Bruce Rondon proved to the Detroit Tigers and fans that there are times when patience really does pay off.
After a few troubling season with the Detroit Tigers, the fastball-throwing pitcher finally figured it out and started playing the right way.
In 2015, Rondon was sent home prior to the end of the season. He wasn’t performing well, which was evident by his 5.81 ERA. Whatever he was dealing with in 2015 didn’t come into 2016. He finished the season with a 2.97 ERA and an impressive WHIP of 0.963.
During the 2016 season, Rondon did not start pitching in Detroit until the middle of June. He spent April through June 16 pitching in Toledo with the Triple-A Mud Hens. With the Mud Hens, Rondon threw in 21.2 innings, earning an ERA of 3.74. He was used as the closing pitcher finishing 18 of 22 games with a WHIP of 1.800.
Getting a Restart in 2016
On June 19, he threw in his first game in Detroit. Brad Ausmus regularly put Rondon into games in the seventh and eighth innings. And, in the majority of games, he truly delivered. Unfortunately, Rondon was often used when the Tigers were behind. In fact, 22 games that he pitched in were losses. But, he did pitch in a few high-leverage games, especially against the Minnesota Twins on September 12 and against the Boston Red Sox on July 27. With his help on the mound, the Tigers were able to get wins in these two games.
Bruce Rondon definitely proved that he can handle the pressures of the MLB. His WHIP and ERA both dropped significantly from 2015 and 2016. Besides being a reliable relief pitcher, he was also had the fastest fastball. His fastball velocity averages 97.2 MPH. His slider averaged 86.3 MPH and his changeup averaged 89.3 MPH.
The Pitches Didn’t Change Much
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After watching Rondon in 2015 and 2016, it may have seemed like he threw fewer fastballs this season. But, he threw relatively the same percentage of pitches. In 2015, he threw 59.3% fastballs, 33.8% sliders, and 6.7% changeups. This season, he threw the fastball 60% of the time, the slider 36.7% , and the changeup 3.4%. During two games against the Red Sox, in July 2016, his fastball reached an average speed of 100 MPH. He did not have any games in 2015 with fastballs that averaged speeds of 100 MPH.
As a fan who was always concerned when Rondon came to the mound in 2015, his performance in 2016 made be a believer. Unfortunately, Ausmus used him in a plethora of low-leverage situations. In fact, every game he pitched in during August were about as low-stress as they get.
Many attribute the change in Bruce Rondon to the leadership from Francisco Rodriguez. For the years that Rondon has been with the Tigers, a rotating door of veterans has moved through the bullpen, but none left an impact like Frankie did. In fact, Ausmus did say that Rodriguez’s role was more than just a pitcher to men like Rondon: “because K-Rod is a role model. He’s a throwback…He’s kind of a blue-collar, old-school type pitcher, and he’s great with the other pitchers down in the pen, he really is.” Hopefully, Rondon has picked up the work ethic that K-Rod established.
Now that the Tigers have announced their fire sale, there is a good chance that Rondon will play a major role in the coming years. In fact, he went from a -0.9 WAR to a 0.9 WAR in one season. That is proof enough that Rondon wants to stay. He isn’t up for arbitration until 2017, so he will continue to be a fiscally “light” member of the team for a few more seasons. And, if he can keep throwing that fastball and stymying batters with his off-speed pitches; hopefully, he will be a Tiger for a long time.