Almost from the time that Carlos Rodon was drafted by the White Sox, the common refrain that was heard from the front office was "he needs to work on his changeup." Well, I guess that was until this season.
In his second season, Carlos Rodon has been struggling. Last season, he gave up 0.71 HR/9. This season, it’s 1.39 HR/9. Obviously, that will do bad things to a pitcher’s FIP. Rodon’s is now at 4.31 vs. 3.75 for 2015. Righties have been the big problem. They’ve hit .301/.367/.491 against Rodon this season with 16 home runs.
The changeup is supposed to be the primary weapon for pitchers when facing hitters with the platoon advantage. For Rodon, the changeup just hasn’t been getting thrown that often this season. Last season, he threw it 11.56% of the time to righties. Before his DL trip, he’d thrown his changeup 7.60% of the time to righties. In his last start before going to the DL, Rodon threw one changeup. In that game against the Yankees, he gave up 12 hits to the Yankees in five innings of work.
Since his return from the DL, we’ve seen a different Carlos Rodon. In his first two starts (unfortunately the only games Brooks Baseball currently has data for), Rodon threw 19 changeups in each game, a season high in changeups in each game. That comes to 22.62% of pitches thrown to righties. Know what else is different in Rodon’s last three starts?
Yes, Omar Narvaez seems to have become Carlos Rodon’s personal catcher after his DL trip. Narvaez has only seven starts, so it’s seems more than a coincidence that Narvaez has caught all three of Rodon’s starts. Besides Jacob Turner’s two starts in July, Narvaez has also caught Jose Quintana’s last two starts. In both of Quintana’s starts with Narvaez, Quintana pitched into the eighth inning and was under 100 pitches in both games. In July, Quintana was having problems making it through the seventh without being well over 100 pitches.
Hopefully, this three game stretch has been enough to convince Rodon to throw his changeup more and be more confident with it. Also, it should be a big sign to the White Sox front office that catchers’ defense matters.