If you hadn't seen this headline and were asked who is the all time leader in a pitching stat called, "Holds," would you have guessed that the answer is Arther Lee Rhodes, Jr.? Probably not. The man has been around forever. It seems like a hundred years ago that he almost blew up the Orioles chances in the 1996 playoffs against Cleveland. It seems like fifty years ago that he did blow up the Mariners' chances against the Yankees in a dramatic 2000 playoff series that was busted wide open by his meltdown. Today, as an old guy, he has finished three straight years with an ERA+ over 170 and is as reliable as they come.
What a long trip it has been. Rhodes was 20 years old when he began his career as a starter for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991. As a starter he was inconsistent and he spent his first four years back and forth to the minors. But he did manage to get 51 starts in. By his fifth year, he was spending more time coming out of the bullpen and that's what he has been doing ever since.
He wasn't always great. He had some clunker years (four of them), but he has finished above league average in 14 different years. Several of them way, way over league average. In 1996 and 1997 for the Orioles, he went 19-4 in relief with 164 strikeouts in 158+ innings.
After nine years with the Orioles, Rhodes signed as a free agent with the Mariners and played there for four seasons. Two of them were spectacular and the best two seasons of his career. In 2001 and 2002, he went 18-4 all in relief with 164 strikeouts in 137+ innings. His ERA those two years were 1.72 and 2.33.
Rhodes then went on to Oakland in 2004 and they tried to make him a closer. That didn't work out too well. He did record nine saves, but his ERA ballooned to over 5.00. That experiment soon soured and they went to someone else and he went somewhere else. He had a great year in Cleveland in 2005 and posted a 2.08 ERA.
He pitched in 55 games in Philadelphia in 2006, but he wasn't right. His elbow started hurting and again, his ERA ballooned to over 5.00 that season. Finally, he was shut down and had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2007. He has come out of that period of time really well.
In 2008, he split the season with Seattle and Florida. He pitched in 61 games that season and had a combined ERA of 2.04. He was particularly unbelievable with the Marlins. In 25 games with them that season, his ERA was 0.68. He didn't give up any homers in 2008. Not bad for an old guy with a rebuilt arm.
Rhodes has found a home in Cincinnati and pitched really well in 66 games for them last year. He finished with a 173 ERA+ and he has started off well again in 2010. He doesn't look like he will be done pitching any time soon.
Rhodes is rare in that most would consider him a LOOGY. He is left-handed and he is featured in match ups against left-handed hitters. But he is still a power pitcher just like he always has been. This year, the Reds are using him more for whole innings in the setup role instead of spotting him just against a lefty or two here and there. In five appearances, he has pitched five full innings and has a WHIP of 0.75 and an ERA of 2.25.
The incredible Arthur Rhodes has been around forever and keeps throwing beebees and big sweeping sliders. And he could just go on for a number of more years to come.