There are a number of reasons that the postponement of Cincinnati’s contest against No. 10 Louisville was a disappointment. A major one is that Manny Rodriguez didn’t get to swing the bat. If you read that sentence a year ago you would be puzzled, but this year has been different. Rodriguez is no longer a light-hitting shortstop. He’s the best hitter on the roster.
When the season began, Rodriguez started strong, with four multi-hit efforts in UC’s first eight games. At the time, the small sample size police were out in force, but the Bearcats have now played 22 games and Rodriguez has 86 at-bats to his credit. That’s closing in on half a season and its time to stop just chalking up his sudden success to a few good games.
Rodriguez is batting .326 this season, ranking above everyone else on the UC roster. That includes Connor McVey, A.J. Bumpass and even a rejuvenated Kyle Mottice. It’s quite the marked improvement for the senior from Brooklyn. Last season, Rodriguez batted a then career-high .242 in 124 at-bats. He had 30 hits during all of that campaign. In 2018, he has already nearly matched that, with 28 this year.
But it is not just a bunch of singles that Rodriguez has launched. He has also found more power. His .570 slugging percentage is tops on the team and seventh in the American Athletic Conference. It is also a huge jump from his previous work. He already has a career-high 13 extra-base hits, nearly doubling his total from a year ago (eight). He also has three home runs, which is tied for second on the team and is already more than he had in his first three seasons combined (two).
During the last weekend against Tulane, Rodriguez recorded two multi-hit games, going 5-for-12 with three doubles, three RBI and four runs scored. Stretches like that have been commonplace for Rodriguez, who has also made a habit of getting on base even when the hits dry up. He has reached safely in all 22 games this season, adding seven walks and four HBPs to his hit total. That has equated to a .394 on-base percentage, which, as you might have guessed, is way above his career number (.302) and on pace to smash his previous personal record (.297 in 2017).
If A.J. Bumpass was the breakout star of the 2017 season, then Rodriguez has taken up the mantle in 2018. While it took him some time to get here, there’s no denying that Rodriguez is the best bat in UC’s lineup right now.