Francisco Rodriguez, also known as K-Rod, will be asked to bolster the O's bullpen. (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America.)

Francisco Rodriguez, also known as K-Rod, will be asked to bolster the O’s bullpen. (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America.)

First off, read Luke Jackson’s great writeup of the Francisco Rodriguez-Nicky Delmonico deal that went down last week.  Second, I want to frame the discussion some more.  No, I do not wish to discuss my perspective Rodriguez pleading guilty to attempted assault to avoid jail time when he attacked his at-the-time fiance’s father or about the time he attacked Mets’ bullpen coach during a game or the allegations of repeated abuse that the prosecution came up with or about the Milwaukee abuse case that was dropped when his at-the-time girlfriend (who was allegedly attacked) and the sole alleged witness (a housekeeper) went back to Venezuela and were no longer around for the trial.  I think that perspective has been overly hashed out on the message board here at Baltimore Sports and Life.

(You can discuss this article on the BSL Board here.)

What I want to discuss are best case scenarios in a general sense using simple numbers to see how big a deal acquiring Rodriguez was for the success of the team.  I want to assume the following:

1. With 58 games left, there are about 25 innings left for the 7th inning righty, 8th inning righty, and middle relief / junk inning righty.

2. Francisco Rodriguez is a 3.00 ERA pitcher (let’s assume he is really solid down the stretch).

3. Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day are 4.00 ERA pitchers (let’s assume they struggle down the stretch to the point that they are underperforming their current ERAs of 2.80 and 2.20, respectively).

4. Jairo Asencio and whoever are 6.00 ERA pitchers (this is likely a pessimistic view as to what the default 4th righty in the pen could do).

So, here is what we get without Rodriguez.

7th Tommy Hunter 25 4.00 11
8th Darren O’Day 25 4.00 11
Junk Jairo et al. 25 6.00 17

This is what happens with Francisco Rodriguez as the 8th inning righty:

7th Darren O’Day 25 4.00 11
8th Francisco Rodriguez 25 3.00 8
Junk Tommy Hunter 25 4.00 11

So, the difference under what is likely a best case scenario is about 9 runs.  In a general sense, 9 runs equates to a win when you normalize conditions.  But, is that the best way to look at this?

Some of you may be aware of something called a Leverage Index.  This metric looks at how important a situation is in a game and is based on the number of outs, baserunners, men on base, and the score.  A neutral scenario would have a Leverage Index of 1 while really consequential plate appearances would be greater than one.  Here are the Leverage Indices of Orioles relievers when they enter a game:

Pitcher gmLI
Jim Johnson 1.81
Darren O’Day 1.42
Brian Matusz 1.15
Pedro Strop 1.12
Troy Patton 1.01
Tommy Hunter 0.95
Jairo Ascencio 0.89
Kevin Gausman 0.78
Steve Johnson 0.76
Luis Ayala 0.75
TJ McFarland 0.67
Alex Burnett 0.61

Those numbers pass the sniff test.  Johnson, O’Day, and Matusz are often placed in on the mound in tough situations.  Strop, too, as the team tried to make him workout before inevitably giving up and shipping him to the Cubs.  The point I am trying to make here is that even though the different between the two assumed righty sets above amount to 9 runs, 6 of those runs are saved in junk innings that normally would have gone to guys like Burnett, Johnson, Gausman, and, yes, Asencio.  Those scenarios were ones where the game was largely in the Orioles’ favor or their opponents’.  Those runs are not very meaningful when they are given up (almost always).

Instead, the important runs in the optimistic scenario above would be the 3 runs do not score thanks to 3.00 ERA Rodriguez on the mound instead of 4.00 ERA O’Day.  From there we simply have to wonder how important those three runs are.  A general appreciation of what a run is worth would suggest that having Rodriguez is worth about a third of a win due to those 3 runs saved.  However, runs scored in high leverage situations are likely to be worth a different amount than runs scored in less important situations.  For an idea, let’s see how O’Day have been used lately.

Here is the score differential of the July outings when O’Day entered the game:

Dif Runs
July 24th 0 1
July 21st 2 0
July 19th 2 0
July 13th -4 0
July 11th 1 0
July 9th -3 1
July 7th 1 0
July 5th 1 0
July 3rd 0 0

Five (or 56%) of his July outings were games where the differential in score was 0 runs or the Orioles being up by 1.  If that stays the same then of those 25 8th innings to come, 14 of them will be games where the score is tied or the team is holding on by one run.  That difference now is about 2 runs (slightly less) in what you could expect between a 3.00 pitcher and a 4.00 pitcher.  That suggests than maybe the value of a third of a run more important, might be lower than that.

However, let’s not end the discussion there.  Let us assume that for 12 of those innings pitched, Rodriguez and O’Day would be the same pitcher, but for the other two Rodriguez would give up no runs and O’Day would give up a run in each performance.  Well, how does that impact win probability.

Dif Win Probability
1 85
0 48
-1 14
Dif Win Probability
1 89
0 63
-1 30

So, why are the probabilities different?  Well, it almost all comes down to the home team having two innings to score while the visitor having only one.  If we look at the worst case scenarios (as a vistor going +1 to 0; as a home team going 0 to -1), we have decreases in win probability of 37% and 33%.  In other words, not letting runs score in the worst cases possible detailed above means a 3.00 pitcher is worth about 0.7 wins more than a 4.00 pitcher.  In other words, the runs saved in the 8th inning in high leverage conditions are roughly twice as important than they are in general based on the assumptions I have made here.

Have you made it this far?  It has been a bit of a trip through math and a variety of assumptions.  Where we are left is that under ideal circumstances, it is probably safe to assume that the addition of Rodriguez will benefit the team with an extra game in the win column, at most.  More likely though, his impact will be far less felt.  Differences in runs saved in high leverage innings will likely be rather inconsequential and applying Hunter to even lower leverage innings will likely be even more inconsequential.

In the end, the team gave up a second tier prospect in Nicky Delmonico.  A position player who was 100th ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects has a 1 in 3 chance of being a useful starter in baseball.  At best, Delmonico was just south of 150th and probably no worse the 200th.  More than likely he will never make a dent on a MLB roster.  Even more important, Delmonico would have had zero impact on the Orioles in 2013 when they are competing for a playoff spot.  In other words, one would be pressed to call him a meaningful prospect.

However, Delmonico does not need to be a meaningful prospect to have value.  I’d suggest that his ability to augment a trade package is probably worth more than him being traded straight up for a reliever who at best makes the 2013 Orioles a +1 win team.  It is difficult to ever know what is possible in trades and it is an illness in the brain that us followers of the game tend to want to believe in an abundance of trade opportunities, but I do think that a package of Delmonico plus one would likely bring back to the Orioles a player of greater importance than Rodriguez.  Of course, this contention is somewhat unfair.  It is difficult for the addition of Rodriguez to stand up against a comparison of something that does not exist.  The vagueness of the unknown is certainly a draw for many to embrace and questioning Oriole front office authority has been a talent that has been thoroughly developed over the past decade and a half.  That said, I maintain that the health of the franchise is better served when second tier prospects are stacked instead of being doled out one at a time.

In the end, this is more or less opinion attached to math (somewhat well founded in reality).  It can be taken to thrown away as it is.  Whatever happens, whether a World Series run behind a stalwart bullpen or Rodriguez giving his best Paul Shuey impersonation, the decision should be based on what we know now at the time of the deal and not what transpires as I think unintended success or failure should not be the deciding factor in determining whether or not the right process was chosen to make the decision.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez as it pertains to what may develop on the field of play.

Jon Shepherd
Jon Shepherd

Jon Shepherd founded the Baltimore Orioles blog Camden Depot in 2007. In addition to Baltimore Orioles analysis, the blog also focuses on qualitative and quantitative approaches to assessing baseball in general as well as providing mainstream reviews and commentary on substances alleged to performance enhancing. Dr. Shepherd’s writing has been featured on ESPN, and his blog has been part of the ESPN Sweetspot Network since May 2011. He has made radio and podcast appearances for Orioles’ centered programs.