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Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney could be in midst of historic season

After two rough seasons in Anaheim, Fernando Rodney is putting up numbers that could land him in exclusive company and have made him among the AL’s most valuable relievers.

Associated Press

After two rough seasons in Anaheim, Fernando Rodney is putting up numbers that could land him in exclusive company and have made him among the AL’s most valuable relievers.

RHP Fernando Rodney does some things to make you notice him, such as the odd voices, bird calls and dances he does for entertainment in the clubhouse and the imaginary arrow he shoots after each save. But what's really noteworthy are the amazing numbers he has been accumulating on the mound. Like, historically significant numbers. If Rodney were to maintain this level of performance over the final 7½ weeks, he would be in elite company. Only two relievers since the advent of the save in 1969 have had a season with 30 saves and an ERA under 1.00.

Elite company

Year Pitcher, team SV/OP ERA G IP ER HR BB K W-L
1990 Dennis Eckersley, A's 48/50 0.61 63 73.1 19 5 11 70 4-2
2006 Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox 35/41 0.92 59 68.1 7 3 13 75 4-2
2012 Fernando Rodney, Rays* 34/35 0.85 53 52.2 5 2 8 51 2-1

* Through Friday

Rays nab such a deal

The Rays have had some good success with low-cost under-the-radar free-agent signings — maybe more so than with some of their high-priced acquisitions.

The gold standard probably always will be Carlos Peña — the 2007 version, when he signed a minor-league deal and went on to hit 46 homers and drive in 121 runs. INF/OF Eric Hinske, RHP Joaquin Benoit and RHP Al Reyes are among some others.

And now, Fernando Rodney.

Coming off two mutually frustrating and disappointing seasons in Anaheim — except for the fact that he made $11 million — Rodney, 35, was looking for an opportunity to pitch and re-establish himself. The Rays, always searching for potential under-market bargains, were interested. And it sure looks like they hit it big.

Rodney, this season, is making only $1.75 million — not even among the 10 highest paid on the team — and the Rays have an option on him for next season for $2.5 million (or a $250,000 buyout). So they could have two years of Rodney for $4.25 million.

Record performances

With 49 games left, Rodney has a good shot at the team single-season saves record:

Year Pitcher Saves

2010 Rafael Soriano 45

1999 Roberto Hernandez 43

2005 Danys Baez 41

2012 Fernando Rodney 34*

2000 Roberto Hernandez 32

2004 Danys Baez 30

2008 Troy Percival 28

1998 Roberto Hernandez 26

2003 Lance Carter 26

2007 Al Reyes 26

2011 Kyle Farnsworth 25

* through Thursday

Quantifying quality

Even with some of the advanced metrics it can be difficult to determine the value of a closer. Rays manager Joe Maddon, who likes a good sabermetric stat as much as a sauvignon blanc, said he considers Rodney's value as much by how he established order to the bullpen.

A few numbers that stand out:

0.78 WHIP: Walks and hits allowed per inning pitched; lowest among all AL pitchers (minimum 40 innings)

3.70 Win Probability Added: Per baseball-reference.com, as it sounds, suggesting he has added nearly four wins, second among AL pitchers to Cleveland's Vinnie Pestano.

2.4 Wins Above Replacement: A similar calculation, based on wins he adds vs. a generic replacement; third among AL relievers behind Pestano and Baltimore's Pedro Strop.

Rays rumblings

ESPN.com's David Schoenfield — in a good way — described the Rays as "the annoying little brother. The canker sore of the AL East. The itch between your toes. They just don't go away." … Doesn't appear C Yorvit Torrealba, released by Texas after hitting .236 with a .643 OPS as a reserve, is considered enough of an upgrade over what the Rays have to be pursued. … If the Israel team gets through the September World Baseball Classic qualifying, OF Sam Fuld is interested in playing in the spring tourney. … Annual August question: How is it again that regular-season Rays games get bumped off 620-AM radio for Bucs preseason games? … The Caracas team is interested in signing Leslie Anderson, hitting .309-11-46 at Triple-A Durham, for the winter season. … ESPN's Buster Olney currently has David Price third in the AL Cy Young race, behind L.A.'s Jered Weaver and Detroit's Justin Verlander.

Got a minute? Sam Fuld

Something you're scared of? Heights. Mainly bridges, tops of buildings, mountains; I can handle planes okay.

Karaoke song if you had to? I'd need a teleprompter, and I could probably do something like Journey, Don't Stop Believin'.

Favorite TV show? Seinfeld.

Late-night snack? Peanuts — dry-roasted, salted.

Celebrity crush? Can you make it celebrity man-crush? Matt Damon.

Rays Tales: Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney could be in midst of historic season 08/11/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 11, 2012 5:13pm]
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