Well White Sox fans, we lost the Crosstown Cup. Those losses hurt me more than any other loss this season will, but just remember, we have to trust the process.
Recently, I’ve seen a lot more hate than usual surrounding Carlos Rodón. In case you missed it, he pitched on Tuesday, gave up 4 runs, but struck out 11 in just 4 IP. Facebook commenters were at it again, claiming he was a bust and just isn’t very good:
Rodón gets on my nerves
I wouldn’t be mad if Rodón was traded. Never been high on him when I saw his delivery.
He’s hardly a hit, yet. I’m concerned – pitchers who walk batters at the rate he does are rarely successful
His career WHIP is 1.416, I’m guessing that’s the worst in baseball.
And, finally, my personal favorite: I’m Rodone with Rodón!
Fun fact: while Rodón’s walk rate is 3.9, Randy Johnson’s was 3.3. Now, obviously I’m not trying to compare him to Randy Johnson, but walking 3+ batters in your career on average doesn’t mean you can’t have success. So, while we recover from a tough series in our rebuilding process, I’m going to make the case for Carlos Rodón, highlighting why I believe it is far too soon to give up on the 2014 #3 draft pick.
The first argument I’m going to make is the one people hate the most: Carlos Rodón was rushed to the majors. People are apparently tired of hearing that argument, because at one Facebook commenter pointed out, he now has a total of 383 professional innings pitched. But let’s take a look at Rodón’s stats in the minors before he was called up to make his major league debut, as well as his first season in the majors:
Don’t get me wrong, for a 21-22 year old, these aren’t bad numbers. However, he only threw 34.1 innings and only made 5 AAA starts! In addition, these numbers show signs of deeper problems that Rodón has yet to be able to permanently fix. For example, look at his WHIP. The major league average (per 180 IP) is 1.346. What this WHIP displays is the same lack of command we see from his high BB/9 that has been on display since the beginning. These command issues are the type of thing pitchers work on in the minors. To compare, let’s look at the minor league careers and first MLB seasons for two of the best lefties in the game, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale:
Kershaw was younger than Rodón when he was drafted, and it is clear that the Dodgers were in no hurry to rush him to the majors (compare how they treated him versus how they treated Julio Urías, who made his debut at just 19 years old). In addition, in 2006, Clayton Kershaw only pitched in rookie ball. The best left handed starter in the major leagues spent more innings in ROOKIE BALL than Carlos Rodón spent in all levels in the minors?! Still don’t think he was rushed?
Naturally, I’m sure someone looked at these graphs and said, “Wait! Sale pitched even FEWER minor league innings than Rodón!” So, what about Sale? Although he pitched even less than Rodón did in the minors, Sale came up to the MLB and pitched out of the bullpen for a season and a half. He had the chance to get his feet wet and refine his pitches before taking on a starting role. Carlos, on the other hand, only had three relief outings and two strong pitches; to this day, he is developing a changeup, something that can be very hard to do while at the major league level.
Development is important, as we’ve learned over this past year. The White Sox were going nowhere in 2015 when Rodón made his debut; there was no reason to cut off his development time for a major league team that had no direction. There is a certain amount of learning a player must do at the minor league level before being ready to handle the pressures of the majors – this is why we didn’t see Moncada this year until late July. However, Rodón was denied the same opportunity for development and growth.
My second argument is that, even with the lack of development, Rodón has the repertoire to become a high-quality major league starter. Per Fangraphs, Rodon’s SwStr% (swinging strike percentage; percentage of times a strike is swung and missed at) is 12.2% this year, and 10.3% for his career. These numbers would place Rodon in the top 30 in the league. His Z-Contact % (percentage of times a batter makes contact on a pitch in the strike zone) is 77%, and 85.9% in his career. 77% would have him #1 in the majors, and his career numbers also put him in the top 30. In other words, Rodon has proven that he has the ability to miss bats. An increase in the amount of strikes he throws would result in less batters being able to sit on the ball and drive it (as Willson Contreras did on Tuesday).
Finally, it’s important to remember that any improvement will require changes. Any former player reading this will understand that struggle at the beginning when your coach changed something about your swing. The same goes for pitchers. It will take time for Rodon to implement any changes he makes, especially considering he has been dealing with injury issues and did not really have a Spring Training period during which he could work on his pitches or command.
Sox fans, we should be getting used to this now, but we need to continue to be patient. Just like with Moncada, Anderson, and the others on the way, Rodón is going to need some time to grow. For any younger baseball fans (such as myself), Rodón and others are about our age, trying to do what we could never imagine ourselves doing right now. Give Rodón the same level of patience you’re willing to give to the rest of the squad, because he has shown flashes of brilliance before. Always keep in mind that if hitting a baseball or trying to throw one past a hitter was so easy, all of us would be doing it at a high level right now.