CINCINNATI – Prior to yesterday’s game, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle noted an issue plaguing the Pirates’ starting pitchers early this season.
“We’re not getting away with mistakes on the mound. Every fastball that was up in the zone got covered the Brewers,” Hurdle said. “Wandy’s mistakes haven’t been missed to date.”Rodriguez’s mistakes weren’t missed last night as some middle-of-the-plate, high-80s fastballs were launched for home runs on Tuesday. The Reds touched up Rodriguez for three two-run home runs in last night’s suspended game.
This is troubling for the Pirates as Rodriguez had pitched well this spring and they are counting on quality innings from him to help absorb the losses of AJ Burnett and Jameson Taillon.
Before he was injured last season, Rodriguez had excellent command of his fastball, moving it ease to various quadrants of the strike zone. While Rodriguez got ahead in the count and threw strikes last night – he began with strike one to the first 13 batters he faced – but he also missed out in the middle of the plate. But every pitcher is going to miss with location at times so perhaps part of the problem is Rodriguez has less margin for error as his velocity is down 2 mph early this season.
According to this Fangraphs article, Charlie Morton and Volquez have seen two of the biggest velocity drops among NL starters this April.
Now it should also be noted that Rodriguez has struggled his entire career when pitching on the road. That might be tied to the fact that road pitchers are less likely to get borderline calls and Rodriguez is the kind of pitcher who needs such calls. If the strike zone shrinks and Rodriguez is forced to more often attack the center of the strike zone that’s a big problem for an arm with an 87 mph fastball.
I suppose it’s possible Jeff Locke gets a chance to take Rodriguez’s rotation spot but the Pirates are also paying Rodriguez a significant portion of payroll dollars, so I think Rodriguez gets a chance to iron out his issues. Toward that end, a big first step would be improved fastball command and a 1-2 mph bump in fastball velocity.
POSTCARD FROM NORTHERN KENTUCKY
So, I’ve finally made it:
— White Castle (@WhiteCastle) April 15, 2014
… which was in reference to this tweet:
First White Castle I've come across in a Marriott parking lot pic.twitter.com/mZLQSVFEPQ
— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) April 15, 2014
It should be noted my hotel is within walking distance to not only a White Castle but a Waffle House and Skyline Chili. Trifecta.