How well does A-Rod hit outside pitches?

Open Thread: Rethinking the box score
Sowing some pinstripes seeds in a far-off land

Alex Rodriguez changed the narrative of his career last fall. After a few years of playoff futility, he came back with two especially huge hits: a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2 of the ALDS, and a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 11th in Game 2 of the ALCS. The first was an outside pitch about waist high, and the second was an outside pitch up in the zone.

We know A-Rod has tremendous power to the opposite field, and it’s one of the reasons he’s succeeded at Yankee Stadium, which isn’t quite as friendly to righties as lefties. But did you know that on 132 swings on pitches in the middle-outside and middle-up zones, A-Rod created negative runs in 2009? Jeremy Greenhouse of The Baseball Analysts examines how each hitter in the league fares against pitches in certain parts of the zone, and that’s what his data suggests.

There are other factors to account for, of course. This analysis does not break down the zone by pitch, so for all we know A-Rod could have fallen victim to off-speed and breaking stuff while demolishing outside fastballs. It also doesn’t give us an idea of sequence, which is helpful because a hitter is probably more likely to swing and miss, or make poor contact, on a pitch low and away if he’s been set up inside. Thankfully, pitch sequencing appears to be the next frontier. The strategy nerd in me is excited.

You can check out the article, linked above, or you can just head to the Google Doc spreadsheet. Each location resides on a different sheet, and is in order of runs created. Just one quick observation: Generally, the hitters who fared well on down and away pitches took fewer swings at them. The ones who fared poorly took a lot of swings — in Ryan Howard’s case, over three times the number of the leader in that zone, Carlos Gonzalez. Yet Ichiro took 121 swings in that zone, far more than anyone around him. The dude is just that good.

Open Thread: Rethinking the box score
Sowing some pinstripes seeds in a far-off land
  • king of fruitless hypotheticals

    $man should have gotten ichiro for RF, and moved swisher over, keeping the landscaper as a PR, 4th OF and late inning replacement.

    he could have hit first, moving jeter back to second, and we wouldnt have to worry about DP’s because of Ichiro’s speed.

    really…he should have made it happen.


    i wonder how much of this data GMs and managers already have?

    • whozat

      So, after they created an off-topic thread, after the day’s open thread has already been put up…you still HAD to post a totally absurd off-topic “trade” proposal here?

  • DontChaKnow

    Random thought, not ARod related. The Yanks need to sign Gomes to a minor league deal already. For what’s left, nothing fits better, he kills lefties and makes the bench quite stronger than Hofmann and others. He could even help in those times when the Yanks are facing especially tough lefties and put him in left and Winn in Center. That would put Granderson and Gardner on the bench for when the break into the bullpen. I really dont see a downside to him signing, other than defense and overall hitting and pitching is more important than that anyhow.

    I took this as my open thread.

    • Kevin G.
    • Big Juan

      Well…considering the open thread has been up since 7…

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Oh, glad to know you run the site. Care to chip in for hosting costs?

  • RollingWave

    speaking of A-rod..

    Meanwhile Madonna, 50, is hoping she can have a natural child with Rodriguez, despite her age

    • Andy (different one) in Chilly NYC

      Dude, look at the date on that article. October 2008.

  • RollingWave
  • Salty Buggah

    Jeter created -13.9 runs,the worst mark, on middle-down pitches? Interesting.

    Also, Cano was +7.2 on middle-away, which makes sense, but Granderson was -13.3 for middle-away, so hopefully K-Long gets that fixed (assuming this isn’t a SSS issue and is a real problem for Grandy).

    Tex straight up murdered middle-middle (+29.9), which also makes sense considering it’s perfect for his swing.

  • T-Dubs

    Not going off any stats, just my overtired brain, but it seemed to me that this year more than others, pitchers were really trying to work Alex in under the hands because they were testing how fast he could swing his surgically repaired hip through the zone.

    If memory serves, Alex has also been pretty bad at hitting breaking balls away for most of his career. He’s no Soriano (haplessly flailing at sliders in the opposite batter’s box) but I would not be surprised to see Alex have decent numbers against outside fastballs and dismal numbers against outside breaking balls, weighing down the overall stats.

  • Shane D.

    February, where baseball goes to die…

    • Andy In Sunny Daytona

      Early February, where baseball goes to die….Pitchers and catcher report on the 18th.

  • Shane D.

    True dat. I work in Ybor, about 5 minutes from the King George Field… Looking forward to checking out some intra-squad games for free during a long “lunch meeting”… life is good.


    I think T-Dubs is right; ARod will probably continue to see more inside pitches, but i think its when pitchers miss inside and end up on the inside part of the plate that ARod really makes them pay – he can obliterate that inside fastball, seems like the lower, the better. But he takes those outside pitches to the right field bleachers, too. All and all, a dangerous guy to have on your team; not news, but again, its early Feb… incidentally, Family Guy has sucked since it came back on the air way back in season 4… bring back the old writing team or just cancel the damn show. tried to watch last week’s episode on hulu… it was junk. No idea why this became an open thread…

  • MikeD

    Be interesting to see A-Rod’s numbers on away pitches from previous seasons.

    Throughout his career, A-Rod has shown great power to center and right-center, with one exception: 2009. It’s not a great surprise as it probably relates to his surgery. He seemed to be trying to avoid swinging at pitches away because, as the chart shows, when he did swing at them it wasn’t to great results. We didn’t see many A-Rod HRs to the oppostie field until September and October, as he was getting stronger.

    I have a friendly wager with a friend that A-Rod will lead the AL in HRs in 2010 for one simple reason. This upcoming season should be his healthiest since 2007. His hip started bothering him and restricting his swing in 2008, and of course he was recovering for a good part of 2009.

    Healthy-Rod shows up in 2010 ready to take advantage of outside pitches and the the improved HR-rate to right at the new Yankee Stadium.