Game 16 Preview: Eduardo Rodríguez is still getting into rhythm

Bless You Boys

Despite a 2-4 record, the Detroit Tigers enjoyed a positive homestand behind Miguel Cabrera’s historic 3,000th hit and some great weather in Michigan. That achievement might be the biggest moment of the entire season for the Tigers, which speaks both to its rarity but also the current state of the team.

If Detroit wants to produce some more highlights this year, the offense is going to have to wake up. Outside of the 13-0 outburst for Cabrera’s record-breaker, the Tigers failed to score over three runs in the other five contests at home. The bullpen was not stellar either, but the lack of scoring is a big reason why the Detroit has dropped four of five series so far. Fortunately, there are plenty of signs that the early season slump is just a temporary run of bad luck. They need to prove that over the next few weeks to avoid digging themselves into an unescapable hole.

The team now travels to Minnesota looking to stop the skid. Eduardo Rodríguez will make his fourth start in the Old English D after a six-inning, three-run outing against the Yankees last week. Rodríguez has not been as productive as hoped just yet, seeing a drop in strikeouts (just 19.7 percent) and a rise in walks and exit velocity. However, the Tigers signed him for five years, so no need to panic just yet.

Detroit Tigers (6-9) vs. Minnesota Twins (8-8)

Time/Place: 7:40 p.m., Target Field
SB Nation site: Twinkie Town
Media: Bally Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA)

Game 16 Pitching Matchup

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Rodríguez 13.2 19.7 9.8 4.55 0.1
Paddack 9.0 17.9 0.0 5.00 0.3

On the other end of the Game One pitching matchup is Chris Paddack, whose acquisition capped off the Twins’ busy offseason on both sides of the ball. The 26-year-old came over from San Diego just before the start of the season, as Minnesota looks to take the AL Central and make a run in the playoffs with a revamped roster.

Paddack was electric as a rookie, posting a 3.33 ERA and 9.79 K/9 in 2019, good for 2.4 fWAR. His two campaigns since have not quite lived up to this mark, featuring a combined 4.95 ERA in 34 starts since then, though his 4.22 FIP implies that the results might be a little harsher than they could be. Still, his spot in the San Diego rotation was not guaranteed, so the Twins are making a bet on him figuring it out again as opposed to acquiring a pitcher in his prime.

Paddack has featured his fourseam fastball (93.4 mph avg) 61.8 percent of the time thus far. It continues to be above average heater with a good movement profile. The Tigers will have hunt it early in counts to have real success against him. An 82 mph changeup and 76 mph curveball are his two secondary offerings, and as you’d expect, the changeup is mainly for lefties, while the curve is his go-to against right-handers. Both have good movement profiles as well, so this is a fairly complete arsenal, and Paddack doesn’t tend to issue many walks either. The one weakness, which will be exacerbated by the move from sea level in San Diego to Target Field, is a penchant for grooving too many fastballs and hangers and giving up a lot of home runs. For a team like the Tigers, whose boosted home run power hasn’t been in evidence early on, this is the time to get right and break out the whooping stick. It’s hard to put up a lot of runs against Paddack by other means.

This is clearly still a very talented pitcher who could definitely be a strong starter for the upcoming years in Minnesota. He might never get back to his 2019 numbers, but it would be surprising for him to struggle for a third straight season. 2022 has started off with a mixed pair of starts: a tough outing against the Dodgers but a decent effort against Kansas City last week. The Tigers are not the toughest offense on the block, particularly during a sluggish start, and could be a chance for Paddack to impress again with his new team.

Key matchup: Rodríguez vs. command

It would be a stretch to say Rodríguez has been wild this year, but he has not been able to get his pitches where he wants them to be. His current strikeout rate (7.90 K/9) is well under is career average (9.35) and he is getting smacked around to the tune of a 53.5 percent (!!) hard-hit rate. Accompanied by a velocity that is not quite up to speed yet and the results have been less than ideal. Like the Tigers, the Twins offense has been average at best so far, so hopefully he can put up a quality line. Another tough start is not going to make the locals any less restless with one of the prized free agent acquisitions of the offseason.

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