Can Lloyd Keep Handing Fernando Rodney The Ball In Good Conscience?


Let me say on the record that I, for the most part, trust Lloyd McClendon, and think he is a great manager. Also, the way he shows faith in struggling players is frustrating at times, but will pay off in the long run. With that said, his faith in Fernando Rodney has gone too far. 

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He just blew a save that cost Mike Montgomery his first win, and on the season as a whole, he has been absolutely horrific. There is just no way to spin the numbers in Rodney’s favor. Among the 220+ MLB relief pitchers with at least 15 IP, only three have a worse ERA and eight have a higher WHIP. Batters are hitting .305/.389/.500 against Rodney. To put that in perspective, last year’s unanimous AL MVP, Mike Trout, hit .296/.383/.542. Not much difference between the two slashlines.

Among the 11 Mariner relievers who have appeared in games for Seattle this season, Rodney is 6th in walk %, 10th in BAA, 10th in OBP against, 10th in SLG against, 10th in WHIP and 11th in ERA. Dominic Leone, Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina have been demoted to AAA Tacoma despite far superior numbers to Rodney.

And I know it has only been a little more than one-fourth of the way through the season, but the same thing could be said of the FRE in 2014 as well. Of the 12 relievers, Rodney ranked 9th in BAA, 10th in ERA, 11th in OBP against, 11th in walk % and 12th in WHIP.

Apr 16, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) reacts to giving up the game winning run to the Texas Rangers during the ninth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Rangers defeated the Mariners 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This begs the question, if Fernando Rodney isn’t Seattle’s best relief pitcher, or anywhere close to it, why is he still the closer? It could be because of Lloyd’s aforementioned loyalty. But the Mariners’ skipper is also smart, I don’t think he would let a guy flounder for this long without altering his role. Maybe there is pressure from Jack Zduriencik or ownership to get the $14 million acquisition into the game. If that’s the case, shame on whoever is making that decision.

The only other possible reason for keeping Rodney out there in the ninth is that Lloyd doesn’t see any options. Carson Smith has been nearly untouchable in his young career with a 0.89 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, .116/.199/.168 opponent slashline and 10.68 K/9 in 30.1 career innings. But the Mariners have messed with the development of many young players in recent history by putting too much on their plate too early in their careers. Leaving Smith in the set-up role and the “get-us-out-of-a-jam” role makes sense.

Danny Farquhar would have been the leading candidate if not for sucking in 2015. Charlie Furbush is having a fantastic season, but as one of only two lefties in the ‘pen, it would be wise to keep in for situational pitching, and the same goes for Joe Beimel. Tom Wilhelmsen is a great option, but he is also the Mariners’ best long-relief option. That leaves Mark Lowe, who has been fantastic in his situational role in 2015, but inconsistent over his 10-year career. 

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None of those options are all that appealing. My recommendation: closer-by-committee. Throw Wilhelmsen out there if he hasn’t had any long-relief duties in a while, Furbush or Beimel if there are lefties coming up, with Mark Lowe and Carson Smith rotating in as well.

Last year, the Mariners missed out on the playoffs by one game. With the offseason they had, it seemed like a no-brainer that they would be playing in October in 2015, but they are struggling to play .500 ball thus far. It’s very possible that their 2015 post-season hopes could come down to October 4, against Oakland. Every game is crucial, and with Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz well into their 30’s, every season is crucial. With the stakes of 2015 so high, the Mariners can’t afford to be giving the ball to Fernando Rodney.

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