The new closer matchup

Now that the Mets have their man, signing RP Francisco Rodriguez to a three-year deal with a fourth year vesting option, it’s fair to compare the two premier finishers in the NL East. Let’s break this down and see how they stack up against one another with some career stats.

Lidge Rodriguez
Birthdate 12/23/1976 1/7/1982
Contract 3/$37.5M 3/$37M
Option 2012 club 2012 vesting
IP 470.1 451.2
K 653 587
K/9 12.5 11.7
BB 205 198
BB/9 3.9 4
WHIP 1.2 1.11
HR/9 0.77 0.68
Sv/Opp 164/191 208/241
Sv% 85.90% 86.30%
WPA 15.59 18.6
FIP 2.9 2.84

Over the course of their careers, the numbers are pretty similar. Just looking at those, you could say that Rodriguez has an overall edge, helped mostly by Lidge’s subpar 2006 season.

There is some concern about Rodriguez, however. Have a look at this:

K/9 2005 2006 2007 2008
Lidge 13.12 12.48 11.82 11.94
Rodriguez 12.16 12.08 12.03 10.14

Even going back to 2004, K-Rod’s strikeout prowess has been steadily decreasing. Lidge, for his age, still has incredibly overpowering stuff, helped out mostly but a lot of swing-and-misses on sliders that fall out of the strike zone. That Lidge was nearly six years older than K-Rod in each of those seasons make this all the more impressive.

Rodriguez’s K/BB ratio has also steadily decreased over the past three seasons (3.50, 2.65, 2.26), and his opponent’s batting average has been on the rise over that same period (.202, .208, .219). The numbers are still good, no doubt, but you can’t deny the existence of a negative trend.

Even more concerning is Rodriguez’s loss of fastball velocity at a young age. In 2006, at age 24, his fastball velocity averaged just under 95 MPH for an entire season. Last year, it averaged just under 92 MPH. A three MPH drop at age 26 is certainly going to raise some eyebrows, especially if these things continue along trendlines. Additionally, even though he had a record number of saves – an overrated stat in its own right, despite being the reason K-Rod managed to get more Cy Young recognition than Mariano Rivera – K-Rod’s negative WPA total was the highest of his career.

He may still be a good reliever, but the Mets just signed what could, essentially, be a ticking time bomb.

Hey, not like Phils fans will complain about that.

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Filed under Offseason 2008-09

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