Ivan Rodriguez has been a staple in the major leagues since 1991, appearing in at least 88 games in every year of his career. However, after 5 straight seasons of below average hitting finally culminating in a .287 wOBA between Houston and Texas last season, it seemed like Pudge’s productive days were over. CHONE, ZiPS, and the fans all projected Rodriguez for a .290 or lower wOBA once again in 2010, and the two year, $6 million contract was trashed by many analysts.
Pudge has certainly shown signs of life in 2010. His 2-4 night against Ubaldo Jimenez and the Rockies on Thursday raised his 2010 line to .449/.472/.592. ZiPS has updated its rest of season projection up to .302 after this torrid start, and the .320 overall season projected wOBA would be his highest since 2006 with Detroit.
However, Pudge has managed to put together this line despite hitting zero home runs and only walking three times in 49 plate appearances – that’s why the rest of season projection is still well below average despite the hot start. Soon, the hits will stop dropping in and Rodriguez’s BABIP will regress toward his career average of .323 – and probably lower, given his advanced age. Still, the fact that Pudge has gotten out to such a fast start does signify that there is still some pop in his bat and that aging hasn’t yet taken a strangle hold over his baseball skills.
Given how difficult catcher is to play, a .302 wOBA could still lead to a decently productive season, as long as Rodriguez can still play some defense. According to our new measure of catching defense, there is no reason to believe that he can’t – since 2005, he’s rated at +22 by our system and was +4 last year. He certainly appears to be able to limit the stolen base, and given his history, I have no questions about his game calling abilities.
Although I still question giving Rodriguez $6 million guaranteed over two years of a waning career, he has shown that he’s not dead yet. Perhaps there’s just enough left in the tank for him to effectively be Washington’s bridge to Bryce Harper.
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