I have your little game here figured out Rodney, it was only a matter of time before I figured out too. It's a very simple game that he's playing here really, why do you think his performance has been so outstanding these past few series? Is it because of the change of delivery/mechanics fix that Butcher put down on Rodney? That is a part of what's fixing Rodneys game, but it's not the biggest component. Rodney is using fire and drive, only because he wants his closing job back, and he wants it bad.
What a guy, not only does he drastically improve the closer role, he improves the guy he replaced.Fernando Rodney is a veteran closer, when you're a veteran that's not very good and vilified by your fans the last thing you want is a young rookie dethroning your position. Sadly for Rodney, that's exactly what happened to him, Angel fans didn't like him, he got demoted, and Walden got the closing job. Not only has Walden stolen the closer role, he stole the fans hearts, something Rodney has never been able to do. Now Rodney is forced to sit back and watch while some 24 year old kid lights up radar guns all across America while he sits back and watches. Oh wait, he's not watching, he's SETTING HIM UP. Not only did Rodney lose his job to this kid, now he's working as his set-up man. The set-up man is typically the protege of the closer, so this is obviously a major blow to Rodney's ego. Apparently Rodney isn't going to sit back and keep doing what he's doing (i.e sucking), he's going to get that closer spot back, even if it means....*gulp*......being GOOD!
Last year I saw Rodney pull what he was pulling at the beginning of this season. Remember when Fuentes went down and Rodney stepped into the role and was absolutely lights out? Remember how he hit 5 saves in a row and every Angel fan demanded that he take over the closer role? Remember how bad he stunk it up once Fuentes was shipped off to Minnesota for the Jolly Green Giant? At first I figured it was a coinky dink, and then I had a revelation after Walden dethroned him and his performance stepped up. He only performed well because he wanted to take over the closer role, and once he got the role he got comfortable with his job and let his performance slip. Sounds about right huh, especially when you look at Rodney at the beginning of the season and after Walden was named closer. Let us take a look at some interesting stats for a moment here.
- Pre Walden Rodney threw 1.1 innings, blew a save, walked 4 batters, struck out two, and gave up three runs.
- Post Walden Rodney has to this day, thrown 6.1 innings, allowed 2 hits, struck out 4, walked 2, all to the tune of ZERO runs.
- Just to put things in perspective, last year Set-Up man Rodney threw 11.2 innings, struck out 9, walked 7, allowed 4 hits and gave up 4 runs. Not too bad huh?
- Closer Rodney, in 11.1 IP, walked 3, gave up 18 hits, struck out 15, hit 3 batters, and gave up 9 runs and blew 4 saves.
See a disturbing trend there? The only thing that keeps Rodney at the top of his game, which I have to honestly say is pretty good, is the fiery competition amongst his fellow relievers. The only reason Rodney is doing so well is because he's trying his hardest to win back his old closer job! It makes a ton of sense once you think about it. Rodney is trying to show up all of Walden's appearances with some fantastic appearances of his own. We can all agree that he still needs to work on his location and vulnerability to the walk, but what we've seen so far is promising. Almost makes you wonder if he could translate that performance to the closer role. Obviously not, he'll keep it strong for a handful of appearances then go back to Fernando Rodney of old.
Let's go off track for a second here and talk about Dan Haren and Weaver. We've all seen what they've been doing so far into the season, popping eyes and setting records. We all know they are naturally good, but did you expect them to THIS good? Probably not, you probably didn't even expect them to keep going at it for this long have you? What's keeping them going is competition, and no, not competition with the other team (though that helps), it's competition between themselves. In an interview Dan Haren said he sent a text to Weaver stating something along the lines of "I hate having to follow you," It was obviously jokingly of course, but then you realize that the start of this season has been an open competition between the two. They are constantly attempting to one up another, Weaver goes 7 IP for no ER on Opening Day, Haren goes 7 IP while giving up one run. Weaver sets career records of 8 IP/15 K's/1 ER, Haren follows by throwing a near no-hitter, 9 IP with 1 hit 2 walks and no runs. Seems like having some healthy competition in the clubhouse pushes these two players to new grounds. Almost seems like it's done the same for Rodney right?
Doubt it, his competition seems more vengeful then what Weaver and Haren have. He's obviously bitter about losing his job, so it doesn't seem like its friendly in the least bit. In fact, it looks like Rodney trying to upstage Walden has pushed Walden to outperform Rodney at every step. Seems great to have a closer that refuses to give up his job to the has been, while the has been refuses to let the closer sit comfortably with his new job. Its not like Walden has had it easy peasy lemon squeezey this whole time, just Sunday Walden had a tough outing against the ChiSox and put himself in a huge pressure situation. Walden opened up the inning by giving up a double followed by a walk. He worked with his mechanics and kept his composure on route to leaving the bases loaded and getting the save. Walden absolutely delivered in high pressure, and I couldn't be happier with that.
Remember what Rodney did in a high pressure situation this season? Oh yeah, he decided to walk the bases loaded against KC and let them tie up the game, which led to a ridiculous extra inning fiasco. Rodney failed to deliver hard, but it wasn't just that he blew the save that drove the final nail in his coffin, it's the fact that the bullpen was thrust into the game in the 2nd inning and fought HARD to keep the Angels in the game. Rodney's blown save stretched the bullpen so dry that the Angels had to stretch Bulger out 3 innings that day, and he did the absolute best he could to keep the Angels in that game. Sure he gave up a walk-off homer to Matt Treanor of all people, he also threw north of 50 pitches. When was the last time you've seen a middle reliever pitch that long and keep it all together?
If, God forbid if Scioscia decides to give Rodney his job back, don't expect to see him to keep pitching lights out. The only thing keeping him good is the competition between him and Walden, which I also happen to find very entertaining. Let's just hope he doesn't get his closer role back, God forbid he single-handedly keeps us away from the World Series.