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K-Rod a risky bet for Brewers as closer

I admit: I've been predicting the demise of Francisco Rodriguez for years.

Remember when he set the single-season record with 62 saves for the Angels back in 2008 and then signed with the Mets in 2009 as a free agent? He had 35 saves for the Mets but a 3.71 ERA. His strikeout rate was in decline from his flame-throwing days with the Angels, he walked five batters per nine innings and his fastball was losing some zip. But he rebounded in 2010 with a solid 2.20 ERA and he improved his control. Still, his fastball velocity was down to 91 mph and he was relying now on deception more than power. How long could that last?

In 2011, he wasn't pitching that well for the Mets (a 3.16 ERA but more than a hit per inning), got traded to the Brewers and excelled for them as a setup guy down the stretch as they reached the playoffs. In 2012, the Brewers brought him back and he was an expensive setup guy who posted a 4.38 ERA with mediocre peripherals and I was sure he was just about done. He was a free agent and the Brewers re-signed him again for 2013, although they traded him to Baltimore. But they couldn't quit K-Rod and re-signed him for 2014 and he became the team's closer, saving 44 games, his first 30-save season since 2009.

And now for the fourth time, he's signed as a free agent with the Brewers. That has to be some kind of record. At least this time they reportedly gave him a two-year contract.

How much does he have left? His fastball velocity averaged just 90.6 mph in 2014 but according to Brooksbaseball.net, for the first time in his career he threw his two-seam sinking fastball more often than his four-seamer. His changeup remains a deadly two-strike weapon as batters hit just .157 against it -- the highest average he's allowed against that pitch going back to 2009. His walk rate was a career low and while batters hit just .198 against him overall, there was one big red flag: 14 home runs allowed.

That's the most home runs any reliever in baseball allowed. Over the past three seasons, only Ernesto Frieri has allowed more home runs among relievers. Luckily for K-Rod, 12 of the home runs were solo shots; still, of the 14 home runs, three of them were game-tying home runs, two came with the score tied and one relinquished a lead.

You can argue that K-Rod was simply a little unlucky since 29 percent of the fly balls he allowed landed on the wrong side of the fence, much higher than his overall rate of 12.2 percent since 2009. But ... that percentage has increased each season since 2009. Seems like the Brewers are playing with fire in expecting him to go 44-for-49 again in save opportunities.

It was pretty clear that no other team wanted Rodriguez as its closer, which is how he ended up back in Milwaukee. We'll see who's right but I'll predict K-Rod doesn't last the season as the Brewers' closer.