Ask anyone who deserves to win the AL Cy Young award and the results are mostly split between Justin Verlander and David Price, with some votes cast in for Jered Weaver as well.
All three are legit contenders for the most prestigious pitching award in the game, but the fact that no one has mentioned Fernando Rodney as even a candidate is baffling. Voters have advocated heavily for Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman in the National League, and what Rodney is doing is every bit as impressive as those two.
The job of a closer is to record saves and not give up runs – in that order. Rodney has a 0.62 ERA in 72.1 innings pitched and he’s converted 46 of 48 saves. That puts him one inning away from matching Dennis Eckersley’s legendary 1990 campaign for the best single-season ERA with at least 50 innings pitched. (And ironically, if Rodney throws one more scoreless frame, both he and Eckersley will have exactly 73.1 innings pitched and five earned runs allowed).
Rodney has been extremely erratic his whole career, posting an ERA in the 4.00s for each of his last five seasons. What has happened this year is nearly unprecedented, as he went from walking more batters than he struck out in 2011 to striking out 4.5 times as many as he has walked this year.
Rodney even gave up two runs in a single outing earlier this season, so since June 16, his numbers are flat out unbelievable: He has a 0.21 ERA in 42.2 innings since June 16. He’s hasn’t given up an earned run in his last 20 outings. Since that June 16 date, he’s allowed just 22 hits and only two of them for extra bases. That works out to a .153 opponents batting average, a .181 slugging percentage, and a .397 OPS. He’s struck out over a batter per inning and he’s converted 28 of 29 saves during that span.
And considering the Tampa Bay Rays (who took a gamble when they signed him to just a one-year, $2 million deal this past offseason) are only two games back now in the AL wild card after eight straight wins, it’s pretty apparent how much of an effect Rodney has had on the team. There’s no way the Rays would be where they are now without Rodney, even if he does look ridiculous with the quirky way he wears his hat to the side every time he pitches.
Whether he will duplicate his success or even be close to this good again remains to be determined but it would be a shame if the Cy Young voting were to go by without Rodney at least getting the recognition he deserves.