The 2008 offseason came, and out of all the suitors, K-Rod signed with the New York Mets for $37 million over 3 years plus incentives. Although the Mets paid good money for K-Rod, he was not the same lights-out closer, only decreasing his saves total from 62 to 35 in 2009, then 25 in 2010. One would think that K-Rod came to New York and blew a large amount of saves. He did not. He matched his mediocre blown saves total of seven in 2008 during his first season with the Mets. K-Rod also left a 100-win Angels team in 2008 to come to a 79-win Mets team in 2009, meaning he had fewer and fewer save opportunities as the years went on. Let us take a look at the numbers.
According to Brooks Baseball, K-Rod averaged a 95 mph fastball while with the Angels, but when he was with the Mets, K-Rod’s fastball dropped to an average of nearly 90 mph. His ERA shot up from 2.24 in 2008 to 3.71 in 2009. In 2009, K-Rod’s K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) dropped from 10.14 to 9.66, his BB/9 (walks per nine innings) jumped from 4.48 to 5.03 and his K percentage (total percentage of batters faced that strikeout) dropped from 26.7 percent to 24.8 percent. Although these numbers are startling, K-Rod bounced back in 2010 and increased his K/9 back to 10.52, dropped his BB/9 to almost a career low of 3.30, and his K percentage back up to 28.4 percent, which was better than his record breaking season of 2008. So what happened to K-Rod’s value?
In 2011, K-Rod’s contract with the Mets was nearly a close, and they were nowhere near contention, so they were backed into a corner. The Mets dealt K-Rod to the Brewers for cash and two low-level prospects. One would think from the numbers that the Brewers were getting an established closer, but that was not the case. K-Rod had a horrendous 2012 season, converting only three saves and matching his career high of seven blown saves. K-Rod signed a one-year deal with the Brewers on April 17, 2013, and pitched fairly well for the Brewers until the deadline when he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles. However, with John Axford falling from grace, the Brewers needed a closer, so they signed K-Rod.
Well into the 2014 season, and K-Rod is pitching amazingly. He is leading the league in games finished with 14 and in saves with 11. His K/9 is 13.50, BB/9 is 1.93, a career low, and his K% percentage is 42.9 percent. Although his fastball is hitting the catcher’s mitt at only 89.5 mph, K-Rod has thrown his changeup 7 percent more and decreased the percentage of times he throws his curveball from 21.4 percent to 11.7 percent. K-Rod has reinvented himself, and the numbers show that. K-Rod’s Z-Swing percentage (percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone) is down from 65.4 percent to 59.6 percent, which means more batters are swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone. Another great stat that explains K-Rod’s dominance this season is his O-Contact percentage (percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone) is down from 61.1 percent to 36.7 percent. More batters are chasing K-Rod’s nasty changeup and are missing it at an above average rate.
The old K-Rod who would throw a 95 mph fastball to dominate hitters is gone. However, the new K-Rod is here, and he is just as good. He may not use his fastball to dominate hitters anymore, but if hitters don’t pay attention, he will throw a changeup that will have hitters swinging out of their shoes.