On August 22nd, Fernando Rodney was designated for assignment. By August 27th, he'd been traded to the Chicago Cubs for cash considerations. Rodney was just another piece of the Mariners' puzzle in 2015 that didn't work out the way their front office had hoped, and as a result he was sent packing for barely anything in return.
Rodney had been one of the league's most reliable relievers since 2012, but this season he fell apart. His strikeout rate plummeted, and his walk rate and home run rates spiked. However after the Cubs picked him up, he almost immediately became the pitcher that Seattle had desperately needed him to be.
While Rodney's time with Chicago undoubtedly falls under the "small sample size" designation, that doesn't inherently mean that the results aren't significant. His strikeouts rose, his walk rate and home run rates returned to previous levels, and while his ERA was a slightly misleading 0.82, his FIP and SIERA confirmed that he was indeed a much better pitcher with the Cubs.
If the Cubs had merely acquired Rodney, and not changed anything about him, then it would be fair to say that these results were nothing more than a hot streak, and that Chicago got lucky by picking him up for the final month of the season. However that's not the case here, as their coaches (most likely Chris Bosio), helped retool Rodney.
From the moment he became a Cub, his horizontal release point was changed, which helped him add deception. By altering his mechanics just slightly, Rodney's overall release point became much more clustered.
When he was in Seattle, Rodney's release point varied by 1.96 inches horizontally, but with the Cubs, it was reduced to 1.53 inches. While that may not seem like a lot, baseball has been, and always will be a game of inches, and in this case, it may have helped revive Rodney's career.
The Cubs also tweaked Rodney's pitch selection, as he threw 22.22 percent more changeups with Chicago than he did while still with Seattle.
|PITCHf/x per 100
As a result of the changes, Rodney's fastball and changeup both jumped in terms of their value. With the Mariners, he had just one above-average pitch, but with the Cubs, he had two. He also began to attack hitters differently.
With Seattle, Rodney seemingly didn't have a plan, or if he did, he wasn't able to execute it well. His zone profile is evenly distributed, and there doesn't appear to be a strong cluster that would represent where Rodney liked to throw his pitches. However with Chicago, there was a clear and well executed plan. He pounded the bottom of the strike zone, and focused on the low-outside corner to right handed hitters.
Rodney is coming off a two-year deal worth $14 million, and while he likely won't get anything near an AAV of seven million for 2016, his stint with the Cubs has undoubtedly earned him a major league contract, and a chance to extend his career.
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Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer with Beyond the Box Score and a Contributing Editor at MLB Daily Dish. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.