Richard Rodriguez is Proving to be a Diamond in the Rough Find


The Pittsburgh Pirates have found a gem in minor league free agent signing Richard Rodriguez

This past offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates inked reliever Richard Rodriguez to a minor league contract. Prior to the 2018 season, Rodriguez had pitched just 5 2/3 career Major League innings. All of these innings came with the Baltimore Orioles last season.

Rodriguez’s 5 2/3 innings in 2017 came after he spent eight seasons in the minor league systems of the Houston Astros and the Orioles. Factor in these 5 2/3 innings being very lackluster (13.39 FIP, four home runs allowed) and you can see why no one paid much attention to the Pirates signing Rodriguez this past offseason.

Despite entering the season as an unknown, Rodriguez is proving to be a diamond in the rough find for Neal Huntington and the Pirates.

After starting the year at Triple-A Indianapolis, Rodriguez was promoted to Pittsburgh in early April. Since his promotion he has allowed just one home run, two unintentional walks, and he has struck out an incredible 43.9% of batters faced in 16 2/3 innings pitched. This has led to Rodriguez owning a dominant 1.62 ERA and 0.80 FIP.

So, what has led to Rodriguez’s success?

Right now, Rodriguez is generating a lot of swings and misses. Opposing batters are swinging at 52.5% of pitches he’s thrown this season and this includes an 18.1% swinging-and-miss rate. He is also generating a 36.4% swing rate at pitches outside of the strike zone.

When hitters do make contact against Rodriguez, it has not been good contact. His average exit velocity is just 90.1 miles per hour and he is allowing hard contact 28.6% of the team which is below league average. Opposing batters are not barrelling balls up against Rodriguez either as his barrelled ball rate sits at a measly 5.9%.

Despite it averaging just 92.9 miles per hour, Rodriguez has an explosive fastball. It sneaks up on hitters and generates a large number of whiffs. He pairs this with a slider that is proving to be a plus pitch as well.

These two pitches are serving Rodriguez well. They are generating a large number of swings and misses, and when opposing hitters do make contact the contact is poor. This is what is leading to Rodriguez turning into a dominant reliever for the Pirates.

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If Richard Rodriguez continues to not just pitch well but flat out dominate the way he has, you can expect to see his role in the Pirate bullpen increase as the season progresses. Not only did the Bucs find a diamond in the rough with Rodriguez, they may have found another shutdown late inning reliever.