Starting pitcher Dereck Rodriguez was a big disappointment for the San Francisco Giants in 2019. Can he return to form in 2020?
Simply put, the 2019 season was not pretty for Rodriguez and the numbers reflect as much.
So what should fans expect from him in 2020?
In 16 starts and 12 relief appearances, he went of 6-11 with a 5.64 ERA and 1.46 WHIP in 99 innings of work, losing his rotation spot and eventually earning a demotion to Triple-A.
Compare that to his breakout rookie season in 2018 when he went 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 118.1 innings en route to a 2.5 WAR season.
As D-Rod’s struggles became clear early in the season, some pointed to command issues as a cause for his issues on the mound. His walk rate climbed from 2.7 BB/9 in 2018 to 3.3 BB/9 last year.
That’s not an astronomical jump, but walking a few more batters can lead to mayhem, especially when you leave the ball over the plate as much as Rodriguez did last season.
Heading into the year, some questioned whether 2018 was a fluke for D-Rod based on his low strikeout rate of 6.8 K/9 from 2018. That already low number dipped even further to 6.5 K/9 in 2019, so it has become clear that D-Rod is definitely not a strikeout pitcher.
What made him so great in 2018 was his masterful control of all his pitches. He didn’t blow guys away, but he also didn’t leave the ball out over the plate to be crushed. In 2019, that control escaped him and the numbers show it.
Despite pitching 19 fewer innings, he gave up 11 more home runs in 2019. Part of that may have been the juiced ball, but it still shows that he simply got knocked around last year.
Taking everything into account, I think it is now fair to say that Rodriguez over-performed in 2018 and under-performed in 2019.
Going by that logic, perhaps he will split the difference in 2020 and be a useful member of the pitching staff.
Despite his struggles, there is still a chance that he could worm his way into the starting rotation with an impressive spring. He will certainly have a lot of competition with other young starters like Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, along with more seasoned arms like recently acquired Drew Smyly and Tyson Ross.
If he does get a shot in 2020, I expect him to be somewhere in between the two extremes of 2018 and 2019. That would mean an ERA in the low 4.00 range and better control numbers than last year.
When he’s on, D-Rod is one of the more fun Giants to watch, so fans should be cheering for a rebound in 2020.