Francisco Rodriguez recorded his 50th save Sunday, and that means he has five full weeks to get the eight more he needs to top Bobby Thigpen's big league record. Rodriguez is having a huge season for the Angels, he's going to have a huge stage in the postseason, and there's every reason to think that K-Rod is going to sign a huge contract as a free agent this winter.
|K-Rod is seven saves away from tying Bobby Thigpen's major league record. (US Presswire)|
"That one would scare me," the official said.
He's not alone. In an informal survey of five scouts and one coach who have all seen Rodriguez recently, three expressed serious doubts about how good the 26-year-old Angel will be two or three years down the line, and one even wondered whether he'll be as good as expected in this year's playoffs.
"You still see the same effort in his delivery, but now it ends up selling the off-speed pitches," the scout said. "It used to come out at 96. Now, it's 92-93, and out of six or seven pitches, there might be four or five changeups or breaking balls. He still has great movement on his change and his curve, and he throws the changeup anywhere from 78-85. and there's enough deception that the 92 mph fastball can look like 110.
"But if this guy loses his fastball and hitters can eliminate that pitch, he doesn't have the command to get away with it."
Another scout wondered whether Rodriguez is heading down the same path as Thigpen, who followed his 57-save season by signing a three-year, $9 million contract (at age 27), then saved just 54 more games before fading away.
While it's hard to believe that Rodriguez will fall off that quickly, one scout said the loss of velocity is a big concern.
"When you look at the best closers, that doesn't happen," he said. "Look at Mariano Rivera. His velocity hasn't varied. It's pretty much the same today as it was 10 years ago."
But has Rodriguez's velocity varied that much? His fastball was only 91-92 mph Sunday, but another scout said he's not convinced there's any dropoff.
"His stuff is just as good as it was," that scout said. "There's no question in my mind. When I saw him, he was 94-95. The biggest difference is his changeup, which is one of the best in baseball. It really drops, and some guys think it's a split, but it's not. He has amazing arm speed."
And yet, even that same scout said he'd have concerns about signing Rodriguez to a long-term contract.
Someone will sign him for big money, possibly as much as $15 million a year, possibly for as many as four years. It even could be the Angels, although it's expected that they won't offer more than three years. The Angels could let Rodriguez go, just as they once let Troy Percival go, because it's looking like Jose Arredondo is nearly ready to take over.