One would be hard-pressed to find a pair of seasons more similar than these two:
4-2, 45 Sv, 5 ER, 9 R, 41 H, 2 HR, 73/4 K/BB in 73 1/3 IP
2-2, 46 Sv, 5 ER, 9 R, 41 H, 2 HR, 74/15 K/BB in 73 1/3 IP
The first is Dennis Eckersley’s record-setting 1990 campaign with the A’s. The second is Fernando Rodney’s 2012 with the Rays.
Even more amazing, both were 35 years old.
Of course, Eckersley and Rodney had wildly different careers leading up to their remarkably similar seasons. Eckersley was a top-notch starter for five years before alcohol problems contributed to an early decline. Seemingly on the verge of washing out of the league, he made the switch to relieving in 1987 and turned into a Hall of Famer. 1990 was his third conseuctive year as a top-flight closer.
Rodney was plucked off the scrap heap by the Rays last winter after amassing a 4.50 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in his final year with the Angels. He did have one very successful year as a closer in 2009, going 37-for-38 in save opportunities for the Tigers, but even then he had a 4.40 ERA. He entered 2012 with a lifetime ERA of 4.29.
Where Rodney goes from here is anyone’s guess. But he need only get one out without allowing a run in the Rays’ last three games to finish with the lowest ERA, minimum 50 innings, of any pitcher in major league history.