Face it. Since Biggio and Bagwell left, the Astros get little attention these days. Everyone knows about Roy Oswalt as he is a holdover from those days. The same with Lance Berkman as he is the last remaining "Killer Bee." The Astros have muddled around the middle of the pack most of the year, had a little run a month ago and then watched as the Cardinals got Holliday and roared into overdrive. Because of this middle of the pack thing the Astros have going the past few years, few people have noticed that Oswalt isn't even the ace of that staff anymore. Wandy Rodriguez is.
Wandy Rodriguez? And yeah, that's his given name, Wandy. Wandy Fulton Rodriguez. He's a little lefty from the Dominican Republic who has toiled in the National League now for five years. In every one of those years, he has improved his ERA+. This year, his ERA+ is a phenomenal 148 and that was before another sensational game Wednesday night. Another game that saw him get a no decision. That's part of Wandy's problem this year.
His won/loss record is 13-9. While that seems pretty good, it is another reason why wins and losses do not measure a pitcher. According to Baseball Prospectus, his season translates to a 19-10 season (if taken out over the full season). He's not going to finish close to that. Rodriguez has had three bad starts this year where he deserved to lose. So if you subtract those from his 29 starts, you have 26 starts remaining. Of those 26 starts, he has given up two runs or less 20 times. That's pretty amazing. The only trouble is that the Astros lost five of those 20 starts and Rodriguez got a no decision in five others. With any kind of luck, he should have 18 wins right now.
Let's look at some of Wandy Rodriguez's stats for 2009. After Wednesday night's no decision, Wandy has thrown 182.2 innings and has given up only 161 hits. He's struck out 180 batters and has walked 59. That's good for an excellent 3.05/1 strikeout to walk ratio. The amazing thing about Rodriguez is that his strikeouts per nine innings have increased dramatically after his first two years. In those first two years, the rates were 5.6 and 6.5. Since then it's been: 7.8, 8.6 and 8.4. So he has increased his strikeouts while decreasing his walks per nine innings.
And let's not forget that he's a left-hander that happens to pitch in Houston for half of his games in a ball park that has a left field porch that is easily reachable. And yet, his OPS against at home is .600 compared to .777 on the road. He kills lefty batters and they have a .506 OPS against him. But he's not doing shabby against righties either as they are only batting .256 against him. Righties, however, have hit 17 of the 19 homers he's given up this year.
Wandy Rodriguez currently ranks eighth in the National League among starter ERA+. The names ahead of him are guys like Carpenter, Lincecum, Haran, Cain and Wainwright. That's pretty good company for a guy who most people (except for fantasy players) wouldn't even peg as the Astros' best starter.