Quinn Riley: Eduardo Rodriguez Was Baseball’s Unluckiest Pitcher in 2021. The Tigers Saw That, And Pounced on Unchallenging Prey

Eduardo Rodriguez and his tenure with the Boston Red Sox came to an end when the left-hander agreed to five-year, $77M terms with the Detroit Tigers. 

Now, was Chaim Bloom willing to pay that type of money for him? Probably not, and the number of years for a 28-year-old that just came off of myocarditis (heart inflammation) is a lot. But there’s a reason Detroit signed him. The Sox had also reportedly offered Rodriguez a qualifying offer before adding on a multi-year deal to it as well — Rodriguez rejected both. 

The left-hander was likely the unluckiest pitcher in baseball in 2021, as his 4.74 ERA across 32 outings (31 starts) did not at all represent the talent he displayed on the mound. 

His 2021 might have even been the best season of his career. 

Rodriguez posted a 3.32 FIP, 3.43 xFIP, 3.50 xERA, and a 3.65 SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) this past season, all of which are career-bests. Opponents also had a career-best .363 BABIP, .49 more than any other previous year.

On top of that, E-Rod also posted a career-best strikeout rate and walk rate. 

His Baseball Savant percentiles are also fairly similar to those in 2019, what many would consider his best year — he pitched a 3.81 ERA that season and was a win shy of 20 wins. Rodriguez ranked in the 90th percentile of average exit velocity and 87th percentile of hard-hit rate, while in ’19 he was in the 95th percentile in average exit velocity and 92nd percentile in hard-hit rate. Not much of a difference, especially when you factor in all of the numbers that he did better in during 2021. 

Rodriguez also greatly improved his walk rate in ’21, as his rate of 8.7% put him in just the 36th percentile. Compare that to a rate of seven flat this year, placing him in the 70th percentile. 

In early August, Sam Federman wrote that Rodriguez was one of baseball’s unluckiest pitchers ever. Now, at the time, E-Rod had a 5.33 ERA and was getting even unluckier than he was as mentioned before. But, despite an improved ERA and his season being ended on the right foot, Rodriguez was still very clearly baseball’s unluckiest pitcher of ’21. 

“I’m not surprised in the interest I had from the teams, and especially, from the Tigers,” said the lefty. “I go out there every five days. When you go out there every five days and do the best you can do, I feel like a lot of teams are going to be looking for you.

The southpaw’s Red Sox tenure will be overshadowed by those thinking his last year with Boston was atrocious. 

However, Rodriguez, someone whose pitch-placement will reflect the fact that he often pitches to contact, is not the greatest No. 3 starter for a team with questionable infield defense like the Sox. For an infield that has a struggling left side (defensively), and a right side that has the average Kiké Hernandez or Christian Arroyo, as well as a below-average first baseman in Bobby Dalbec and possibly (if he re-signs) somebody who’s still learning how to play the position, Kyle Schwarber, might not be worth $77M to a team like Boston. 

That being said, he was still luckless on the mound. 

“I (didn’t) talk to them about how many years and all that,” Rodriguez said. “I know they wanted me back there, but it’s time for me to move and start the new part of my life.”

Rodriguez will join a young Tigers rotation that is in the early stages of blossoming. The Tigers saw his ERA compared to his other stats he had, and they knew that the Sox wouldn’t be willing to pay the money to get him for a number of reasons. They quickly — and figuratively — pounced on the situation, as Boston, in their multi-year offer that was reportedly offered, likely didn’t even come close to $77M.

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Rodriguez said, smiling. “Do you prefer $18 (million) or $77 (million)?”

Rodriguez will give a Tigers rotation a veteran presence that’s needed, as Detroit looks to compete for the first time in years. Matthew Boyd, Casey Mize, and Spencer Turnbull all have their rotation spots practically guaranteed, while Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, and Tyler Alexander will fight for a fifth spot in the starting five.

“For me, I feel like it’s time for me to move and go to the next part of my life which is what I’m starting to do right now,” the southpaw added.

(Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

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Quinn Riley: Eduardo Rodriguez Was Baseball’s Unluckiest Pitcher in 2021. The Tigers Saw That, And Pounced on Unchallenging Prey