After six years spent as a mostly mediocre setup man Fernando Rodney picked a perfect season to become a full-time closer and go 37-for-38 converting saves, because now he’s hitting the open market as a free agent with his value at an all-time high.
However, look past the saves and Rodney really wasn’t all that great this season, posting a 4.40 ERA and sub par 61/41 K/BB ratio in 75.2 innings. Those numbers basically match his career totals coming into the year, which included a 4.25 ERA and 253/129 K/BB ratio in 254 frames.
Will blowing just one save in 38 tries make Rodney an “established closer” in the minds of teams looking for bullpen help this offseason? Or will most teams focus on his ability rather than his save totals and see someone who’s probably better suited for seventh-inning duties?
Rodney will be an interesting test case for how big-league front offices value saves and the closer role in general. For his part, the 32-year-old right-hander has made it very clear that he’d like to remain in Detroit:
I want to come back to the Tigers. Detroit is the first team I will talk to, but right now, I have to wait. I want them to call me and ask me to sign. I want three years, maybe four [years], but I don’t know how it will work out.
I’m sure that general manager Dave Dombrowski would be open to re-signing Rodney, but the odds of Detroit handing him a deal for “three years, maybe four” years seems highly unlikely. Dombrowski and the Tigers should know better than anyone that he’s never been a consistently excellent reliever. This season’s save totals are nice, but any team paying Rodney for going 37-for-38 figures to be very disappointed at the end of the contract.
I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.
First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:
+10 Blue Jays
The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.
Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:
Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.
According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.
The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.
Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.
It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.