Top 100 Angels: #29 Francisco Rodríguez

The Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels have played almost 60 seasons of baseball. As the baseball world is suspended due to circumstances outside its control, it is time to look back at the history of this organization. There have been many talented players to put on the uniform, and we at Crashing the Pearly Gates wish to highlight the best who have ever represented the Angels. Without further ado, here we go!

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#29 – Francisco Rodríguez

Signed out of Venezuela in 1998, Francisco Rodríguez, otherwise known as K-Rod, was one of the most exciting, and frustrating, relievers in Angels history. He made his debut at the end of 2002, allowing no runs in 5.2 innings across 5 appearances.

2002 postseason

That was good enough to get him a spot on the 2002 postseason roster, which was, in short, electric. The 20-year old pitched 5.2 innings against the Yankees in the 2002 ALDS, striking out eight and walking two, with two of his appearances of the multi-inning variety.

His ALCS performance was even more outstanding, with a masterful 8th inning in game 3 to secure the close victory vs the Twins. In game 5, he took over before the offense roared.

But, the World Series in 2002 is when K-Rod really came into his own. He pitched three innings in a wild game 2, getting the win and shutting down the Giants offense. Wild in game 4, the youngster gave up the losing run, costing the Halos the game and the series lead. Taking over for Kevin Appier in game 6, K-Rod gave up the infamous monster home run to Barry Bonds. He made up for it later and got revenge later in the game.

The Angels won game 6 thanks to other top 100 members, but without K-Rod, it would have been even harder. So when the deciding game 7 reached the 8th, of course K-Rod delivered. 3 strikeouts to get the ball to closer Troy Percival.

Percy’s heir

With a ring and a dominant performance under his belt before being of drinking age, it was obvious that he was next in line when Troy Percival left or retired. He followed up that 2002 excellence with an amazing 2003 season where his ERA+ was 145, he struck out 95 in 86 innings for a strikeout per 9 of 9.9. K-Rod was pure fire.

2004 is when he stepped up even further. In 84 innings he had 123 strikeouts for 13.2 K per 9. He made the All Star Game and got Cy Young votes as a setup man. IN 2004! 4th place for CY Young as a setup guy! Yes, now that may not be strange, but this was a time when even closers were having issues getting votes. He was just THAT good, and with a 245 ERA+ he was by far the best setup guy in baseball, and many called for him to be the closer.

While the postseason didn’t go as planned (stupid Red Sox), the regular season proved that he wasn’t a fluke, so he would have his shot at the closer role in 2005.

Dominantly wild

2005 saw K-Rod take the closer role as Percy left, and he immediately showed that he had, a flair for the dramatic. He had the 10th most Wild Pitches in the AL in far fewer innings than others. Yet, he saved 45 games, then the second most in Franchise History, second only to Bryan Harvey’s 1991 season (46). In fact the only other Angel to have 40 was Percival twice in 1998 and 2002. Things were looking up for K-Rod, but the best was yet to come.

The Angels made the playoffs again. This time versus the Yankees, a much easier opponent for K-Rod, as he shut the door down on them in game 2. The Angels would win the series on a K-Rod save and it was off to Chicago’s South Side. That…did not go well. Despite K-Rod putting up 2.1 scoreless innings, the Angels couldn’t score, and lost the ALCS to the eventual World Series champions.

But 2006 was next, and K-Rod put that behind him with another Cy Young candidate season. He finished 4th in the CY Young again, breaking the Angel record with 47 saves, a K per 9 of 12.1, and an ERA+ of 263. Yes, 263! That is so utterly ridiculous that even Mariano Rivera only bested that 3 times in his career and Trevor Hoffman only once! Even Dennis Eckersley only broke that one time. But it was also when he finished 8th in wild pitches despite only pitching in 73 innings. And the Angels missed the playoffs again.

2007 put K-Rod on the map again, as he was on the All Star team this time and got the save for the AL. It was also a year of stepping back a bit. While he did have only 7 wild pitches that season, enough to not make the top 10 this time, it cost him some of his ability as his K/9 dropped to “only” 12 and his ERA+ to only 162, a full 101 point decrease from the year before and just 40 saves, tying him for 2nd that season.

Still, the team was in the playoffs again and things were looking up! Against the Red Sox again, K-Rod fell apart. Unlike the other times when he was still good but unlucky, this time K-Rod lasted only a third of an inning to blow game 2 in walkoff fashion. It stung and the Angels were swept. Did his dominance look to be fading?

Breaking records

Then 2008 came along and K-Rod pulled a Nolan Ryan. Leaning into the wild aspect, he looked at the all-time saves record and determined it was his, damn it! Nothing would stand in his way, even as he had issues with striking people out as his strikeout-per-9 rate fell again to 10.1. 57 saves had stood since 1990 and it was a reminder on his jersey. And he broke it on September 13th, 2008.

It has been 12 years, and no one has eclipsed 57 again. K-Rod’s 62 is not going to be broken anytime soon. That was also his 4th season of at least 40 saves, most in Angels history. Only 3 pitches have ever had 4 back to back to back to back seasons of 40 saves or more. K-Rod, Trevor Hoffman, and Craig Kimbrel. That’s it.

A 199 ERA+ is nothing to sneeze at either, although his ERA number of 2.24 vs his FIP number of 3.22 shows that perhaps he did benefit from a strong defense. Still, for his efforts he got an All Star Game nod, finished 3rd in the AL Cy Young, and 6th in AL MVP. It was time to take this to the playoffs.

And Boston ruins everything, because of course they do, K-Rod blows it in game 2 and Angels lose the series 3-1. K-Rod was wild, and it cost the team. At least it was close this time.

Legacy

K-Rod had enough and bolted for the Mets for a big contract. He would have another All Star season and the Angels picked up Brian Fuentes. We know how 2009 goes.

He saved 40 games twice with the Brewers following his Mets tenure. He has yet to pitch after 2017, so he is effectively retired.

He has the second most saves in Angels history at 208 with 451 innings pitched. He’s also 21st in strikeouts for a 11.7 K/9, better than any Angel. He certainly earned the name K-Rod and his 16 bWAR is 11th all-time among Angels, behind his predecessor Percival.

In any case, Francisco Rodríguez is the second best closer in Angels history and a damn fun one to watch, a mix of unadulterated joy and fear.

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HalosFanForLife
Trusted Member
3 years ago

Francisco. That’s a fun word to say.

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2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago

should be in the top 10
should be a fucking HOF’er, and he’s why Bill Stoneman is overrated to me. Because Bill Bavasi and Bob Fountaine got him not Stoneman & Bane

2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

ahead of Percy and Harvey too IMO.

JackFrost
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

I would not argue with top ten for Frankie, but he has absolutely GOT to be in the top 15.

Having him at 29 is way to low. The greatest relief pitcher we’ve ever had and an indispensable part of our Golden Age.