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The improvement of Eduardo Rodriguez and what to expect in 2020

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He was a staple of the 2019 rotation.

Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Eduardo Rodriguez served as the most reliable pitcher on the 2019 Red Sox’ pitching staff. He finished with an ERA of 3.81 while striking out over 200 batters and reaching the 200-inning threshold. He also accumulated a shocking 6.0 bWAR (baseball-reference WAR), good for seventh in the majors and ahead of superstars like Max Scherzer and Jack Flaherty. What led to such a productive year for E-Rod?

One of the main factors was his avoidance of the injury bug. Every year Rodriguez has had to deal with an injury that sidelined him for a long period of time, and thus he had never thrown more than 138 innings prior to this season. In 2016, he dislocated his kneecap, and in 2017 he re-injured the same knee. Then, in 2018, he had a collision at first base and landed on the disabled list with a right ankle sprain. Rodriguez staying healthy for a full season this year allowed him to fulfill that long-assumed potential.

Another improvement for Eduardo has been the increased use of his sinker over the past two years. In 2017, E-Rod used his sinker just 4.6% of the time, but over the past two years has upped its usage rate to 12.6% and 15.8%, respectively. It has become one of his most useful pitches, being valued at 6.3 runs above average this past year. A pitch that Rodriguez phased out this year was his slider; hitters demolished this pitch in 2018, with a wOBA (weighted on-base average) of .419. Wisely, he threw his slider just 2.4% of the time this year, after using it over 7% last year.

A last contributing factor to E-Rod’s breakout year was the type of contact he allowed throughout the year. His groundball rate was all the way up to 48.5%, almost 10% higher than his previous career high. In addition, his hard hit % and exit velocity allowed was top 4% and top 6% in the majors, respectively.

What to Expect in 2020

Red Sox fans should expect more of the same from Eduardo next season. His 2018 season was equally as impressive as his 2019, outside of the freak collision injury. At just 26 years old, he has 2 more years of team control and much more room to grow. Look for the Red Sox to lean on E-Rod more than ever in 2020, especially if Chris Sale and David Price struggle with injuries.