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Fernando Rodney quietly hitting his stride

Over the past 30 days, Rodney has been incredibly dominant. Maybe it's time to cut the jokes and open our eyes.

Ed Zurga

Wasn't it supposed to be more adventurous than this? Nearly halfway through the season, the jokes about Fernando Rodney experiences, rollercoasters, and white-knuckling gasps haven't been much of anything at all, at least not recently. Instead what the Mariners have gotten is pure dominance.

Strip away the closer tag, and Rodney has still been one of the best relievers in baseball. His 0.9 fWAR ranks him 20th among all relievers, but fourteen of them have thrown more innings. Rodney's 2.09 ERA is hardly a fluke, backed by a 2.64 SIERA and 2.87 xFIP. He's missing lots of bats, his walks are down, and if anything, he's still been a little unfortunate with a .329 BABIP against.

2014 Rodney appears to be somewhat of a mashup between his incredibly dominant 2012 and his lesser, rocky beginnings 2013. His average velocity is down about a mile per hour, but he's still chucking 95+ with regularity. He's throwing his sinker/two-seam/whatever fastball 62% of the time, using his pure heat four-seam fastball to ramp things up to put hitters away (17% usage/average 97 mph with two strikes).

After Rodney's fourth straight appearance yesterday, his hot streak has reached incredible levels. While most of the attention has gone to Brad Miller in June, Rodney's last 30 days look pretty special - and familiar.

2012 9.16 1.81 0.6 2.13 2.67 57.90%
Last 30 days 9 1.5 0.75 1.59 2.12 62.10%

Rodney hasn't given up an extra-base hit since the May 13th meltdown against Tampa Bay. In fact, you really have to go back to April to find any other instance when Rodney really got hit hard or had major control issues. Since April 27th, Rodney has only walked 5 batters in 23 innings. He's thrown 67% strikes.

This is not the caricature of Fernando Rodney that the fans and media alike have drawn up. It's not even that dissimilar from his awesome second half last year, except this is even better. More strikes, less walks. Less extra-base hits, less runs. If this is Rodney hitting his stride, then maybe we can expect more of the same going forward.

In the past, I've sarcastically joked that Rodney just throws as hard as he can towards the middle of the plate and wherever it ends up is usually not in the middle of the plate, but sometimes on the black. That's almost certainly not true and it is most definitely not fair, and even if it is true, who cares? Rodney appears to be, early meltdowns included, one of the top closers around. His BB/9 of 3.26, clearly trending down, is still lower than Craig Kimbrel and Trevor Rosenthal. Though his past wild tendencies will forever loom, it isn't really a red flag anymore. He's locked in, and when he gets hit, he doesn't get hit hard.

Rodney appears to be a lock to be worth more than his $7 million salary this year, even if it was a semi-unpopular use of resources. This article isn't meant to guarantee that Rodney is returning back to his 2012 form, because he's probably not. But since Rodney became an effective reliever in 2012, he hasn't really let up once he starts to get in a groove. 2012 lasted all year, and he began to cruise around this time last year. What if Rodney has already hit his stride this season? Maybe it's time to stash the fastpass and find another rollercoaster to ride. Rodney has been super duper dominant and he's become a joy to watch instead of a impending coronary. Time will tell if it lasts, but appreciate the smooth ride over the past month. Watch out for falling arrows.