Pittsburgh Pirates: Richard Rodriguez Needs to Have a Short Leash


After struggling in 2019, Richard Rodriguez’s 2020 season started off poorly. This season, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to give the reliever a short leash.

During the 2018 season Richard Rodriguez burst onto the scene for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After signing as a minor league free agent, he went on to post a 2.47 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 6.8% walk rate, 31.5% strikeout rate, and 0.65 HR/9 in 69.1 innings worked across 63 games.

Unfortunately, it appears his 2018 season may prove to be an outlier. Rodriguez struggled mightily in 2019, and his 2020 season got off to a poor start in Friday night’s 5-4 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Last season, Rodriguez posted a 3.72 ERA in 72 games and 65.1 innings of work. However, his 3.72 ERA did not tell the entire story. His FIP was a poor 5.22, and a big reason for the high FIP was a rise in home runs allowed.

Rodriguez allowed 14 home runs in 2019 after allowing just five in 2018. This led to his HR/9 spiking from 0.65 to an alarming 1.93. Additionally, his walk rate rose 8.1%, but, more concerning, was his strikeout rate plummeting to 22.1%.

In Grapefruit League/summer camp exhibition play, the struggles continued for Rodriguez. In 6 innings of work, he allowed five earned runs and three home runs. Also, in these outings, his velocity was down. Not good!

Friday night in St. Louis, new manager Derek Shelton turned to Rodriguez in the bottom of the 8th with the Pittsburgh Pirates trailing 3-2. Rodriguez’s velocity remained down, his fastball averaged 90.5 MPH after averaging over 93 MPH in 2019, and he allowed what would prove to be a back breaking two-run home run to Paul DeJong. In the end, this home run proved to be the winning hit as the a 9th inning rally came up short for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 5-4 loss.

With Rodriguez’s struggles with the home run ball dating back to the start of the 2019 season, as well as his drop in velocity, he needs to have a short leash this season. When Shelton went to Rodriguez on Friday night the move was questioned, and rightfully so. This needs to be the last time Shelton goes to Rodriguez in a high leverage situation.

Friday night Shelton should have gone to Nick Burdi or Michael Feliz in that situation. Had he done so, the Pittsburgh Pirates may have walked out of Busch Stadium victorious on their season opener.

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As long as Rodriguez is on the Pirate roster, he needs to only be used to mop up situations in games that are out of control. If he can not get back on track, then he should be one of the two players taken off the roster when rosters must drop from 30 players to 28 on August 6.