One of the great things about baseball is how the past and present can intermingle. As players climb the all time leaderboards, the names of the past come back to life. For example, Derek Jeter presently finds himself eleventh on the all time hits list, squarely between Willie Mays and Eddie Collins.
There are also seasons where a player seemingly comes out of nowhere to dominate. Steve Stone had never won more than 15 games in a season prior to 1980, but ended up winning a Cy Young Award that season with a 25-7 record and a 3.23 ERA. Stone was out of the major leagues a year later. Fred Dunlap posted an OPS+ of 258 (158% above average) in 1884, a mark only surpassed over a century later by Barry Bonds. Dunlap hit .412 that season but only hit .300 two other times in his career. And the best example may be Roger Maris, who jumped from 16 homers in 1959 to 39 in 1960 to a record-breaking 61 in 161 down to 33 in 1962 and despite being just 27 years old, never hit 30 homers in a season again. Fernando Rodney is in the midst of that type of season.
For the season, Rodney has a record of 2-2, 46 saves and an ERA of 0.62. Over 72.1 innings, he has allowed only 41 hits and 15 walks, striking out 72 batters. His ERA+ for the season sits at an astonishing 615, which is the best in major league history for any pitcher with over 50 innings of work. Second on the list is Dennis Eckersley, who posted an ERA of 0.61, good for an ERA+ of 603 back in 1990. To put 2012 in context against the rest of his career, Rodney’s previously best season was arguably 2005, when he went 2-3, 9 saves, and an ERA of 2.86 in 39 games. Over his 44 innings that year, Rodney gave up 39 hits and 17 walks, striking out 42 batters. This season gave him an ERA+ of 149, his previous career best.
Fernando Rodney was a low-risk move, signed to a one year, 1.75 million dollar contract with a team option for 2.5 million dollars for the 2013 season. Heading into his age 35 season after posting a 3-5 record with an ERA of 4.50 and walked more batters than he struck out in 2011, expectations for Rodney were minimal at best. The gamble paid off in unexpected fashion for the Rays, as Rodney is closing out a season for the ages.
Even if Rodney fails to perform at this level again, he has still managed to leave his mark upon the Major League Baseball record books, and carry the Rays the entire season. Not bad for a 35 year old pitcher who may have seen his career end after the year if he had failed.