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Has Wandy’s Magic Returned?

On draft day, Wandy Rodriguez was seen as a reliable mid-round pick to stabilize any fantasy staff. Well, needless to say things have not gone according to plan.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 12, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt Photo via Newscom
 
Currently sitting with a 5.00 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, Wandy Rodriguez could possibly be available on your wavier wire. If you look at his last three outings you might see some signs that the best is yet to come, but is this hot streak for real?
 

Over his last three starts Wandy has allowed only two earned runs with a 19/4 K/BB ratio. However, we must keep in mind that two of the outings came against the offensively challenged Giants (aside from last night’s 15-1 crushing of the Brewers) and the Pirates. Still, the numbers are impressive.

 
Since Wandy is not an overpowering pitcher, good command is a big part of his game. When a pitcher loses his command of the strike-zone and doesn’t have overpowering stuff, hitters find much more success in making good contact. Such has been the case against Wandy Rodriguez this season. Hitters are teeing off to the tune of a 23 percent line drive rate and are making more contact on pitches inside the strike-zone than they had the previous two seasons.
 
Below is a chart showing Wandy’s Pitch counts (Pit), Strikes thrown (Str), Swinging strikes (StS), as well as the strikes to pitches ratio.
 
 
As you can see, April was his best month to date. He posted a 3.65 ERA and a season low walk rate, though the strikeouts were down as were the home runs allowed.
 
In May and June, his walk rate went up as he remained inconsistent in his ability to throw strikes. His three worst games were May 28th, June 12th and June 18th. Those were also three of his worst games in terms of his Strikes/Pitches ratio.
 
His three best games looking at strikeouts, walks and earned runs came on April 24th, June 2nd and July 6th. Two of those games came against the Pirates and the other against the Nationals. Looking at the chart above, it is clear that Wandy is not afraid to work the strike-zone against lesser offensive teams. On the flip side, Wandy been less aggressive in the strike-zone against the top offensive clubs like the Reds and especially during his interleague starts against the Yankees, Rangers and Rays.
 
According to pitch f/x data, Wandy is throwing more of a two-seam fastball this season and has gone to his changeup more often this season. His changeup, based on advanced statistics, has been his most effective pitch while both his fastball and curve have been much less effective this season.
 
The one thing we need to consider aside from the way he has pitched this season, is the fact that we’re not talking about a 27-year-old pitcher in his prime. We’re talking about a 31-year-old “late bloomer” who has had two very good Major League seasons out of five (six if this season continues as it has).
 
Even in the minor leagues, Wandy never had a season above single-A in which he posted a sub 4.00 ERA over 100 innings. His K/BB rates had never been anything special at the higher levels either.
 
Based on what Wandy has done over the past two seasons, there is still hope that his second half will be much better than his first. Then again, we could just be looking at a pitcher that is past his prime who is pitching for a team that has regressed in defense and offense over the past three seasons.
 
Whatever the case, the ingredients are there for both scenarios.
 
Based on his last few outings Wandy warrants a free agent addition if you have the roster space, but I’d sit him in his next outing against St. Louis just to make sure this current streak is for real.