Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

hector rondon cubsBefore I saw any quotes on the matter, I’d decided to write a post about reliever Hector Rondon’s recent success. Meta confession: although the title is usually the last thing I write for a post, sometimes I come up with the title before I actually write anything out. In this instance, I’d decided to go with what you see above.

After starting work on the post, what do I find? Dale Sveum beat me to the damn punch.

“He’s not that Rule 5 guy anymore,” Sveum told the Tribune. Bah. I’m sticking with my title.

In any event, Rondon has looked mighty good of late. After looking for months like a mere roster stash, Rondon’s velocity has ticked up into the mid-90s, and his control has improved dramatically.

In turn, his numbers have improved.

In seven September innings – *flashes small sample size AND September warning lights* – Rondon has walked just one batter, while striking out six. He hasn’t given up an earned run, and batters have a mere .139 OPS (yes, OPS) against him.

You can see his improvement in the monthly FIP trend (April through September): 5.47, 5.83, 5.47, 4.31, 3.68, 1.76. That improvement, which tracks a general improvement in his walk rate, K rate, and overall performance, can also be seen in its simplest form. A chart from FanGraphs depicting his fastball velocity this year:

I don’t think you need me to explain what’s going on there. It’s a steady climb from the low-90s to the mid-90s. Heck, you could even label the most recent stretch as “upper-90s,” and I wouldn’t think it unreasonable.

It’s important to remember with Rondon: he was a Rule 5 guy only because of his arm injuries (Tommy John in 2010, elbow fracture in 2011), and he’s only just now getting his first taste of the big leagues at age 25 because of those injuries. With health, there was always reason to believe he had the talent to succeed in the bigs.

(Bonuses: He’s got a Twitter fan club, and I can’t help but hear his name as Gus Fring would say it while talking to wheelchair-bound cartel heavyweight Hector Salamanca.)

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