Atlanta Braves: Has This Trade Target Been Using Sticky Stuff?

It's all baseball - and starts in the Atlanta Braves farm system. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
It's all baseball - and starts in the Atlanta Braves farm system. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

We all know that the Atlanta Braves could use some relief help at the trade deadline

If it was not apparent yet that the Atlanta Braves need help in their relief mix, it was on full display on June 27th. The Atlanta Braves just blew another lead in the 7th inning, and it was versus the New York Mets, who currently lead the division.

It is safe to say, that if the Atlanta Braves want a chance to win, they need more than just relief depth. They need a high leverage, top tier, closer type pitcher.  They need a guy like Richard Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Richard Rodriguez (Pirates)

Over the past few months, one relief arm has emerged as a top target for any team that is looking to upgrade. Richard Rodriguez has looked this year like a type of closer that will make any team better.

In 30.1 innings pitched, his surface numbers have been absolutely insane:

·      1.6 bWAR
·      1.78 ERA
·      0.692 WHIP
·      10 saves
·      27 strikeouts
·      9.00 strikeout to walk ratio
·      0.3 HR per 9 innings
·      229 ERA+ (129 percent better than league average)

Any team would want this type of production on their team, every single year. This is the type of production big market teams fork out large contracts for.

Expectancy stats

Whenever a team trades for a player, it is not so they can boast about what the player has done in the past, but what they will provide the team in the future.

One tool to look at that is good to use, when trying to decide if a player is over or under performing, is expectancy stats (AKA sabermetrics). According to Baseball Savant, Richard Rodriguez looks fantastic in these areas as well:

·      Expected weighted On Base Average (xwOBA) – Top 97% of MLB
·      Expected ERA (xERA) – Top 97%
·      Expected Batting Average (xBA) – Top 91%
·      Expected Slugging% Against (xSLG) – Top 79%

Again, these are the types of numbers that would make any team better. Based on the surface numbers, and the underlying metrics, combined with the Pirates being virtual locks as sellers, it would seem that Richard Rodriguez would be on the top of the Braves’ wish list.

But wait, has his appeal to the Atlanta Braves started to fade?

As most of us know, MLB has started a massive crackdown on foreign substances in pitching. The “sticky stuff” that has been talked about is used to help pitchers grip the ball better, resulting in faster spin rates.

Since the crackdown, we have seen decreases in spin rates across the league. According to Tom Verducci in his article for Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez’s 4 seam fastball spin rate has dropped by 232 RPM. Only 7 pitcher’s rates have dropped more drastically.

How has that affected his expected statistics? Quite drastically:

If we look at Rodriguez’s xwOBA, which for the overall year has been in the top 97%, we see a massive drop.

In fact, In his past 50 plate appearances against, his xwOBA has dropped to right at league average at approximately 50%.

Is it a coincidence that the spin rate drastically dropped and that his xwOBA followed by dropping a large amount? Odds do not point in that direction.

Next. Mike Soroka is done for the year. dark

The numbers seem to point to Rodriguez using a foreign substance while pitching. This is not saying for certain that he has. However, this risk is a factor that the Atlanta Braves should factor in if they plan on offering the Pirates a trade package for Richard Rodriguez.