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Game Hero, 38 - 49

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Wandy Rodriguez
 
  • First complete game shutout pitched by an Astro in 14 months
  • 86 Game Score is Astro high for the season
  • Sets career high in innings pitched and earned runs
  • Ties career high with 8 strikeouts
  • Viable 16-inning scoreless streak
Anointing [Wandy Rodriguez] as anything more than back-of-the-rotation filler having a great month is pretty optimistic. His track record is so familiar--unassuming, pitch-throwing lefty--that PECOTA predicts he'll be out of baseball by age 31.
. . . .
It's really difficult to accept that, after five starts, Rodriguez has somehow turned a corner and has learned to pitch in the majors.
. . . .
In other words, his April is a great story, but we can't view it as predictive of a level of performance he's never shown before.
-----
                                     John Erhardt
                                     Baseball Prospectus
                                     April 27, 2006

Wandy Rodriguez still may be out of baseball by the age of 31, who knows. But I can finally categorize the preceding words as the callous tripe I had immediately suspected them to be, because it is undeniable that Wandy Rodriguez HAS learned to pitch in the majors, and he's learned to do so very well, thank you very much, Mr. Erhardt.

It's very easy to use this derived number or that derived number, and tell us that Albert Pujols is going to have a good year.

You really think?

What's a lot more difficult is allowing that simple hard work and learning to play the game smart can also get you serviceable results in this league. That otherwise unqualified players can and often do "turn the corner" when they find an edge other, stronger, faster players might not need.

For Wandy, the edge he found appears to be doubled: 1) the hook he can throw for strikes 7 times out of 10 and 2) the confidence to throw it. Certainly his fastball hasn't gotten any faster.

Sure, he's lucky he's a lefty. And he's lucky his curve breaks away from righthanded batters. Still, he had to find that wherewithal to command it. Wandy Rodriguez should be goddamned proud that he threw a complete game shutout against perhaps the best team in the National League last night, and Dave Wallace should take a bow, too.

From a pitcher who was terrified of failure, and had no faith in his stuff at all come a precarious situation, we now have a pitcher who appears confident in his repertoire, and is ready to battle when the chips are down.

The transformation may not have been smooth; it may not have been seamless, but it's almost nearly complete, and it's a remarkable reinvention that I feel fortunate to have seen.

  *     * 

There are so many things you can say about the game that Wandy pitched Friday night. Here are some of them:

  • It was the first complete game shutout pitched by an Astro since May 21, 2006, when Taylor Buchholz did it.
  • It was the first CG shutout thrown for the Astros by a lefty since Andy Pettitte threw one a week before Buchholz threw his.
  • It is in the top twenty All-Time for Game Score by an Astros lefty, tying Jim Deshaies and the game he threw April 13, 1988 vs. the Braves, and right behind Pettitte's gem
  • It is tied with games thrown by Peavy, Hamels, Morris and Marquis for second highest game score in the National League this year
  • It is one of the eleven best pitched games by Game Score at Minute Maid Park
  • It is one of the eleven best-pitched games by an Astro this century.
  • And I'll break that last one down for you:
Top Astros Game Scores Since 2000
Pitcher Date Opp Score IP H ER BB K Game Score
Wade Miller 5/30/2003 @CHC W 9  -  1 9 2 1 1 14 92
Roy Oswalt 4/16/2004 MIL W 2  -  0 9 3 0 0 10 91
Wade Miller 9/15/2002 STL W 8  -  0 9 3 0 0 9 90
Wade Miller 4/11/2001 @MIL W 7  -  1 9 3 1 1 12 88
Andy Pettitte 5/14/2006 COL W 3  -  0 9 3 0 1 7 87
Roger Clemens 8/13/2005 PIT L 0  -  1 8 2 0 0 9 87
Chris Holt 4/28/2000 @MIL W 7  -  0 9 1 0 2 3 86
Roy Oswalt 6/12/2005 TOR W 3  -  0 9 2 0 0 3 86
Wandy Rodriguez 7/6/2007 NYM W 4  -  0 9 4 0 1 8 86
Roger Clemens 9/19/2004 MIL W 1  -  0 8 2 0 2 10 86
Roy Oswalt 8/30/2001 CIN W 6  -  1 9 3 1 0 9 86

I'll admit it's still more likely that Wandy will end up like Chris Holt than like Andy Pettitte, but you know what? So what.

Wandy will have this game forever. No-one--not even the killjoys at Prospectus--can take it away from him.