For a while, it seemed like Alex Rodriguez was not going to be missed. Eric Chavez was playing like he did back in his Oakland days, when he was a lock to post a wRC+ above 120. Not only was Chavez productive offensively, but he also brought stellar defense to the table.
While it was fun to watch Chavez mash his way through much of August, it was hard to envision his body holding up playing everyday. Chavez never got hurt, but his production certainly tailed off. In his last ten games prior to A-Rod’s return, Eric had just seven hits in 32 at bats (.219). All seven of those hits were singles. Since Rodriguez has returned to the lineup everyday, Chavez has seen some time either DHing, or at third while A-Rod is at DH. Over that period, he’s just two for 17 (both doubles).
Rodriguez, by no means, is a guy whose body would likely hold up over the course of a 162 game season either. Now, this years injury was a freak incident, getting hit by a pitch in the hand. Regardless, from 2008-2011, he’s played in 138, 124, 137, and 99 games respectively, so it’s not like he’s been a pinnacle of health.
When Rodriguez has been healthy, he has been a vital part of the Yankees lineup. Even in 2008 and 2009, when his games played started cutting down, he still posted remarkable wRC+ of 155 and 144. While not as good in 2010 and 2011, 124 and 125 are still well above league average. This season, he’s at 125.
When you look at the hard numbers, you see that Rodriguez hasn’t hit 30 home runs or driven in 100 runs since 2010. He’s not going to hit 12 homers and drive in 45 runs in the next 16 games, so it won’t be happening this season. But that doesn’t mean A-Rod isn’t a threat.
Since he returned on September 3rd, Rodriguez has had a hit in every game except one. In 57 plate appearances, he’s hitting .300 with four walks, two doubles, three homers, and 11 RBIs in 13 games. That’s good for a beastly .375 wOBA, 137 wRC+, and .220 ISO. In more common terms, that’s a .520 slugging percentage and .870 OPS. All that sounds like a pretty dangerous hitter to me.
Let’s also not discount the value of A-Rod being a right handed bat. Other than Derek Jeter, the Yankees really don’t have any real threat from the right side of the plate, which has caused them to struggle vs. lefties. Plus, without Mark Teixeira’s switch hitting prowess thanks to his calf issues, the loss of Rodriguez was further magnified. Andruw Jones has done next to nothing, and Nick Swisher has been extremely streaky.
Perhaps this time off for Rodriguez could be a blessing in disguise. He basically got a month to rest his whole body while his hand healed. While many Yankees fans like to harp on A-Rod, you can’t forget what he did in the 2009 postseason. That year, he also had a shortened season, as he didn’t debut until early May. During the postseason, he had 18 RBIs (3rd most in a single postseason ever), and some extremely clutch home runs and hits against all three opponents that October. Yes, we are now a couple of seasons removed from that torrid run, but what we’ve seen since Rodriguez’ return shows that he’s still capable of carrying an offense over any given stretch.
Rodriguez has undoubtedly carried the team since his return. We’ve seen other guys come alive since his reintroduction to the lineup. Since September 3rd, when A-Rod came back, take a look at some of the Yankees’ wRC+:
Now, I’m not saying that Russell Martin is going to hit like this the rest of the way, because he’s not that talent level. But has A-Rod’s return helped? It’s very possible. Curtis Granderson, who had been in a horrid slump, is back to his long ball ways. The only lineup mainstay we’ve seen really do nothing has been Swisher. The platoon players have struggled as well.
The Yankees have suddenly run off four wins in their last five and seven of eleven overall, and much of it certainly coincides with A-Rod’s return. I know I wrote recently not to expect much from A-Rod given his age and questionable health in recent years, and in that same article I wrote that it would be much more important for guys like Robinson Cano and Granderson to carry the offense. But hey, what A-Rod’s doing now just goes to show how much he had been missed.
Photo By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Stats via Fangraphs