Ryan Madson against the Braves, LaTroy Hawkins against the Cubs, Ryan Perry against the Mariners, or Kevin Gregg against the Rays.

Nobody cares about the five-out save Rodriguez recorded against the Cubs in April when he came into the game with the bases loaded and one out, or the game in mid-May against the Yankees with the bases loaded and Jeter at the plate.

How about the other elite closers in the league?

Remember when Mariano Rivera came into a two-run game against the Twins in relief of Joba Chamberlain with the bases loaded, only to walk in a run and then serve up a grand slam homer? Or how about the Independence Day game against the Blue Jays when he gave up three hits and couldn't hold down the lead?

How about Heath Bell, the man tied for the saves lead this season? He blew three saves in five weeks earlier this year, and he hasn't even converted three-quarters of the games when he's came into a one-run game in the ninth.

Francisco Cordero has been an absolute train wreck, blowing three one-run leads, a pair of two-run leads, and a three-run lead.  Jonathan Papelbon has surrendered twice as many home runs as Rodriguez in eight fewer innings. Even Andrew Bailey, the closer of the future, has blown three saves this year, twice unable to work out of another pitchers' jam. And three times he has came into a tied game in 2010 only to walk away with the loss.

So yes, Rodriguez has blown five saves, but the 12 guys who have more saves than him in 2010 have blown, on average, 3.3 saves this year too. In addition, Rodriguez has a better ERA than seven of the men ahead of him, and he has more wins than three of the other five.

Rodriguez hasn't been perfect this year, but he has been one of the most worked closers in the league— taking on more innings of work than any other front-line stopper in the game. The issue isn't surrounding his struggles, but rather a failure to live up to the hype of 62 saves and a 2.24 ERA he sported in Los Angeles in 2008.

Still, he was an All-Star last season and he finished the most games out of anyone in the Major Leagues. By almost any account, he has been better this year: his ERA is a full run lower, his home runs ratios are down by one-third, and he is striking out more batters while walking less.

In fact, with the exception of a few more hits, his peripheral numbers are almost on a par with his four-year averages from his time with the Angles—when he saved a combined 194 games and led the league in saves three out of four years.

Closers aren't perfect. None of them are. But fans demand perfection from a specialist player who has a very limited job description and has to play—by the nature of his work—in the most clutch situations.

Rodriguez is still an above-average pitcher who still has the makeup to be elite. Unfortunately, fans don't have the patience they need to appreciate what he can bring to the club. Under the spotlight of New York, being above average, more often than not, simply is not enough for some people.

Support your ball club, rally around your team, and show some passion. In case you hadn't read the memo, whining and criticizing is not interchangeable with support.

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