In his fourth year in the league, Hector Rondon is finally established as the man at the back of the bullpen for the Chicago Cubs. No longer does Rondon have to split saves or worry about a closer-by-committee approach. Thus far in 2016, Rondon has been lights-out, and just one of the many reasons that the Cubs have raced out to a league best 24-6 record. However, if there is one problem it is that Rondon may be limited by the success of the Cubs’ potent offense.
After earning 29 saves in 2014 and 30 saves in 2015, Rondon no longer has to look over his shoulder and worry about any type of closer controversy. Manager Joe Maddon has put the ninth inning in his hands for good. Like the rest of his teammates, Rondon has come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. He is attacking hitters with fastballs, being aggressive, and not wasting anytime when his number is called. He has been as efficient as ever, and not messing around when the game is on the line.
Thus far, Rondon has appeared in 12 games and is 6-for-6 in save opportunities. He has allowed just four hits, zero walks, and one run which came during a non-save situation. Of the 38 batters that he has faced, 18 have struck out. That is dominant. Rondon has the potential and ability to be a 40-save guy and the reliever of the year this season. The only problem is that his offense may not let him.
There has already been a half-dozen times this year where Rondon has been in line for a save chance, only to see his opportunity erased by insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings. The Cubs have taken the art of tacking on runs to the extreme in 2016. The good problem to have with any good offense and closer is often times the runs scored overshadows the good closer.
With ever-growing confidence, the 6-foot, three-inch, 230-pound right-hander is becoming an imposing force when stepping on the mound to get the final three outs of a game. If there is a silver lining to the Cubs eliminating additional save chances, it is that Rondon is not being overworked early in the season. With the Cubs having high hopes of playing deep into October, having Rondon fresh late just may make all the difference. In the first 30 games of the year, really no Cubs pitcher has been overworked which speaks volumes to the offense and Maddon.
Impressively, the Cubs are 13-2 in blow-out games which tends to leave Rondon having many nights off. However, in October runs will likely be at a premium only adding to the value of having Rondon ready to shut things down late. But for now, he is just champing at the bit for more opportunities to close out games. The only team that has slowed him down really has been the Cubs. Rondon is on the cusp of entering that elite group of closers in the game. He just needs his offense to let him get there.