Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers had shoulder surgery in July 2019 and he’s been warned about being careful in the field. There’s a proper way to dive and a reckless way to dive and Rodgers is well versed in each.
“Like if you’re falling off a bike, you don’t wanna just throw your hands down, because that’s a good way to break your wrists,” Rodgers said in a conversation last weekend. “I’ve been working on it, knowing to take better angles and not jumping on top of balls, landing hard and hurting my hips. I’m trying to be as smooth as I can with my dives.”
Rodgers has been the most prolific player at making the diving play this season, having made 18.
The average dive for a middle infielder has about a 25% chance of resulting in an out. Rodgers’ percentage is more than twice that. He’s gotten an out on 18 of his 34 diving attempts. That’s twice as many diving plays made in 2021 (yes, the pic that goes with this article is from last season … Rodgers dives are hard to capture AP and our photo supplier didn’t have any!)
Most Diving Plays Resulting in Out(s)
|Brendan Rodgers||Rockies||18 (34)|
|Ryan Mountcastle||Orioles||16 (26)|
|Tony Kemp||Athletics||14 (23)|
|Andrew Velazquez||Angels||13 (41)|
|Pete Alonso||Mets||12 (36)|
|Michael Chavis||Pirates||12 (29)|
|Carlos Correa||Twins||11 (23)|
|Trevor Story||Red Sox||11 (20)|
|Ben Gamel||Pirates||11 (21)|
|Brendan Donovan||Cardinals||11 (22)|
Here’s some of Rodgers’ highlight reel.
Those dives are partly why Rodgers leads second basemen in Defensive Runs Saved with 19. They extend his range, allowing him to make an abundance of plays on hard-hit balls with low out probabilities.
Rodgers made the conversion to second base because the Rockies had a shortstop in Trevor Story. And given his shoulder surgery, the team decided that even after Story signed with Boston that Rodgers would stay at second base.
So Rodgers, who totaled -5 Runs Saved at second base in 2021, went to work in the offseason on the skills needed to handle the position. He put time in trying to improve his backhand-and-throw-on the-run and his double play turns. The latter has paid off, as his rate of turning potential DPs has jumped from 56% in 2021 to 69% in 2022 – MLB average is usually around 63%.
Rodgers went through a very up and down (or more down than up) start to the season at the plate, hitting .078 in 51 April at-bats. That required putting most of his attention towards his hitting. The payoff came as he hit .359 with a .983 OPS in his next 26 games, including a three-homer game capped by a walk-off home run.
But at the same time, his defense went into a funk. From May 5 to June 2, he tallied -2 Runs Saved.
Our Video Scouts track Good Fielding Plays (think Web Gems, plus smart baseball plays like knocking a ball down to keep it on the infield) and Defensive Misplays & Errors (think: errors … and plays that could have been called errors like slipping and falling or a miscue on a DP attempt)
In that nearly month-long period, Rodgers had 0 Good Fielding Plays and 13 Misplays & Errors.
“For about two weeks, it felt like I had brick hands,” Rodgers said. “It didn’t feel soft. I didn’t feel smooth. And I saw on Twitter, the Giants had a little red machine that shoots these little foam balls out. And I realized we have that machine too.”
Rodgers set a pre-game routine with the machine (known as the Heater Jr.) which can simulate both pitches and groundball types. He set it to its fastest setting and planted himself 25 feet away, taking balls thrown from it. It allowed him to “wake the hands up.”
“It enforced soft hands, like being ready for the tough hop,” Rodgers said. “Those balls are soft. You can’t attack them or they’ll pop out of your glove. You have to be soft with your hands. I give it a lot of credit. It’s helped.”
Rodgers’ has almost his entire season total of Runs Saved, 18, since June 3. And while he’s made 13 Misplays & Errors the last three-plus months, he also has an MLB-best 26 Good Fielding Plays. Most of those have been going to his right, where his defensive numbers have been best this season.
|Plays Made/Opportunities||Plays Made Above Expected|
|Going To Right||140/239||+18|
|Going To Left||140/245||+1|
>> Opportunity = any batted ball on which the out probability was > 0
But he’s also made a few nifty plays going left, including his favorite one this season against Manny Machado.
“He kind of inside-outed it and it was kind of deep in the grass,” Rodgers said “And I took a pretty deep angle to it and, and honestly had no idea that I caught it.”
In the end, whichever direction Rodgers is going and whatever Rodgers is doing with these dives… it’s pretty simple.
“I just try to create a better angle and just give my body up,” he said. “And we see how it plays out.”
Most Defensive Runs Saved – Second Base