Friday, March 4, 2016

2015-16 BBM Winter Awards: Playoff MVP

Before I say anything else, I wanted to mention how tough it's been to pick these awards for this season. There were a lot of worthy recipients and I've had to agonize over every selection even more than American League managers and coaches did when they gave Rafael Palmeiro a Gold Glove in 1999 after he played all of 28 games at first base that year. Now that took courage.

Bearing all that in mind, the Baseball Mexico Winter Award winner for Playoff Most Valuable Player is going to left-handed pitcher Hector Daniel Rodriguez, who went 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA for Mexicali through three rounds of the LMP postseason, striking out 28 batters in 26.1 innings.  Rodriguez turned in an 0.84 WHIP after allowing just 16 hits and six walks as a reinforcement for the Aguilas followed a good regular season for his hometown Culiacan Tomateros, for whom he was 7-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 14 starts to give stability to a pitching staff that saw 31 hurlers combine for an LMP-worst 4.97 ERA during the Tomateros' 28-40 season.

After beating Jalisco 5-2 on January 2, topping Navojoa 10-1 on January 11 and throwing 6.1 shutout innings in a ten-inning 1-0 Aguilas loss to the Mayos on January 17, Rodriguez went all the way in a 1-0 Mexicali loss to Mazatlan in Game Three of the MexPac championship series on January 23.  That outing was enough for Venados manager Juan Jose Pacho to pick him up for the Caribbean Series in what turned out to be a prescient move for Pacho.

The 31-year-old opened the Caribbean Series for Mazatlan February 1 against Dominican host Escogido, tossing five innings and striking out five to earn the win in the Venados' 3-2 win over the Leones.  He then pitched six innings of shutout ball five days later in a 7-2 semifinal win against Cuba's Ciego de Avila to win his second CS start, setting the table for the Venados' series-clinching win over Venezuela's Aragua Tigres the following day.

It's been a rocky road for Rodriguez since he won the 2010 BBM Summer Award for Playoff MVP after going 5-0 in the postseason, including two victories over Puebla in the title series, to lead Saltillo to the Mexican League pennant.  At least four MLB teams were interested in the 5'11" portsider at the time, but the restrictive (some would say punitive) nature of Mexican baseball meant he would toil for two more seasons with the Saraperos before finally signing with Atlanta in 2012 after going 11-4 for Saltillo and leading the Liga in strikeouts with 135 that summer.  He had two uneventful years with the Braves' AAA Gwinnett affiliate in 2013 and 2014, turning in an aggregate 9-16 record with an equally-unimpressive 5.26 ERA over two years.

After one scoreless relief appearance last season for Norfolk (the Orioles' AAA farm team), "Dany" returned to Saltillo and pitched in 33 games, all in relief, going 3-1 plus three saves with a respectable 3.16 ERA over 44.1 innings.  While it's unknown whether Saraperos manager Noe Munoz plans to return Rodriguez to the bullpen for the upcoming season, the starting rotation thins out when one gets past 2015 LMB ERA champ Edgmer Escalona, import Michael Nix and Santiago Gutierrez (who all combined for a 29-15 record last year), so it would seem logical that Rodriguez should get a shot at regaining a starting berth this spring.

While his summer address has changed from time to time the past few years, Rodriguez has been a constant during the winter, spending the past eight MexPac seasons with Culiacan, mostly as a starter.  While he's had his moments with the Tomateros in that span, this past season was easily the best of his LMP career.