A-Rod’s slowly decreasing home run numbers


Ben posted on Nate Silver’s A-Rod article yesterday, and I think he hit on some good points. The one line that kind of controlled the discussion: “A-rod is not an easy man to analyze.” He has not had a typical career path, and as we learned from Silver, he’ll have to continue being an anomaly if he is to break the home run record. So if you have always been an anomaly — an outlier, if you will — do you continue to be an anomaly even through your decline years?

I think Jay at Fack Youk did a good job in his criticism of Silver’s analysis. He makes three main points:

  • In an large and representative sample, home run totals will decline as a player moves into his mid 30s. It’s just the typical life span of a major league baseball player. Says Jay: “The only problem is, over that ten year period it is extremely unlikely that any individual player is going to have that consistent of a downward slide.” He’s right. As a whole, numbers tend to decline at A-Rod‘s age, but there are always those who defy the overall average. I think A-Rod is certainly capable of doing that. I mean, seriously, the PECOTA projection has him hitting fewer home runs in each successive year. That’s just not likely to happen, at least not in that kind of linear fashion.
  • The ability to DH will help A-Rod, as it helped Hank Aaron in his later days.
  • I’ll just quote him here: “The problem with being on pace to be the greatest home run hitter of all time is that you aren’t going to have too many people similar to you.”

However, I think the most important point comes at the end. Here’s Jay’s take: “For one thing, last year, A-Rod played in only 138 games. If he played 156 games, he was on pace for almost exactly 43 HRs, right in line with a 32 year old Aaron.” My elaboration is that perhaps the PECOTA system saw A-Rod’s drop from 54 homers to 35 homers and took it as a sign of decline, hence the downward projection from here on out. I wonder what the projection would have looked like if Silver extrapolated A-Rod’s season.

Then again, injury is something that hits some players as they get older. It’s just that with A-Rod, it hasn’t happened often in the past so we tend to think it won’t happen in the future. If injuries do become a problem for A-Rod, I can see Silver’s projection reflecting reality. If he continues healthy, we can count on him breaking the 40-homer barrier at least one more time.

Categories : Analysis
  • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

    I’m fairly certain PECOTA takes games played into account, so that the total home runs is not as important as the HR rate. And the decrease is not going to happen in a linear fashion, but you could lose just as many HR’s in a non linear fashion- lose 6 in one year instead of 3 in two years.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Or he could gain six one year, then tear a hammy the next and lose 9.

      • http://theyankeeuniverse.com Moshe Mandel

        Right. The general trend of the average was going to be decreasing every year, because that is what happens to most players past 30. I happen to think that he will not have a typical decrease and will challenge the record.

        • Mike Pop

          I think he breaks the record. Fairly easily at that.

  • Eric M.

    Funny you bring up A-Rod and homeruns, he hit one today in the fourth inning against Toronto today in their first preseason tune-up.

    • J.R.

      It was right after a fan yelled “That was a steroid induced foul ball!”

      If taunts and geers on the road can be used to fuel him, he will have a year for the ages.

      • The Evil Empire

        I know, if this is a precursor of what’s to come then I think we should’ve let the cat out of the bag back in 04. Maybe he would’ve hit 600 by now

  • Mike Pop

    I know A-Rod is going to decline but I don’t think it will be as bad as he is being projected by Silver. Only hitting 16 home runs over the last 4 years of his career? I doubt it.

    • KW

      I think he’s just painting a cautionary note. Freak things do happen to great hitters, for example Frank Thomas. The forecast is what it is, a guideline for what may happen. Could it happen this way? Sure.

      • Mike Pop

        Ya but like it’s been said 100 times. Noone really compares to Arod. Frank Thomas and Albert Belle were not in top physical condition like A-Rod. Also, look at Thome he is still crushing home runs. We better hope he doesn’t fade like that. Will be completely horrible. Like another Mantle story. EXCEPT HE’S NOT A TRUE YANKEE!!!!

        • jsbrendog

          this made me chuckle

        • KW

          Well, Frank Thomas was a complete monster physically. Griffey was too. Anyway the point is, just be careful of expectations. We’ve seen a ridiculous run of good health/production from A-rod starting from a very early age, and it’s not crazy to imagine that it ends. Will it come crashing down all at once ala Albert Belle, who knows? But the record holders all have had incredible longevity and consistency, which Alex has also. My guess is he’ll get right around the mark and finish above it, but to expect 800 or 900 home runs is asking a lot.

  • Don

    Im not putting any credence in any of these projections.

    A-Rod keeps himself in phenomenal shape (yes I know) and is 1 year removed from the best season of his career and one of the best all-around offensive seasons in the past 30 years, a year in which he led the league in R, RBI, HR, OPS, wRC, and wOBA.

  • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

    I think the biggest problem I noticed with A-Rod’s PECOTA projections is that there simply aren’t enough players that can legitimately be compared to Rodriguez. For example, I noticed Albert Belle was mentioned as one of 20 players in the analysis. Well, even though he was an utter beast when during his prime, his career “only” lasted 12 years, and he fell off sharply. Guys like him severely, and unfairly, weigh down A-Rod’s projection. Rodriguez is an Adonis and I simply don’t think its likely to have such a steep decline. A-Rod is still in peak physical condition – his bat hasn’t slowed down at all and he can still steal you 15-20 bases in a season – and he already had 15 years worth of big league experience. I don’t buy the PECOTA projection for him at all.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Rodriguez is an Adonis…

      Madonna, is that you?

  • Bo

    Injuries could happen? Thanks, Nate Silver for that wonderful analysis.

  • http://DonnieTex Jeff

    As a visual person, who has looked at many athletes over many years, may I suggest, without hesitation, that Alex Rodriguez is the best-looking player I have ever seen. He is a freak of nature, a once-every-50-years kind of baseball player. It’s no accident that he’s the highest-paid player in the game. You can take all your numbers and crunch them ad nauseum, but as far as I’m concerned, there is Arod, and them there is everyone else.

    • Mike Pop

      While I agree with your overall point, your forgetting bout Pujols.

      • http://DonnieTex Jeff

        Yes, Mike, you are right – Pujols.

      • http://DonnieTex Jeff

        Although, Arod can steal a base, field as well as anyone and has maybe the strongest arm in the league. Pujols is an incredibly intelligent hitter, but he doesn’t possess nearly the tools Arod does. Pujols is one-dimensional. Arod is a five-tool superfreak.

        • Mike Pop

          I disagree with some of your post. A-Rod is average at 3rd base (I thought he was better than average but not by much according to the stats). Pujols gives you gold glove defense at 1st base. While A-Rod does have the ability to run the bases better, I think Pujols is a better hitter and probably the better player. It’s hard to compare defense because it is two different positions but what Pujols can do with the bat(much like Arod) is amazing..and he is definitely a better hitter than A-Rod.

          • Mattingly’s Love Child

            Though I agree that Pujols is a better hitter, how much better is he? He has played his entire career in the lesser league. If he moves to the Big Boy League, does he hit quite as well? I still think he’d be better than A-Rod….but it might be closer than we think.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              ARod, career wOBA: .412
              PooHoles, career wOBA: .434

              I don’t think the league effect is THAT big, sorry. I think if Pujols moves over to the AL, he still outhits Alexander Emmanuel.

              • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

                A-Rod’s career OPS+ is 147, and he had a 177 OPS+ in 2007, the best of his career. Pujols’ career OPS+ is 170. Yikes.

              • Mattingly’s Love Child

                Where do you get the wOBA for players?

                I definitely don’t think Alex is better than Albert, just thought it might be closer than most would think off-hand. But I guess that just helps to prove how amazing A-PU is…

                • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


                  Albert has never once had a single season wOBA lower than .402. His peak is .462. 6 of his 8 years, his wOBA has been .420 or higher.

                  Alex’s single season high is .449 (’07). Not counting his cups of coffee at the beginning, he’s had 5 seasons below .400 (although they’re all in the 370s, 380s, or 390s.) He also has six seasons at .420 or higher, but obviously spread out over 13 seasons and not just 8.

                  ARod is amazing, but it’s not an exaggeration when they say that he’s had the best offensive start to a career since Ruth and Gehrig.

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Being average at third base >>>>>>>>>> being a gold glover at first base

        • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

          Pujols is one-dimensional?????? Umm…no. The only thing he lacks is speed, but he get either an A or A+ in all other aspects of the game. He hits 30+ homers a year, has a batting average in the MID .300s, and walks more than he strikes out – not to mention he’s a high quality defensive 1B.

          • Mike Pop

            Exactly. The only thing A-Rod has on Pujols is speed.

            • kunaldo

              you guys are forgetting that even a gold glove 1B would probably not have a chance anywhere else on the infield…obviously it depends on the player, but what i’m saying is that a gold glove 1B is not > an average 3B…just by default, a guy that can play 3B is the better athlete..(not to mention that 3B is not arod’s natural position, and he was a gold glover at SS)

              • KW

                I wouldn’t say that, Pujols HAS played other positions in his career, and he is a far above average defender at the first sack. Remember, Youk also plays a good to great 1b and he can flat out field 3b with great proficiency.

          • http://DonnieTex Jeff

            You are absolutely wrong about Arod vs. Pujols defensively.

            First, Arod is a shortstop, who, despite this fact, still plays a gold glove third. Name one third baseman with a better arm?

            Secondly, Arod is a tremendous athlete, who canm if asked, could play any position on the field.

            Pulhold, meanwhile, was moved to 1st due to is immobility. You can argue he played 3rd, but 1st and third are for those players who are not the most athletic.

            Arod, as mentioned, was a SS (it doesn’t get more athletic than that – see Reyes, Ozzie, etc.) and would probably be an incredibly center fielder.

            Hey, Mattingly was a gold glove 1st baseman, but that’s all he could play.

            To compare Pujols to Arod defensively is, in all seriousness, just plain baseball ignorant.

            • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              Secondly, Arod is a tremendous athlete, who canm if asked, could play any position on the field.

              Easy, buddy… let’s not go overboard there.

        • Expired Milk

          Pujols as a Hitter>>>>>>>>>>>>Arod even as a gold glove shortstop.The guy is a beast look at his stats.Extremely consistent in every situation.

  • The Evil Empire
    • anonymous

      Igawa looks like a spaz.

  • dkidd

    how ridiculous are a-rod’s numbers? no one even mentions that he’s a given to get 3,000 hits

    • dkidd

      he’s a lock to get…
      it’s a given that he’ll get…

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside


        More Fun with Career Projections

        by GEOFF YOUNG on February 2nd, 2008

        While I’m waiting for Puppy Bowl IV to arrive, I thought I’d flip through the STATS 1997 Baseball Scoreboard for inspiration…
        This time we’re looking at projected career hits. Specifically we’re looking at the players who were judged at that time most likely to reach 3000 hits. Let’s compare projected with actual, shall we?

        Career Hits, Projected pre-’97 vs Actual post-’07
        Alex Rodriguez – 2151 v. 2250 (+99)

        Points worth noting:…
        A-Rod provides yet another reminder of why it’s dangerous to work with such small samples. He’d had precisely one full big-league season under his belt when these projections were published. Granted, it was a great season, but the fact remains that he’s blown past his career projection and he’s still in his prime. A-Rod is looking like a real good bet to finish at the top of the above list.
        Just a little something to contemplate…

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      Something I never even looked at, if he averages 150 hits/season for the next 4 years he makes it to 3000. That seems as close to a given as you could be (assuming health).

      As much as all of the MSM are freaking out about the tainted homerun record, A-Rod could legitimately be a slam dunk HoF candidate with 4 more seasons at the level of what he did last year. With all of the debate over PEDs, nobody has made a realistic claim that they make people better hitters. Becoming more powerful hitters can be debated all day. But he could be the 1st steriod guy with 3000 hits. I look forward to see how the MSM is gonna deal with that….

      • pat

        arod could retire yesterday and he’d be a slam dunk HOF

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          Yes, to those of us who understand that you have to judge the players of an era against the players of their era (therefore you can’t refuse admittance to admitted steriod users and accept people that you didn’t hear any rumors about) A-Rod is the most slam dunk since Hank Aaron.

          But with the way the Baseball Writers are freakin out about steriods….to them all of his homerun records aren’t going to count. But how are they gonna argue away 3000+ hits?

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Maybe he should start choking up on the bat, slapping grounders to third, getting dirt on his uniform, and bunting. That would help.

            • Mattingly’s Love Child

              He should reduce his caloric intake and stop lifting weights….if he was scrawny he would be a much more scraptastic player.

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                And he should change his name from Alex Rodriguez to Nails Krzyzewski.

      • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        He already was a slam dunk HoF candidate (and was in the running for best player ever) based on his otherworldly production. A revelation that he took steroids (during a period of time where steroids were as prevalent as ice cream in the clubhouse) doesn’t knock him off that course.

        In fact, ARod is probably the savior of lots of other guys who are borderline guys who may be penalized by steroids-related standards: ARod’s going to retire with such insanely ridonkulous numbers that keeping him out of the Hall would be akin to burning it to the ground. It would be like not putting Jordan in the NBA Hall of Fame because he had a massive gambling problem (which he did).

        He’ll get in because 15-odd years from now when his name first gets on the ballot, there will be at least 75% of these guys who will say “I know he did steroids and all, but DAMN, look at those numbers, there’s no way I can’t vote for him.” And thus, other steroid users will get a second look, because a known juicer got in.

        • Mattingly’s Love Child

          I agree with you. I’m just trying to say that the BBRAA can’t keep him out by ignoring his homerun totals.

          Right now the sanctimonious assholes in the MSM are all fixated on A-Rod’s homerun totals. He’s got a skill (getting basehits) that hasn’t been tied to PED use, at least as of yet. But maybe they’ll decide LASIK shouldn’t be allowed as well…then he’s fucked….

          • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Luckily, the thing he’s got in his back pocket is that he was “feared” as a hitter. The list of “feared” hitters in the Divisional Play era is three men long:
            1) Jim Rice
            2) Bernie Williams
            3) ARod.

            Being “feared” counts a lot.

            (Remember guys, the more we say it, the true it becomes and the more it works.)

            • Mattingly’s Love Child

              Wasn’t Rice just feared because pasty sportswriters in Boston were afraid of black people?

              • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt


            • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

              In 15 years, the perception about PEDs will probably be a lot different, and a good chunk of the older writers that carry extreme, unfair biases against steroid users will no longer be voting. With new school guys like Rob Neyer getting into the BBWAA, I still like A-Rod’s chances … but unfortunately, the hall of fame is already meaningless to me. The fun has been completely sucked out of the thing by the arrogance and leniency of the voters – its a strange dichotomy, but true nonetheless.

              • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Plus, there’s a good chance that in the intervening 15 years between now and then, more guys get exposed as users, including retired guys already in the Hall, like, say, a Ryne Sandberg or a Kirby Puckett or a Nolan Ryan or something.

                • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

                  Oh god – Nolan Ryan. I could only imagine how epic the fallout would be from that. I’m still waiting for the explanation as to why amphetamines, cocaine, and friggin’ SEGREGATION were never held against a player, and why in the NFL, steroid use is shrugged off.

                • Bill

                  Are you out of your mind???? Kirby was overweight…Ryno played at 175 lbs and won the 1984 MVP after hitting 19 homers. Nolan Ryan was, and still is, “country strong.” Who are you going to question next? Tony Gwynn?

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    It seems that Fack Youk is moving up in the world. That’s like three or four hat tips already for them from RAB, the Yankee Blog of Record©®™.

    • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

      Yeah, now Evil Empire 2.0 needs some love!

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        Adding your blog to the roll.

        • http://evilempire20.com/ Ryan S.

          Nice! I’ll return the favor, since I do read all of your posts.

  • Rory

    One of the absolutely biggest issues with the Silver article, is this: He makes the claim that past performance does not guarantee future success, and then uses past performances to predict Rodriguez’s failure. It certainly is true that you can’t guarantee success based on past performance. However, you can no more predict failure on this platform. One of the primary basis for the Pecota projections is using the career paths of similar hitters who have come before. That is the definition of using past performance to determine the outcome of the future.
    You can’t have it both ways. Alex Rodriguez’s past production is somehow very little evidence of how good he’ll be in coming years, and yet how OTHER PEOPLE have done in the past is? That doesn’t make any sense. Alex Rodriguez has far more to do with his career path than Sammy Sosa and Fred McGriff.

    • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      But he’s not “guaranteeing” future failure. He’s just predicting it. Big difference.

      This prediction is merely what he’s most likely to do, given typical baseball histories. Nothing more. If ARod beats these odds and breaks the records, I’m sure Nate Silver will say that he was mildly surprised but not wildly surprised.

      • Rory

        I didn’t say that he was guaranteeing failure. I said that he was using other players’ performances to predict A-Rod’s failure. Big difference.

  • Jay

    Quote from Buster Olney’s column dated 2/25/2009:

    The Yankees paid about $300 million for Alex Rodriguez when they probably could have had him for $200 million, and nobody could figure out why, when it happened.

    I couldn’t figure it out either. The only possible reasons I could figure out then — or figure out now— — are terminal stupidity or a burning desire to be doormats to the Red Sox for the next decade. If it’s the latter, congratulations to Red Sox Nation! Mission accomplished. The last few years of that contract will almost certainly be like a huge lead weight around the neck of the Yankees.

    • Zack

      No its because the Yankees didnt want to embarass ARod.
      Just like the Red Sox didnt want to embarass Varitek by offering him a minor league deal.

  • MJ

    A-Rod with only one more season at 40+ homers?

    I still haven’t seen a decline in any home run totals yet.

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    57 two years ago and on pace for 40-47 last year without injuries

    I don’t see him stopping at all within 2 years. He had a good chance to be MVP last year if he wasn’t injured. MVP last year was so ugly for the AL. Made our beloved AL look like trash.

  • Zack

    Dont put any stock into those predictions, look at guys like Jim Thome, Frank Thomas, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi, guys still retain power