Carlos Rodon can’t help but feel like a father whose child has been kidnapped. He’s heard nothing but bad news and rumors about his son. His son is constantly under the watchful eye of the press, and he’s in limbo. Rodon’s family, friends and advisers have urged Rodon to get his son back into his life and out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, but it’s not that easy. His son has done things that have embarrassed Rodon and the family, and he’s embarrassed his son. And, Rodon’s actions and the family’s actions have created a rift between son and father.
There have been few better stories in Major League Baseball in 2021 than that of Carlos Rodon. In his three starts this season, the 28-year-old left-handed pitcher has stunned baseball fans with what appeared to be a full recovery from his career.
With a 3-0 record, a microscopic 0.47 ERA, a .684 WHIP, an 11.4 K/9 ratio and, oh yeah, NO-HITTER, Rodon is playing like someone who has something to prove.
The fact is that Rodon is a man who has something to prove. His turbulent seven-year career has been a rollercoaster of performances and emotions. Rodon’s journey from top athlete to promising rookie to injured professional to returning to the top has been exciting.
I wanted to trace his history and all the ups and downs. More importantly, I wanted to better understand his success in 2021. So, without further ado, let’s begin.
Photo: USA TODAY Sports
Carlos Rodon, placed third by the White Sox in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, was the best college arm in his class.
In three years at North Carolina State, Rodon went 25-10 with a 2.24 ERA and an 11.4 K/9 ratio. He was named ACC Pitcher of the Year and National Rookie of the Year in 2012.
He drew attention in his sophomore season, when he was named USA Baseball’s Player of the Year. He also led the Wolf Pack to their first College World Series appearance in more than 40 years this year.
It looked like Rodon might be number one. However, questions have arisen about his reduced workload as a junior after playing only 98.2 innings.
Most scouts still saw him as a top player and someone who would quickly become a full-time playoff ace. The Scouting Report even compared him to David Price, who was then a three-time All-Star and less than two years removed from winning the Cy Young Award.
To say Rodon showed promise when he left school would be an understatement. The White Sox, of course, agreed.
Photo: Daniel Sheary/MLB Photos via Getty Images
As expected, Carlos Rodon’s stay in the minor leagues was short-lived. He played just 11 games in the White Sox farm system and was on rookie and top teams before being sent to Triple-A Charlotte.
At each level, Rodon dropped the bats with a single. His total K/9 rate during his career is over 13.
On the 20th. April 2015 Carlos Rodon was officially called up to the premier league. He made his MLB debut out of the bullpen, which is exactly the approach the team took with Chris Sale. It was a start to forget, as Rodon pitched 60 innings in 2.1 innings, walked three and allowed two runs. But by the time Rodon came into the game, the White Sox were down by two runs.
He appeared twice more as a substitute in the following weeks. The 9th. In May, he showed manager Robin Ventura why he is a starter. In his first major league start, Rodon struck out six innings and allowed four hits and two runs in a win over the White Sox. He got his first victory and never looked back.
Rodon started a total of 23 games for the White Sox in his debut season. He completed 139.1 innings with a 3.75 ERA and struckout 22.9% of the batters. While it is clear that there is still work to be done (11.7 BB%), this is an excellent start.
2016 was Carlos Rodon’s first full season as a major league starter. So far this season has been the hardest for him: He started in 28 games and pitched 165 innings. Although his ERA increased slightly (4.04), he showed a marked improvement in control. His walk rate is down to 7.6% this season. He threw 17 fewer batters in 25.2 more innings than last year.
After the White Sox traded Chris Sale to Boston in the winter of 2016, many fans expected Carlos Rodon to become the team’s true ace.
Unfortunately, Rodon was injured for the first time during the off-season. The 24-year-old missed almost three months at the start of the season after being diagnosed with bursitis in his elbow in the off-season.
He returned on July 28. 2017 and made 12 starts before ending up in a hospital bed in early September. This time he suffered from shoulder pain, which was again diagnosed as bursitis. Later that month, he underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery.
Carlos Rodon started 2018 late for the second year in a row as he is still recovering from shoulder surgery. The 9th. July, he was on the field for the first time this season.
Rodon made 20 starts in 2018, with a 6-8 record. He’s thrown 120.2 innings this season. For the third year in a row, his ERA is up (4.18) and his strikeout rate is down. Still, Rodon has pitched six or more innings in 15 of his 20 starts. At least for the moment it seemed healthy.
Six months later, the White Sox have designated Rodon as the 2019 Opening Day starter.
But after just one month into the season, Rodon and White Sox fans have suffered a setback. On the 13th. In May 2019, the White Sox announced that Carlos Rodon would need Tommy John surgery.
After recovering for the remainder of the 2019 season, Rodon returned to action for the lockout-shortened 2020 season. He made two starts in late July and early August before being benched again due to shoulder issues.
Carlos Rodon after his loss against Cleveland – 24. September 2020
Photo credits: Tony Dejak/AP
As with any fan base, there are a few moments that White Sox fans will never forget. Chicago’s South Side fans have World Series titles, division champions, perfect games and no-hitters etched in their memories.
But on Thursday the 24th. September 2020, White Sox fans would rather forget it.
On that day, Rodon will take the field for the first time in 51 days against rival Cleveland. It was his first appearance since serving a suspension for a shoulder injury.
However, he did not enter the game as a starter, but as a reliever for Jimmy Cordero in the bottom of the seventh inning, when the score was 4-1 with two outs and a base loaded.
The decision to use Rodon in this situation has become one of the most talked about decisions by White Sox managers in recent history, and for good reason. The fact is, Rodon wasn’t ready for this moment.
Cesar Hernandez (3-2) pitched into center field and scored two runs. Jose Ramirez then launched a 1-0 pitch to left field, allowing two more runs.
In total, Carlos Rodon allowed five hits and four runs in just 1/3 inning. The White Sox lost the game 5-4 and Rodon received the defeat.
It would have been bad enough in the middle of the season, but the circumstances surrounding this particular game made it even worse.
In mid-September, the White Sox looked like they could win the AL Central, as they had beaten the Minnesota Twins by three games, just five days before Rodon returned to action. Instead, they began an epic run in which they won six of eight games to 24. September and 0.5 games behind.
It was a chance for the White Sox to regain some of the division lead and the momentum they so desperately needed to end a shortened season. That didn’t happen, as the White Sox finished the season two games behind Minnesota. They went into the playoffs as a wild card candidate and lost to the Athletics in the first round.
One wonders if it was Rodon himself or manager Ricky Renteria who put him in this position. The look on Rodon’s face when he returned to the couch was heartbreaking. He played one more game in 2020 (1.2 scoreless innings), but for many fans and perhaps Rodon himself, that day was a low point for the once-promising lefty.
Less than three months later, the White Sox let Carlos Rodon go.
After Carlos Rodon went through waivers, the White Sox signed him to a one-year, $3 million contract for the 2021 season.
White Sox fans really didn’t know what to expect from their once favorite lefty. Nevertheless, the cheap one-year contract was considered an excellent decision by all. This was Rodon’s last chance to prove he deserved a place on the South Side.
And he did.
How did he do that? What changes has Rodon undergone to evolve from the version of himself we saw in 2020 to the man who hit the 20th no-hitter in White Sox history?
I turned to one of my favorite resources, Baseball Savant, to try to solve this problem.
Rodon is relying more than ever on his fastball (54.5%), and for good reason. He found a level of speed and control he had never achieved before. Rodon increased his fastball by just under 2 MPH over his career average. More importantly, he keeps finding them.
Just look at his 2021 fastball heat map compared to the previous three seasons:
In 2021, Rodon consistently threw his fastball in the strike zone, leading to his highest flyball percentage ever (31.6%).
Even more impressive, his 34% batting average on his fastball is more than double his career average of 15.3%. He never misses his mark, and it shows. So far in 2021, Rodon has improved its weak point contacts by over 14%.
The success of this fastball has, of course, plummeted. Rodon has always had an elite slider. But his ability to use his fastball more effectively makes him even more devastating. Hitters fend off Rodon’s slider with a staggering 51.4% rate. This figure increases to 67% when the value is 0 to 2.
Speaking of bills: Rodon keeps pace, allowing him to be freer and walk hitters.
He throws almost 7% more pitches outside the zone, but he has increased the number of swings and misses on those balls by almost 8%. Sometimes he makes hitters look like fools.
It’s not just the fastball construction that makes Rodon’s slider more effective. Horizontal movement on the field is 7% higher than his career average of about an inch.
In fact, Rodon looks to add a curveball to his repertoire. He has only thrown nine pitches so far, but his early error rate is 100%. This must be followed up.
Overall, Carlos Rodon is in the 85th percentile. Percentile or better across Major League Baseball in xBA, xSLG, and K%. He’s in the 93rd. Percentile for Whiff%. Simply put, it dominates.
How did he do it, and can he keep doing it? These are the most pressing questions, and much of it is speculation.
Maybe it has something to do with new coach Ethan Katz. That could be because the pitcher is healthy for the first time in a long time.
Or it could be the result of the actions of someone who knows this could be their last chance. A man who has reached rock bottom and realizes there is no other way out but up. Rodon throws with a confidence we’ve never seen on the South Side, and I think he’s found it in himself.
Note that all stats and figures for 2021 are based on three starts. That’s a paltry sample size, and it’s safe to assume Rodon will get closer to average as the season progresses. Only time will tell.
For now, let’s take the opportunity to evaluate what Carlos Rodon does in Chicago’s South Side when he takes the field in early 2021. Let’s also appreciate what he went through.
And in the case of White Sox fans, let’s hope this resurgence continues.