Ivan Rodriguez, your National League batting leader
When the Nationals acquired Ivan Rodriguez this off-season, the generally accepted line of thinking was that he would be a nice complement to Jesus Flores. He could mentor Flores while sharing time and give the Nationals a future Hall of Famer to serve as a clubhouse presence. He would play great defense, and any offense would be found money.
Two weeks into the season. Rodriguez has slugged that conventional wisdom into smithereens. Rodriguez, 38 and in his 19th season, leads the National League in hitting with a .444 average. He went 3 for 4 with two doubles in the Nationals' 11-7 loss to the Brewers today, raising his on-base average to over .500 and giving him a .605 slugging percentage.
"Just seeing the ball, stay back, try to use my hands, basically," Rodriguez said. "I'm relaxed. I feel very well right now. I just want to stay right there. I just wait for a good pitch to hit and swing."
In a small sample size, Rodriguez has been nothing less than one of the league's best offensive players. Rarely have his hits been cheap; Rodriguez has smacked line drives to all fields. Manager Jim Riggleman said he is pleased, not surprised, by Rodirguez's fast start. But given Rodriguez's recent history, his production materialized from thin air.
From 2007 to 2009, Rodriguez hit .269 with a .297 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage. His OPS+ over that span was 81. His days as even a league-average hitter, it seemed, were finished.
This offseason, Rodriguez studied old videos of his swing from earlier in his career. He watched his younger self keep his hands inside the ball as he swung. Entering this spring training, he altered his stance. He figured he still had enough of his old ability to make his old mechanics work again.
"I still have some quick hands," Rodriguez said. "Those things are working very good right now. I feel great."
April 18, 2010; 7:27 PM ET
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