What’s with all the home runs, K-Rod?

back side of orioles pitcher before throwing pitch

When the Baltimore Orioles acquired right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers a couple weeks back for prospect Nicky Delmonico, most O’s fans and analysts agreed that it was a good move. Closer Jim Johson’s sporadic struggles in 2013 are well-documented, and it’s never a bad idea to have more late-inning relief help.

Who better than a guy with 304 career saves? Though we’re five years removed from his 62-save performance in 2008 with Anaheim, “KRod” had proven to still be effective, putting up a 1.05 ERA in 25 appearances for the Brewers before coming to Baltimore. He had allowed just three earned runs and two home runs in 24.1 IP in Milwaukee.

Unfortunately, since coming to the O’s, KRod is more like HRod in that, he’s allowing HRs at an alarming rate – 4 in 4.0 IP.

So what’s been the problem? Let’s go to BrooksBaseball.net‘s Pitchf/X tool and see if we can’t find some answers.

In Rodriguez’s first appearance for the Birds, he allowed a home run to Kansas City’s Billy Butler.

As we can see, the homer came on a pitch up and in. Per Pitchf/X, it was a 92 MPH fastball.

In Wednesday’s 11-0 loss to the Houston Astros, Rodriguez made his second appearance in orange and black, and promptly gave up another home run, this one to Matt Dominguez.

That’s a little bit tough to see, so let’s narrow it down to just Dominguez’s AB.

Nearly the same pitch – and the same result – as the one he threw to Butler. This fastball clocked in at 92.5 MPH, up and on the inner half.

Last night in the O’s 11-8 win against Seattle, Rodriguez pitched the eighth inning, entering the ballgame with the Birds up 11-6. He allowed not one, but two solo home runs to make it a save situation for Jim Johnson (one former closer helping a current one?)

Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse both touched up KRod. Here’s how they did it:

Morales took the first pitch he saw, a 92.7 MPH fastball over the outer edge of the plate (Morales is the only lefty to homer off KRod so far) deep into the O’s bullpen.

After Voldemort Raul Ibanez struck out, Morse stepped in.

You guessed it, another letter-high fastball, this one at just under 92 MPH.

To his credit, Rodriguez struck out the other three batters he faced in the inning. Basically, when KRod is on the hill, every hitter becomes Mark Reynolds.

Oddly enough, those four home runs are the ONLY FOUR HITS that Rodriguez has allowed in 4.0 IP as an Oriole. Obviously that rate won’t continue, but just as obvious is the fact that KRod needs to learn to keep his fastball down, and quickly. He’s not running it up there in the mid-to-high 90’s like he once was, and hitters are feasting on his mistakes.

The good news, I suppose, is that Rodriguez is showing he can still miss bats – five strikeouts in four innings – and hitters can’t really seem to hit anything BUT his high fastballs.

In his only scoreless appearance as an Oriole, against Boston on July 27, Rodriguez threw only one fastball in his “HR area” and Shane Victorino grounded out on it.

So, to summarize, KRod needs to stop throwing letter-high fastballs. Simple enough, right?

Note: I’ve seen some argue that Buck’s odd way of using Rodriguez so far – he’s entered games with the team trailing 6-1, 7-3, 10-0, and leading 11-6 – has something to do with his struggles. A former closer (who was also closing games for the Brewers this year, it should be noted) just can’t get into his usual mindset in games like that. The lack of focus could be leading to the bad pitches.

While that’s entirely possible, how can Buck trust Rodriguez in a high-leverage situation right now, when he’s shown such a glaring tendency to give up the gopher ball?

The only way to solve this is to start putting KRod into some situations that would normally be reserved for a Darren O’Day or even a :gasp: Jim Johnson. Maybe then we’ll see what he can really do. I do agree that using him as the new Pedro Strop is a waste of his talents.

But that doesn’t mean we all won’t be reaching for the Pepto Bismol as he toes the rubber in a tie or one-run game here soon. And, as usual, Buck will only be right if KRod succeeds.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured by Derek Arnold. Bookmark the permalink.

About Derek Arnold

Derek Arnold
RSR/ESR Senior Editor. Derek is originally from and a current resident of Pasadena, MD. He’s a graduate of UMBC and has been a lifelong Baltimore sports fan. In 2007 he founded B’More Birds’ Nest, where he wrote about the Ravens and Orioles before joining RSR in 2012. Derek tells anyone...more

One Cheer about “What’s with all the home runs, K-Rod?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Hot off the street

Thursday Thoughts: Winning Streak Shouldn’t Change “Selling” Mindset
Thursday Thoughts: Winning Streak Shouldn’t Change “Selling” Mindset

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it t...read more

Wednesday’s O’s Links: Rockies Interested in Gausman & Bundy
Wednesday’s O’s Links: Rockies Interested in Gausman & Bundy

The last two nights have been a nice little reminder that baseball can indeed be fun. Now the worry is, of course, that they'll also fool the owner into thinking this team has the potential to keep wi...read more

Series Preview: Orioles (42-49) vs. Rangers (45-46)
Series Preview: Orioles (42-49) vs. Rangers (45-46)

After getting swept and embarrassed by the Cubs in their own house over the weekend, the Orioles will be looking to shrug it off and quickly bounce back over their upcoming four-game set versus the Te...read more

The Rundown: What Can the O’s Get for their Relievers?
The Rundown: What Can the O’s Get for their Relievers?

After being swept over the weekend by the Chicago Cubs and another series in which their starting pitching was embarrassed, it appears the Orioles are one step closer to throwing in the towel for the ...read more

Week(end) in Review: Mid-July Massacre
Week(end) in Review: Mid-July Massacre

If there were still any of you out there who were as optimistic about our chances of turning it around in the second half as I was, you're probably pretty bummed on this dreary Monday morning. Bumm...read more

View More