Alex Rodriguez’ Two Story September

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how well Alex Rodriguez had performed since returning from the disabled list. A-Rod returned September 3rd, and produced a .375 wOBA in 13 games immediately off the DL. Since then, it’s been a different story.

In 67 plate appearances since that article, Rodriguez is hitting .207, with all 12 of his hits being singles. Thanks to his power disappearance, his wOBA and wRC+ are abysmal at .233 and 39 respectively. We know he’s not going to be A-Rod circa 2007, but he’s certainly not this bad.

What’s the issue at the plate for him right now? Is his hand bothering him still? It’s certainly possible, especially after playing 14 games in 14 days (including one doubleheader and one day off). Could he be pressing at the plate trying to get out of his slump? No matter what the reason is, remember that we are dealing with a sample size of 67 plate appearances and these peaks and valleys can happen with any player.

Taking a deeper dive in the statistics over the last 14 games, it’s painfully obvious that A-Rod is being overly aggressive at the dish. He’s swinging at 33.8% of pitches outside of the strike zone, well above his 25.6% career mark. This explains why he’s been making contact roughly 9% less than his career rate, and why he’s striking out an alarming 26.9% of his plate appearances. For reference, his career mark is 18.2%.

Interestingly, when A-Rod is making contact the past two weeks, he’s scalding the ball: 29.3% line drive rate. On the surface, this points to bad luck for him. In reality, it’s a sample size we’re dealing with. On 12 line drives, he’s gotten seven hits in the prior 14 games, so it’s not like he’s getting robbed of a bunch of hits. Although it is a very small sample size, it is lower than his career .776 batting average on line drives. Overall, his slump is really a matter of what’s illustrated in the last paragraph: too little contact and poor plate discipline.

Nonetheless, it’s still good to see that he’s making solid contact, even if at a rate that’s clearly unsustainable. Rodriguez has always had a reputation of good selectivity at the plate, so I fully expect that to return (hopefully sooner rather than later given the playoffs starting this weekend). Let me reiterate that the 2007 A-Rod is never returning no matter how much he’s paid, but there is absolutely no reason to doubt that he can still be a productive player in the lineup.

Postseason play is just days away, but there is good reason to believe he can get going again quickly. In the second chapter of Tom Tango’s The Book, Tango illustrates how hot and cold streaks do not indicate how a player will perform in the games following such hot or cold streak. He showed how players performed, on average, the day after any five game hot or cold streak. His analysis of multiple years of data concluded that a player tends to have a wOBA right around his career norms in that sixth game, whether it be off of a hot or cold streak. Thus, it wouldn’t be unfair to expect Rodriguez to start producing again very soon, especially considering how little he’s performed in the last 14 games. If his hand is bothering him, then it’s a whole different story. Assuming he’s as healthy as he can be, anticipate some better production (hopefully) soon.

Photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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