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K-Rod Quietly Having Great Season

By Howard Megdal ~ June 24th, 2010. Filed under: Howard Megdal.

I suspect it will be virtually impossible to be a closer in New York for a generation at least. The culprit is Mariano Rivera, of course, and his seemingly endless run of perfection. As a result, the mere mortals that try to hold down the same job across town seem like poor custodians of late leads, a rap that is fair for some (Braden Looper, I’m looking at you) and unfair for others. (And I pity Joba Chamberlain, should he take over the job in The Bronx.)

That lack of respect seems particularly true for Francisco Rodriguez, who is quietly putting together one of the best seasons any Met closer has had in a long time.

In 37 innings so far this year, Rodriguez has walked just 13 batters, striking out 47. The walk rate of 3.2 per nine innings is the best he’s ever had, if he can maintain it for a full season. To put it in his own career context, he was at 5.0 per nine last year with the Mets, 4.5 each of his final two seasons with the Angels.

The strikeout rate is similarly encouraging. He’s at 11.4 per nine this season, up from 9.7 last year, 10.1 his last year with the Angels, and equal to his career mark of 11.4.

In other words, Rodriguez has, so far this season, stopped a steady decline in his peripherals. Considering that the Mets are on the hook for $11.5 million to K-Rod in 2011, and an easily-vesting (assuming health) $17.5 million option for 2012, this is extremely welcome news.

Still, it only seems that Rodriguez gets noticed when he is struggling. Never mind that his K-rate would rank fourth of any Met closer (behind only Billy Wagner’s 2006 and Armando Benitez’s 1999 and 2000- the last three playoff years for the Mets, not coincidentally). And his walk rate is considerably better than either of Benitez’s best strikeout seasons as closer.

In short, whatever you think of the contract, Rodriguez is absolutely living up to any reasonable expectations one could have for him in 2010. If he isn’t quite Mariano Rivera- though his xFIP ERA is actually better than Mariano’s so far this year- he is still a tremendous ninth-inning option for the Mets.

Howard Megdal is the Editor-in-Chief of The Perpetual Post. He covers baseball, basketball and soccer for Capital New York, MLBTradeRumors.com, New York Baseball Digest and has written for ESPN.com as well as numerous other publications. He is the Poet Laureate for SBNation New York. His book about Jewish baseball players, “The Baseball Talmud,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold. His next book, "Taking The Field", is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will publish in May 2011.
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