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Fernando Rodney is in very rare territory

Aug 1, 2012, 7:00 PM EDT

Fernando Rodney AP

The Rays have had the magic touch with lightly regarded relievers before, but Fernando Rodney is easily their biggest success story yet.

The 35-year-old Rodney recorded his 31st save Wednesday, moving himself into a tie for the major league lead, and lowered his ERA to 0.74 with a scoreless inning in a 4-1 win over the A’s.

With the season nearly two-thirds over, Rodney is on pace to join Dennis Eckersley as the second reliever ever to save 40 games with a sub-1.00 ERA.

Eckersley saved 48 games and posted a 0.61 ERA in 73 1/3 innings for the A’s in 1990. That wasn’t his Cy Young and MVP year, though; he got those awards two years later when he finished with 51 saves and a 1.91 ERA in 80 innings.

Just 11 pitchers since 1900 have posted an ERA under 1.00 in at least 50 innings. It happened four times during the deadball era and once by Bill Henry in 1964. The rest to do it were modern relievers:

Rob Murphy (1986 Reds): 0.72 in 50.1 IP
Eckersley (1990 A’s): 0.61 in 73/1 IP
Chris Hammond (2002 Braves): 0.95 in 76 IP
Jonathan Papelbon (2006 Red Sox): 0.92 in 68.1 IP
Dennys Reyes (2006 Twins): 0.89 in 50.2 IP
Eric O’Flaherty (2011 Braves): 0.98 in 73.2 IP

Papelbon, the only closer besides Eckersley in the group, finished with 35 saves in 2006.

After Papelbon, a few others have managed 40 saves with ERAs just above 1.00:

John Smoltz (2003 Braves): 1.12, 45 sv
Jose Mesa (1995 Indians): 1.12, 46 sv
Eric Gagne (2003 Dodgers): 1.20, 55 Sv
Armando Benitez (2004 Marlins): 1.29, 47 Sv

So Rodney could best them all this year, which would be especially amazing considering that his best ERA in the five years from 2007-11 was a 4.24 mark. His career best in a full season was 3.52 in 2006, though he did come in at 2.86 in 44 innings in 2005.

I should also note that Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel could possibly save 40 games with a sub-1.00 ERA as well if he’s near flawless from here on in. He’s pitched 40 innings and allowed six runs so far, giving him a 1.35 ERA to go along with his 30 saves.

  1. tfbuckfutter - Aug 1, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    And ERA+ over 500 is pretty damn impressive…..

    Which makes Eck’s 603 even more amazing.

  2. paul621 - Aug 1, 2012 at 9:34 PM

    After reading the headline, I just assumed it would be something negative, considering his career path so far. Had no idea he was doing so well this year. Impressive!

  3. Ick McWang - Aug 1, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    As a Rays fan, in the last few years I used to like Rodney coming in against us, because we always seemed to get a couple walks and a clutch hit against him when we needed it. But currently, I am beyond impressed with the job he has done. I just hope the bottom doesn’t fall out until next year when he gets a big contract (see Benoit and Soriano come to mind)

    • buddaley - Aug 1, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      The Rays have a $2.5 million option on Rodney for 2013. Right now it seems likely they will exercise it, so let’s hope the bottom does not fall out next year. He can only get a “big” contract if the Rays buy out the option.

      • hittfamily - Aug 2, 2012 at 1:10 AM

        I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that the Rays pick up that option.

        Someone needs to check his glove too.

    • Dave Barker - Aug 2, 2012 at 9:16 PM

      Yea, let’s hope he’s got plenty more arrows in that quiver of his.

  4. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Aug 2, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    Right now he’s got the filthiest change up in baseball. About a week ago, against the Orioles I think, he got hit in the hand and it screwed up his fastball command. Couldn’t locate it at all. After a few pitches he realized it and threw almost nothing but change ups. And even though they KNEW he was giving them change ups, they still couldn’t hit it.

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