Friday, August 01, 2008

Frankie Rodriguez, and Questions for Anonymous and MSS

My last two posts have prompted comments regarding the potential (probable?) departure of Frankie Rodriguez following this season. MSS thinks his leaving will be good for the Angels, as he is apparently no longer the "great reliever he once was". Meanwhile Anonymous thinks we won't miss his antics after all of those saves "he almost blows".

So for MSS, is a 26 year old closer with almost 200 career saves who, by the way, just learned a new pitch no longer dominant, even while still saving well over 90% of his chances? He just dropped his ERA to 2.42, saving a 1-0 game, while retiring the games best player, and one of the AL's best hitters in the process. He made A-Rod look stupid on a 3-2 change up, a pitch he didn't even know how to throw before this season. Does anyone doubt that in a year or two, he'll probably also add a splitter to he repertoire? He is not only still dominating, he's learning while doing it. Oh, and for good measure, one of the guys you'd probably list as dominant, Mariano Rivera, he couldn't get it done tonight. Big L next to his name in the box score.

And Anonymous, does this count as one of the saves he "almost" blew? I mean, he did throw three balls to A-Rod before making him look stupid in the process. And those two fly balls he gave up were only about 70 feet from going out. Yes occasionally Frankie makes things more interesting than we'd like. What closer doesn't? Troy Percival, God love him (heck, I sponsor his B-R page) wasn't always without drama. Bryan Harvey seemed like he always walked the bases loaded before striking out the side. But I think there's a tendency to remember the drama, and unfortunately the failures, more than the successes.

You can count on one hand the guys who have been dominant over Frankie's tenure in his role. Rivera, maybe Wagner, Nathan, and who else? Frankie has been part of that group for four years now, and he's much younger than all of them. Though his save totals have been high, his work rate hasn't been outrageous. You have to ask yourself, why are there so few guys on that list? It's because it's not easy to perform at that level year in year out. That's why guys like Derek Turnbow and Joe Borowski can look great one year, and get cut the next. There are very few closers with long track records of sustained success. And of those three mentioned above, Wagner's got an ERA over 8.00 in the post-season.

So you can cheer the departure of Frankie all you want, but it will, without a doubt, weaken the Angels. They will be worse without him.

I've said this so many times I may as well get it tattooed on my forehead, but here it is again, in boldface. The comparison is not between what Frankie is and what Frankie could be, or was for one great season, or what you wish he would be. The comparison is between what Frankie is and what currently exists in the game. Regardless of the fact that he no longer mows through three innings in 25 pitches with six strikeouts, like he did in 2002, he's still at the top of an elite group of players who, night in and night out, answer the bell in the last inning and deliver their team to victory. If you can't see that, then I guess I can't help you. But facts are facts, and the fact is Frankie is one of a select few that turns the vast majority of games he enters into eight inning affairs. And yes, that's a very, very valuable commodity. The Angels will regret the day he signs with someone else.

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