What Happened to Carlos Rodón? An Analysis of an Abysmal Year in Pinstripes

After producing two fantastic seasons for the Chicago White Sox & San Francisco Giants in 2021 and 2022′ (2.37 and 2.88 ERA, respectively), Carlos Rodón produced one of the worst first seasons as a Yankee pitcher ever with a 6.85 ERA in 64.1 innings; drawing comparisons to Kei Igawa in 2007-2008. The heartburn grows worse for fans, knowing he just signed a 6-year/$162M contract.

Via FanGraphs

Is it his “stuff”?

Rodón relies heavily on his 4SFB and Slider. Let’s look at his vertical and horizontal movement this year vs. last year.

Via FanGraphs

2023:

  • 4SFB Vertical: 12.7in
  • 4SFB Horizontal: 6.3in
  • Slider Vertical: 38.4in
  • Slider Horizontal: 7.9in

2022:

  • 4SFB Vertical: 12in
  • 4SFB Horizontal: 6in
  • Slider Vertical: 38.6in
  • Slider Horizontal: 8.1in
Via FanGraphs

These are pretty similar numbers. His pitch location isn’t accounted for here, but he’s getting the rotation on the ball that he’s looking for.

Is he still injured?

Rodón suffered an injury-plagued season in 2023. Missing spring training and the first couple months of the season due to a back injury. Then, he suffered a forearm injury and hamstring strain as the season progressed. But when he did start this season, his velocity and break didn’t suffer. See 2022 vs 2023 below:

2023:

  • 4SFB Velocity: 95.3mph
  • Offspeed Velocity: 85.5mph
  • Break Velocity: 84.4mph

2022:

  • 4SFB Velocity: 95.5mph
  • Offspeed Velocity: 84.6mph
  • Break Velocity: 84.5mph

Where the story is told is the Barrel and Swing %.

2023:

  • Barrel: 12.2%
  • Swing: 53.4%

2022:

  • Barrel: 6.5%
  • Swing: 49.8%

Teams were sitting fastball on Rodón, knowing that he only has two pitches he’s confident in and allowing him to pitch himself out of the count. Teams began pulling the ball against him in his career like never before. If location is his issue, yet his pitches are breaking and arriving at around the same clicks as usual, then it has to be “focus.” If focus is his problem, then the location of his pitches seems to be only the result of his primary issue.

Via FanGraphs

The Issue:

Fans are well aware that playing for the Yankees can be a daunting task for any player. Players once believed to be successful have arrived in New York and struggled mightily, only for them to leave the team and find modest measures of success: see Joey Gallo & Aaron Hicks. Some fans & analysts believe that it’s his mindset. Whether Rodón is having issues adjusting to the demands of New York, a new contract, or something else is up for interpretation. But we’ve seen glimpses of his headspace this past season.

  • He was Blowing a kiss towards fans after an abysmal start in Anaheim.
  • He nearly refuses to give the ball up when everyone in the stadium (including himself) knows that he isn’t performing well.
  • He was calling his performances a “pile of sh-t.”
  • He told the media that he plans to lock himself away from family and friends to work through his thoughts this off-season.

None of this points to a player that is confident in himself. It would almost be easier to chalk this up to injury and say, “Well, he’ll be healthy next year.” That doesn’t seem to be the case.

One of the more shocking interactions came shortly after his season ended during a sitdown with Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media. These comments came after the worst start in Yankees pitching history, where Rodón faced 8 Royals batters and didn’t retire anyone. The Royals wound up scoring nine in the first and won 12-5, with Rodón never giving the Yankees a chance.

You can tell that you care. You’re intense on the mound. You were disgusted when you were on the IL. You talk about wanting to win all the time. You probably can’t wait for this season to get over.

Rodón: Yeah, I want this to be over with.

What are you going to do? Family vacation?

Rodón: Me? I’m going to get away, man. You won’t find me. I’ll be gone.

You going to go to some tropic island on sit on a beach?

Rodón: I’ll be here, but you won’t find me. I have a place not far from Kansas City. I’ll drive there after Sunday’s game and spend some time by myself. Just me. No wife. No kids. I want some time to not think about baseball. Then I’ll go home to Indiana and spend time with my family.

Whatever Rodón needs to do to get his head in the right place should be priority #1 for not only him but the Yankees as well. As fans, we often forget that these guys are humans, just like us. They have families, thoughts, feelings, and desires that can impact their job. The most significant difference is that they don’t report to an office. Instead, tens of thousands of fans criticize their daily performance on the diamond daily. Whether it’s therapy, R&R, or something else… something has to be done to get him out of his head if the Yankees want to see any return on the massive contract he received.

What do you think was Rodón’s issue in 2023?

All metrics are provided by FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, & Baseball Savant.

Jacob P.M.

Covering the New York Yankees - Find me on X/Twitter: @JacobBSpeaks

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