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John Dewan's Stat of the Week - Chicago White Sox

The Story of Carlos Rodón's 9th Inning

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By MARK SIMON

There’s a short story to be told in each of the outs that make up a no-hitter. In Carlos Rodón’s case, much of his story is about potential and perseverance.

The No. 3 overall pick by the White Sox in the 2014 MLB Draft showed great promise in his first two MLB seasons. But injuries and ineffectiveness left him with a 29-33 record and 4.14 ERA entering 2021. The White Sox didn’t even sign Rodón until February, initially non-tendering him after the 2020 season ended.

Nonetheless, Rodón was the White Sox's best pitcher in spring training, posting a 1.32 ERA, with a 16-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 2/3 innings. He struck out nine in five scoreless innings against the Mariners in his first start this season, but no one could predict what he would do on Wednesday night. After all, he'd never even pitched in the ninth inning of a game before.

But every good story needs some supporting characters and other components. And that was the case for the final three outs.

The 25th Out

The improved defense of José Abreu helped Rodón secure the first out of the ninth inning, as Abreu just beat Josh Naylor to first base on Naylor’s ground ball.

Abreu had a career high 5 Defensive Runs Saved in 2020, which may have gone overlooked in his MVP season. The White Sox ranked second in MLB in Runs Saved in 2020 thanks to improvements like his.

Abreu’s defense, as well as a nice play by shortstop Leury García on a 108 MPH ground ball hit by Roberto Pérez earlier in the game, kept the Indians hitless.

The 26th Out

That Doug Eddings was the home plate umpire was a boon for Rodón.

SIS has tracked umpire pitch-calling tendencies across MLB since 2010. Over the last four seasons, Eddings has been the most pitcher-friendly umpire in MLB by our stat, Extra Strikes Per 150 Called Pitches.

Coincidentally, Eddings is already remembered prominently by White Sox fans as the umpire who ruled a dropped third strike on a possible A.J. Pierzynski strikeout that allowed Pierzynski to reach base, which aided a White Sox rally in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels.

Much to the chagrin of the Angels, who said the strike wasn't dropped, that play was pivotal to the White Sox eventually winning the World Series.

This time around, Eddings gave Rodón a called strike 3 on Yu Chang for the second out of the ninth inning on a slider that appeared to be off the inside corner (“in the neighborhood” as White Sox TV announcer Jason Benetti described it).

Rodón harnessed this pitch to Chang a little better than the one that hit Pérez a few moments before, ending Rodón’s perfect-game bid.

The 27th Out

Rodón changed the approach he used in his first start against the Mariners, decreasing the use of his fastball. After throwing only three of seven changeups for strikes in five innings against Seattle, Rodón threw 19 of 26 for strikes against the Indians.

The fastball, which peaked at 99 MPH on the 110th of his 114 pitches, got Rodón 12 outs. The slider got him eight outs.

But it was the changeup, perhaps the last thrown a little higher than Rodón intended, that netted seven outs, including the final out of the ninth inning, Jordon Luplow’s hard ground ball to third base.

The changeup has never been a particularly effective pitch for Rodón. For his career, he’s thrown it for a strike only 53% of the time. But perhaps yesterday was a sign that it has turned a corner.

Maybe Rodón has too.

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