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White Sox Lefty Carlos Rodon: Man On A Mission

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The career of Carlos Rodon has been an up-and-down career, to say the least. The Chicago White Sox took Rodon with the third pick of the 2014 MLB draft where the left-hander out of North Carolina State University was the first collegiate pitcher taken. With such a high selection comes higher expectations, and White Sox fans couldn’t wait for Rodon to fulfill his potential.

After all, a guy with his talent just had to be a big-time MLB pitcher.

A Few Bumps In The Road

A funny thing happened on the path to Cooperstown for Carlos Rodon since his MLB debut against the Cleveland Indians in April of 2015. He would go on to put up respectable numbers as a starter in 2015 and 2016, however, in 2017, the injury bug began an assault on Rodon that would derail his once-promising career in a major way. Over the next three seasons, he would start 12, 20, and 7 games respectively. On May 13th, 2019, the Sox announced that Rodon would have season-ending Tommy John surgery. Five years after being a top draft pick, Rodon would see his career sidelined with major questions about his future.

Rodon had his surgery in May of 2019 and began the slow recovery process. He missed the rest of the 2019 season and continued to rehab during the Covid-19 break in 2020. He returned to the White Sox late last season, appearing in a total of four games. Two of these appearances were as an opener while two were out of the bullpen. Pitching a total of 7 2/3 innings, Rodon compiled an unsightly earned run average of 8.22, while posting a career-worst WHIP of 1.565. Considering that he was coming off Tommy John surgery, the numbers could be taken with a grain of salt. Making matters worse for Rodon, he managed to post an infinite ERA in his one postseason appearance, allowing two runs without retiring a batter.

And The Bottom Falls Out

There is no doubt that Carlos Rodon struggled mightily in his few appearances in 2020. While this was to be expected based on his circumstances, what followed came as a surprise to some Sox fans. Rodon, entering the final year of his contract, was non-tendered by the White Sox. Rather than bringing the former high draft pick back for one more season, the Sox chose to cut their losses. While this may not have shocked some fans, it had to at least be disappointing. Fans had hoped that Rodon could be the left-handed starter, although some were ready, as were the Sox, to move on from Rodon. So, the potential star became a man in search of a team.

A New Beginning Of Sorts

Then, to further confuse their fans, on January 30th, 2021, the White Sox announced that they had re-signed Rodon to a one-year contract for $3,000,000. While many transactions occurred over the offseason, the Rodon signing did not exactly rock the baseball universe. Some, perhaps many Sox fans were confused, if not upset, at the signing. After all, this is team is built to win now and Rodon has no place on this team. What role could Rodon possibly fill with the White Sox, who considered themselves serious contenders for the World Series?

Well, it turns out that the roller coaster Carols Rodon has ridden had another turn. Despite the presence of such pitchers as Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, and others, Rodon won the fifth starter spot in spring training. Rodon threw the ball well in Arizona, while Lopez faltered, and the team decided that Kopech was better served working out of the bullpen. Rodon, it seemed, was a man on a mission, a pitcher determined to redeem himself. Now, all of his hard work had paid off, and he had a second chance, a chance not every player gets. So, how would he respond to this new opportunity?

From Non-Tendered To Cy Young Candidate

To suggest that Carlos Rodon has made the most of his opportunity would be the understatement of the year. He entered the season as the Sox fifth starter, with lowered expectations. Yet, here in mid-July, he is a legitimate candidate for the American League Cy Young award. For a fifth starter to even be in the Cy Young discussion is something out of a Hollywood script. Yet, Rodon is no doubt one of the elite pitchers in the entire AL.

For the doubters, here are some of his accomplishments. According to MLB Network, Rodon is only the third pitcher in AL/NL history with multiple outings in a season with 10 strikeouts, no walks, and one hit or less. (The other two are Matt Cain and Max Scherzer.) This includes his no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians on April 14th, where he lost his bid for a perfect game with one out in the ninth when his famed “back foot slider” turned literal. Okay, two games don’t mean much over a 162 game season.

Then, there is this: Rodon is one of only five pitchers with four starts where he went at least six innings and allowed one or zero hits since 1900. (The others are Freddy Peralta in 2021, Matt Cain and Chris Young in 2006, and Pete Alexander in 1915.) This suggests that Rodon is fully capable of shutting teams down every time he takes the mound. This covers 25% of his starts and speaks highly of his ability to dominate hitters.

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Maybe these accomplishments are not overwhelming. After all, they cover two starts and four starts respectively. How about an active streak of 10 consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts? Yep, that is the streak Rodon is currently enjoying. While eight strikeouts may not sound like much, to do that ten games in a row is pretty remarkable. It demonstrates just how consistent Rodon has been so far in 2021.

But How Is He Doing Overall?

Yes, those are nice accomplishments, but most fans want to know what is overall stats look like. Those are what will tell us whether this guy is a legitimate Cy Young candidate. How has he done overall in his 16 starts this season? Gere are some stats that will demonstrate just how well Rodon has pitched.

ERA 2.14 (Leads AL)

Won/Lost % .727 (5th in AL)

WHIP .900 (Leads AL)

Hits per 9 innings 5.679 (Leads AL)

Strikeouts per 9 innings 13.035 (Leads AL)

Strikeouts 140 (2nd in AL)

FIP 2.21 (Leads AL)

Strikeout/Walk ratio 5.385 (2nd in AL)

WAR 3.8 (Tied for 3rd in AL)

Adjusted ERA Plus 199 (Leads AL)

Rodon also leads the AL in three other statistical categories. He has been as consistent as any starter in the AL. He ranks up there with Gerritt Cole and Kyle Gibson in most categories. All of these statistics indicate a pitcher who has been dominant since his first start in 2021. No matter how one analyzes these numbers, it is undeniable that Carlos Rodon has been an elite pitcher in 2021. He is one of the biggest reasons that the White Sox find themselves 20 games above .500, and maintaining a comfortable lead in the AL Central.

A Man On A Mission: Looking For A Big Finish

So, how does Carlos Rodon put a bow on the 2021 season? The calendar still says July, so we may be a bit premature. Still, Sox fans are looking for big things from their team once they reach October. Assuming that Rodon stays healthy and dominant, he figures to be a big part of any playoff run. Unlike 2020, though, Rodon will be starting, and not coming out of the bullpen. When he steps on that mound for the first time in October, Sox fans will hope and expect that he will continue to be the 2021 version of Carlos Rodon. If that happens, it just might be a magical October on the South Side.

Maybe, just maybe, the man on a mission will lead the parade through Bridgeview.

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!