I don't like Francisco Rodriguez. I don't think this has ever been a secret. I don't like him because he's an Angel, I don't like him because he's a good Angel, and I don't like him because that little dance he does when he wraps up a save seems like the sort of thing the evil gorillas would've done in Congo after a successful bit of smashy-smash. For me, he is the pinnacle of annoying, and I dread each and every opportunity he has to come into a game.
I don't like saves. I don't think this has ever been a secret. I don't like them because they're retarded.
But those two things aside...look, it's easy to deride what Rodriguez is doing. For one thing, he's going to break a record in a stupid statistic. For another, he's doing it on a team that's overachieving. He's also doing it despite having arguably the worst season of his career. And finally, it seems like he's doing it with saves like tonight's, where he inherits a situation that's really rather difficult to blow and easily applies the finishing touches.
Yet despite all of this, the one thing you can't say about Rodriguez's season is that he hasn't earned his save total. Yes, he gets the occasional cheapie like tonight. But every closer gets one of those every now and then. And if you take a look at the Fangraphs win probability numbers, you'll notice that Rodriguez actually leads all Major League relievers in average leverage when entering a game. Put another way, Rodriguez has - on average - inherited the most difficult situations of any reliever in baseball. His gmLI of 2.20 stands at the top, with only Brian Wilson and Joe Nathan also sporting figures over two.
That's pretty impressive. Saves are stupid, but someone has to hold the record, so I'm happy that Rodriguez is doing it in as "acceptable" a fashion as is really possible for a closer to manage. Better him than, say, Brandon Lyon. Rodriguez has had to face the most challenging situations in the league, and he's remained extremely effective, so while this isn't the perfect measure, he probably deserves to be leading the pack. Just because I don't like to admit it doesn't make it any less true.
In the end, once I get over the misery of watching him probably celebrate #58 against the Mariners, I might even come to be happy about this. It's Rodriguez's contract year, and the record all but guarantees an extraordinary deal. An extraordinary deal for a guy coming off the worst swinging strike rate of his career. Whoever pays for Rodriguez will be getting a good reliever, but they'll be giving him entirely too much money, because they'll be paying him for what he's done instead of what he'll do. If it's the Angels, great. That's another big contract they'll come to regret. If it's someone else, great, he's not on the Angels anymore. The only possible way this could come back to bite us is if the Mariner front office were to panic about JJ, but given what management has said about the state of the team, that seems incredibly unlikely. So we're left in a situation where it's annoying in the short-term, but once you get past that, it's really win/win.
That's how I'm going to choose to deal with this. If I had my druthers, Rodriguez would be nowhere near the saves record, but he is, and he's earned it, so good for him. I stopped caring about the Angels once it became readily apparent that the Mariners were bad. Here's to that contract he's going to sign. Barring something shameful, on that day the sun will shine, and the sun will shine bright.