“Keep the ball down, and you won’t get your feelins hurt.”
— Adam Morgan
————LHP Joely Rodriguez is a 23-year old starting pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He came to the Phillies’ organization from the Pirates organization in the off-season in exchange for lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo. “J-Rod” appeared in 30 games with AA-Altoona last season, starting in 21 of them. Bastardo wasn’t really part of the Phillies’ long-term plans–not saying they couldn’t use him right now–due to his age and arbitration status.
There were a couple things the Phillies really liked about J-Rod. Number one among them, his ability to generate ground-ball contact: Last season, Joely’s GO/AO (Ground Out to Air Out ratio) was 1.68. For his career, that ratio is 1.73, as he’s had several seasons where he was over 2.0–twice as many ground-ball outs as fly-ball outs. Another note about his professional career so far: He usually has about twice as many strikeouts as walks.
Unfortunately, that’s not what’s happening this season thus far. Over his first five starts at AAA with the IronPigs, he’s walked 17 against only 9 strikeouts. His GO/AO is down to 1.25 and his ERA has ballooned to 7.43. In a weak IronPigs rotation, he’s the weakest.But hold on. I’m willing to give him a few more starts. Hopefully pitching coach Ray Burris is telling him to keep the ball down to try to get him back to his previous GO/AO ratio. At the same time, I also hope he’s being told to keep the ball around the strike zone. Yes, sometimes you’re going to get hit. Sometimes those ground balls are going to find their way to the outfield. However, as long as you don’t have the bases juiced with players who have walked, you still have some chances to get out of it without surrendering runs–or crooked numbers.
In speaking with Coach Burris and Manager Dave Brundage before the season, I heard nothing but glowing reports of Joely’s work ethic, approach, and mental makeup. Coach Burris worked with Joely in the Arizona Fall League this past season, and was consulted during the trade process with Pittsburgh. I don’t see any reason that J-Rod shouldn’t be able to cut down on the walks, get ground-ball outs, and be more successful over his next 5 starts, compared with his last 5.
And, if not, a move to the bull-pen to replace the player he was traded for might not be a bad alternative. Perhaps he could simplify things, become more consistent, and throw a little harder–all while cutting down on the walks.
See you at the park,