With Nelson Figueroa getting sent down to the minors a month ago, Aneury Rodriguez received the opportunity that he and the Astros had been waiting for: starting from the rotation. He has started six games since, and here we will take a look at his overall body of work thus far.
In his six starts, Rodriguez has put up these numbers: 30 1/3 IP, 33 H, 10 BB, 17 ER, 5 HRs allowed, and 20 Ks. This leaves him with an ERA of 5.04 and a WHIP of 1.42 which is not impressive to say the least. Though his WHIP is not incredibly high, it is shocking that his ERA is so high when you consider that he has not had too many problematic innings. What Rodriguez has fallen victim to is the “rough inning.”
Unlike Brandon Lyon, Rodriguez falters in innings not by allowing a string of hits, but by giving up the long ball. Aneury is a fly ball pitcher by trade, and there is nothing wrong with that. With a fly ball to ground ball ratio of 2.15, Rodriguez is going to let the balls fly where they may, but it is all about situational pitching when you run into trouble. With the 5 homers Rodriguez has allowed in 2011 as a starter, the following runs have scored with one swing of the bat: 3, 2, 3, 1, 2. It is understandable that batters are going to beat you on occasion from game to game, but giving up crooked numbers with just one pitch is going to lead to a short career in the majors. With 11 of his 17 ER coming on these poor situational homers, Rodriguez needs to learn how to make his pitch when it matters most.
This is worthy of note due to the demise of Brett Myers during this 2011 campaign. Last season, Brett dominated the NL as a pitcher that allowed hits but prevented batters from cashing in when ducks were on the pound. The opposite can be said this season with Myers sporting an ERA north of 5 due to his inability to keep the ball in the park when he runs into trouble.
Anuery, though, is in a unusual situation as a rule 5 draftee. The Astros decided prior to the start of the season that giving him a roster spot before he even had the opportunity to start was worth it due to his set of skills. I would imagine that if he continues to struggle, he will have a longer leash than most due to not wanting to return him to the Rays if he really has “it” stuff. Rodriguez is only 23, so letting him come into his own on this struggling Astros team is sensible if can be a solid 4th-in-the-rotation guy in the future.
If and when Rodriguez starts avoiding that problematic inning, he can be a guy that pitches 6-7 innings every start. Generally going around 5 innings of work every start, Rodriguez is averaging 84.33 pitches per appearance which says that he can easy go 6 innings and possibly a seventh at that pace if he is a having a good start. The Astros lack a deep bullpen, but have a couple of guys that can preserve a two inning lead, so having pitchers that can go deeper into games (the Anti-Happ) could be something the Astros look for as a key quality (enter Jordan Lyles stage left).
Rodriguez has pieced together some great starts this season allowing 2 runs or fewer in 3 of his 6 starts. In order for these quality starts to become reoccurring, the big inning and crooked homers will need to become a thing of the past, but that just comes with experience. Party on, Anuery; you have my stamp of approval.