The pitcher following deGrom's blueprint

July 18th, 2021

Think about the basic qualities that define Jacob deGrom's dominance: huge velocity gains, triple-digit heat even late into games, a wipeout slider, heavy reliance on that overpowering fastball-slider combo.

There's another pitcher following the deGrom blueprint … but from the left side. .

Rodón's fastball is faster than ever. He's touching 100 mph. He's letting it eat in the late innings. He's racking up outs with his slider. And his fastball and slider have been so good that he's barely needed his own third pitch.

The White Sox left-hander turned himself into a first-time All-Star, boasting a 2.31 ERA, 0.959 WHIP and 130 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings entering the second half of the season. Here's a closer look at what has made Rodón so good.

The fastball

You might have seen Rodón was throwing harder this year, but did you realize how much harder?

He's gained over four full ticks on his fastball. That's a huge increase. As a starter, Rodón's four-seamer averaged 91.5 mph in his limited action last year, which is what happens when you have a hurt shoulder. This year he's averaging 95.9 mph.

Rodón's avg. 4-seam fastball velo as SP, by year
2015 -- 94.0 mph (99.3 mph max)
2016 -- 94.2 mph (100.3 mph max)
2017 -- 93.3 mph (98.4 mph max)
2018 -- 92.9 mph (97.4 mph max)
2019 -- 91.4 mph (96.0 mph max)
2020 -- 91.5 mph (94.4 mph max)
2021 -- 95.9 mph (100.5 mph max)

That's harder than he was throwing when he was healthy. And it gives Rodón the biggest fastball velocity gain of any starting pitcher from 2020-21 -- by nearly two full mph.

SP with biggest increase in 4-seam fastball velo, 2020-21
Min. 25 fastballs thrown in both seasons

  1. Carlos Rodón: +4.4 mph (91.5 mph to 95.9 mph)
  2. Madison Bumgarner: +2.7 mph (88.4 mph to 91.1 mph)
  3. (tie) Wil Crowe: +2.5 mph (91.5 mph to 94.0 mph)
  4. (tie) Justin Dunn: +2.5 mph (91.2 mph to 93.7 mph)
  5. Nick Pivetta: +2.2 mph (92.5 mph to 94.7 mph)

Rodón isn't throwing 100 mph every pitch like deGrom does … but he is throwing 100 mph at his peak velo, and hitting the upper 90s routinely.

Rodón's % of 4-seamers thrown 97+ mph as SP, by year
2015 -- 4.8%
2016 -- 10.4%
2017 -- 2.6%
2018 -- 0.5%
2019 -- 0.0%
2020 -- 0.0%
2021 -- 30.7%

The 28-year-old has thrown five triple-digit pitches this season -- including three for strikeouts: 100.4 mph, 100.1 mph and 100.0 mph (the six fastest strikeout pitches of Rodón's career have all come this year). He only ever touched the 100 mph mark once in his career before 2021, and that was back in 2016.

By the way, two of those triple-digit punchouts, plus a third at 99.2 mph, came in one overpowering frame -- the sixth inning of his last start before the All-Star break, which made him and Gerrit Cole the only starters in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) to record three 99-plus mph strikeouts in the same inning that late in a game.

What does all this new fastball life add up to? The single most valuable pitch in baseball in 2021.

Statcast's run values take the result of every pitch thrown and measures its impact on the game, based on the count, outs and runners on base. Rodón's four-seam fastball had the best run value of any individual pitch in the first half.

Highest run value for individual pitch types, 1st half of 2021

  1. Carlos Rodón's 4-seamer: 22 runs prevented
  2. Kevin Gausman's splitter: 19 runs prevented
  3. Freddy Peralta's 4-seamer: 17 runs prevented
  4. Jacob deGrom's 4-seamer: 15 runs prevented
  5. (tie) deGrom's slider, Gausman's 4-seamer, Corbin Burnes' cutter, Adrian Houser's sinker and Trevor Bauer's 4-seamer: 14 runs prevented

The slider

As with deGrom, Rodón's newfound extreme heat grabs your attention first. And then he starts pumping in his slider, which is just as nasty. Rodón attacks with his slider in the same low, glove-side corner of the zone as deGrom -- just mirrored for a southpaw. deGrom's sliders get right-handed hitters to chase low-and-away, and bite underneath a left-handed hitter's bat down-and-in. Rodón's sliders sweep across the plate away where lefties can't reach, and bury righties on their back foot.

While Rodón is throwing his fastball at a career-high rate (57% of the time), and has racked up 56 strikeouts with it, his slider is his real strikeout pitch. He's got 71 punchouts on the slider, making it one of the best putaway breaking pitches in the game.

Most K's on a breaking pitch type, 1st half of 2021
Clayton Kershaw's slider -- 96
Carlos Rodón's slider -- 71
Jacob deGrom's slider -- 69
Charlie Morton's curveball -- 59
Tyler Glasnow's curveball -- 58

Well over 100 at-bats have been decided on Rodón's slider. And in case you were wondering what happens in those at-bats … it's not hits. Rodón has allowed a .106 batting average against his slider, making it one of the toughest big league pitches to hit when you consider the volume of plate appearances he uses it to finish off.

Lowest BA allowed on a single pitch type, 1st half of 2021
Min. 100 PA decided on that pitch type
Jacob deGrom's slider: .096 (11-for-114, 69 K)
Carlos Rodón's slider: .106 (12-for-113, 71 K)
Kevin Gausman's splitter: .109 (20-for-184, 95 K)
Freddy Peralta's slider: .124 (12-for-97, 47 K)
Yu Darvish's slider: .127 (13-for-102, 35 K)
Joe Musgrove's slider: .127 (16-for-126, 57 K)

The combo

With how good his fastball and slider are now, Rodón can just fire them in and dare hitters to beat him. It's the same thing deGrom does.

Most run value from 2-pitch combo, 1st half of 2021

  1. Kevin Gausman, 4-seamer/splitter: 33 runs prevented
  2. Carlos Rodón, 4-seamer/slider: 30 runs prevented
  3. Jacob deGrom, 4-seamer/slider: 29 runs prevented
  4. (tie) Lance Lynn, 4-seamer/cutter: 21 runs prevented
  5. (tie) Trevor Bauer, 4-seamer/slider: 21 runs prevented
  6. (tie) Freddy Peralta, 4-seamer/slider: 21 runs prevented

Overall, 84% of the pitches Rodón is throwing this season are four-seamers and sliders; 87% of plate appearances against him end on one of those two pitch types. And 41% of those plate appearances are strikeouts; just 14% are base hits.

Strikeouts are king, so let's finish up by looking at which pitchers had the most punchouts with their fastball-slider combo in the first half of 2021. Only seven had 100 or more. And by now you can probably guess who finished No. 1 and No. 2.

Most K's on 4-seamers + sliders, 1st half of 2021

  1. Jacob deGrom: 131 (62 on 4-seamers, 69 on sliders)
  2. Carlos Rodón: 127 (56 on 4-seamers, 71 on sliders)
  3. Freddy Peralta: 123 (76 on 4-seamers, 47 on sliders)
  4. Robbie Ray: 121 (66 on 4-seamers, 55 on sliders)
  5. Clayton Kershaw: 106 (10 on 4-seamers, 96 on sliders)
  6. (tie) Zack Wheeler: 102 (60 on 4-seamers, 42 on sliders)
  7. (tie) Gerrit Cole: 102 (58 on 4-seamers, 44 on sliders)