Paco Rodriguez is quietly having himself a fantastic season for the Dodgers in 2013. In this, his first full year in the Majors, Paco has impressed with his consistency and reliability in late inning and high leverage situations out of the bullpen. Aside from Kenley Jansen, Paco is the first guy to call out of the Dodger pen who will be able to strike guys out when needed and pitch with inherited runners with success. Even with limited professional baseball experience, Rodriguez has proved himself to be an integral part of this Dodgers bullpen.
The left-hander has only allowed one homerun as a Dodger. That homerun was hit by Justin Upton at Turner Field back in May. It’s easy to forget that Paco (real name Steven) is only 22 years old. The Dodgers drafted Rodriguez in the second round of the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida. He had been drafted back in 2009 by the Astros but chose to attend college and not sign. While a junior in college, Paco went 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 79 strikeouts and 4 saves. He was the closer for the Florida Gators. Paco would ultimately become the first player out of his draft class to reach the Major League. Paco only pitched in 19 2/3 innings in the Dodgers minor league system which was briefly with the Great Lakes Loons and then on to the AA-Chattanooga Lookouts before being called up to the Dodgers on September 9, 2012.
This season Paco has pitched in 49 games for the Dodgers, and he has collected 41 strikeouts in 36 innings pitched. He’s only walked 11 batters and allowed just 9 runs on 16 hits this year. His WHIP is 0.74 which is the lowest among National League relievers and his ERA a very notable 2.25. Since his debut last season, Paco has yet to commit an error in the field. His contributions to this Dodger team have been tremendous, and I feel that it should be acknowledged.
Paco has pitched well especially at home this season. His two wins have come at home while his two losses were on the road. His ERA is more than a point higher on the road (2.87) than at Dodger Stadium (1.71). While I thought Paco would be primarily used as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, I have come to see Paco as an all-around effective late inning relief pitcher. In fact, I would prefer Paco to close in the ninth inning if Kenley Jansen would be unavailable to pitch. Paco is also successful with runners in scoring position when inherited and in close high leverage games. He has the ability to stay focused and remain in control of his pitches. He just simply does not allow base runners to score. Paco has been fantastically stingy with runs allowed since pitching for the Dodgers.
Paco won himself a spot out of Spring Training this season, and he has never wavered in his consistency since
making the Opening Day team. While a lot of the Dodger relievers have struggled this season, Paco has remained dependably good. Perhaps his experience pitching in the College World Series for the Gators allowed him to better be able to handle stressful high stakes situational pitching. Or maybe he is just plain good.
The former Gator hasn’t given up a run since June 5th. He’s one of the best relievers in baseball. While we worry about the exploits of Brandon League and Carlos Marmol, we tend to forget to praise the significant talent of Paco Rodriguez this season. Paco, with ancestry from Cuba, is a year younger than Yasiel Puig. Yet Paco made it to the Majors first. Paco seems more mature and polished than the unbridled Puig. Even Don Mattingly noted Paco’s quiet dedication when he had this to say about the young lefty:
“Paco, from the time he came up, has been impressive. He’s a guy you don’t really notice in the clubhouse. He just quietly goes about his work.”
Paco Rodriguez has really been key in the Dodgers turnaround and success this season. Even during the dark days of April and May, Paco and Kenley remained reliable options out of the Dodgers bullpen. I’m looking forward to watching Paco pitch in the postseason. Paco is an All-Star in my book.