There are a lot of crazy stats within Fernando Rodney’s amazing comeback season for the Rays, including the fact that he converted his 46th save in 48 chances last night and now has a 72/16 K/BB ratio in 72.1 innings at age 35 after walking more batters than he struck out for the Angels last year.
This stat, however, is the most shocking: Last night Rodney lowered his ERA to 0.62, which means he’s one more scoreless inning from tying Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for the lowest ERA of all time among pitchers with 50-plus innings in a season.
Eckersley had a 0.61 ERA during his incredible 1990 season for the A’s, allowing five earned runs in 73.1 innings. And here’s where it gets spooky: Rodney has currently allowed five earned runs in 72.1 innings, so if he tosses a scoreless frame next time out he’d match Eckersley’s runs and innings total exactly.
Tampa Bay has six games remaining on the schedule, so Rodney will get an opportunity to throw more than one more inning. In other words, if he doesn’t cough up another run this season Fernando Rodney is going to break Dennis Eckersley’s record.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.