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.
Even while injured, Miguel Cabrera is a force to be reckoned with. The 33-year-old slugger has been playing with a contusion on his knee since Wednesday, according to postgame comments made by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus.
That didn’t stop him from whacking a 410-foot home run against Atlanta right-hander Matt Wisler on Friday night, skirting the center field fence to put the Tigers up 3-0 in the first inning. In the third, he lead off the inning with another long drive off of Wisler, targeting his changeup for a 421-foot shot, his 38th home run of the season:
It’s Cabrera’s sixth two-run homer game since the start of the season, and his first against the Braves since 2005. He needs just two more home runs to keep an even 40 on the year, which would return him to the kind of league-leading levels that accentuated his MVP case in 2012 and 2013. If he can do it by the end of this Tigers-Braves game (unlikely, but not unheard of), he’ll be the 15th major leaguer to hit four home runs in a single game.
The Reds will roll with manager Bryan Price for at least one more season. Per MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon, Price has been extended through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018. He won’t be the only familiar face leading the team, as the Reds have reportedly asked the entire coaching staff to return as well.
This is Price’s second consecutive season with 90+ losses since Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract back in 2014. While he hasn’t been able to replicate the same kind of success that former skipper Dusty Baker found in 2012 and 2013, he’s been saddled with a team that’s still in the throes of rebuilding, not one that looks on the cusp of playoff contention. It is, after all, the same team that has not seen a healthy season from Homer Bailey since Price’s arrival, one that unloaded Jay Bruce for a pair of prospects earlier this year and one whose pitching staff set a single-season record for most home runs given up by a major league team.
Justifying Price’s extension requires a different kind of yardstick, one that measures player development and individual success over the cumulative win-loss record. Here, Price has overseen solid performances from contributors like Adam Duvall, who is batting .244/.297/.506 with 2.9 fWAR in his first full major-league season, as well as young arms like Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen, among others.
From comments made by Reds’ CFO Bob Castellini, Price’s success within a rough rebuilding process appears to have cemented his place within the club, at least for the time being.
I like the young, aggressive team Walt and Dick have put together with players from within our system and from recent trades. […] Bryan has been here seven seasons now. He’s comfortable with the direction we are heading with our young players, and we are comfortable with him leading us in that direction.