Mar
09

2010 Season Preview: Early Season Alex

By

In three of the last five seasons the Yankees have performed poorly in April. In 2005, fresh off their ALCS collapse, they went 10-14. In 2007 they went 9-14. While in those seasons they fought back to make the playoffs, 2008 went a bit differently. They didn’t start as poorly, at 14-15, but also didn’t have the same mid-season surge that lead to their 2005 and 2007 comebacks. Another difference: they didn’t have Alex Rodriguez pummeling baseballs.


Photo credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

Over his career, A-Rod has been a standout April performer. In 1,311 plate appearances he has hit .311/.391/.611. The only month in which he has performed better is August. Those early season displays and late-season surges have helped the Yankees out of a few jams. For instance, can you imagine the 2007 team without A-Rod’s April heroics? They easily could have gone 6-17 and found themselves in a much tougher situation to start May.

The 2009 Yankees did not have the benefit of A-Rod’s hot early season bat and suffered because of it. While he wouldn’t have made a difference in two of Chien-Ming Wang‘s starts, which caused the team to allow more runs than it scored in April despite 12-10 record, A-Rod could have made a difference in a number of games. For instance, his added offense might have rendered the bullpen meltdown on April 12 moot. Maybe his added offense on April 24 gives the Yankees a win against the Sox.

Even beyond these close games, A-Rod’s presence in the lineup has a cumulative effect on the hitters behind him. Instead of facing Teixeira-Rodriguez-Matsui in the middle of the order, in April pitchers had Teixeira-Matsui-Posada. The effect trickled down the lineup to the end, where pitchers faced Swisher-Gardner/Melky-Ransom, rather than Cano-Swisher-Melky. That makes the lineup a bit easier to navigate. Starting pitchers could get through the lineup with fewer pitches, leaving lesser pitchers sitting in the bullpen. The Yankees are known for working up pitch counts, and without A-Rod that strategy was weakened.

How many runs would a healthy A-Rod have added in April? His collective replacement — Cody Ransom, Ramiro Pena, and Angel Berroa — hit .214/.283/.310 over 92 plate appearances. According to linear weights, that amounts to just under seven runs created. To be nice, let’s round up to that. First, for the extreme, let’s insert A-Rod’s 2007 April, in which he hit 14 home runs. That year he would have been worth 28.6 runs. In other words, if we subtract the seven runs generated by his replacement and add in his runs, that’s 149 runs scored in April. In his other MVP season, 2005, he created 19.6 runs in April, which would have brought the Yankees’ total to 140. Even if we use his even-worse April 2008 he created 14.5 runs, double his 2009 replacements.

For the Yankees, getting off to a hot start now is more important than ever. While they were able to recover from a stagnant start last year, there’s no guarantee that they can do so in a similar manner this season. Even if they do, it won’t be like 2005 and 2007, when the Red Sox were the only team standing in their way. This year the Rays figure to be a formidable opponent, as they were in 2008 and 2009. The Rays, by many indications, hit a streak of bad luck early on. They scored 110 runs and allowed 103 in April, yet finished the month with a 9-14 record. If they catch a few breaks this season, the division could be a three-horse race to the end. In that situation, there isn’t much room for teams who start slow.

How does A-Rod break down among the various projection systems?


Click for a larger view.

While his BA projects a bit lower than career average and his OBP hits his exact career mark, the systems are bearish on his power and his ability to play a whole season. This is understandable, of course. Rodriguez has missed 54 days over the past two seasons with injuries, so leaving room in a projection for a 15-day DL stint makes sense. If fully healthy, though, I expect A-Rod will outperform these projections, probably to the tune of .300/.400/.580.

Even better, if his monthly stats break down along his career lines, he’ll be a big help early in the season. Perhaps his production can offset Mark Teixeira’s presumed slow start. Thankfully, Alex’s other big month is August, when the Yankees should again be working to gain comfortable control of the AL East. Early season and mid-summer surges could push the Yanks over the top in 2010, even as they’re faced with increasingly tough competition in the Sox and Rays.

Categories : Players
  • JGS

    They scored 110 runs and allowed 103 in April, yet finished the month with a 9-14 record

    As of April 30th, they had a +7 differential, but going into April 29th it was -6 (they finished April with a 13-0 win against Boston), and a lot of the runs they did score came in bunches like this game

    http://www.baseball-reference......4130.shtml

    (side note–how do i get the words “this game” to be the link?)

    • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

      they only scored 5 runs this game. and april 30th they playe danaheim. they lost the first 8 to boston……

      que?

      • Templeton “Brendog” Peck

        the rays. fml

        my bad. sorry. dfa me

    • Thomas

      Use this a href=”” title=”” surrounded by less than/greater than signs with your link in between the href quotes. Then write this game and do the /a href=”” title=”” with you link in the href again.

      • JGS

        like this?

        • JGS

          no, that didn’t work

          maybe this?

          • Thomas

            Sorry, I think you also have to put the words this game in between the quotes of the title=””.

            • JGS

              less than sign, a href=”” title=”” greater than sign

              whatever I want it to say

              less than sign slash a href=”” title=”” greater than sign

              I put the link in between the quotes before title, and it wasn’t working

              If this doesn’t work, then I don’t know

            • Andy (different one) in chilly NYC

              No, it’s like this:
              (replace the [ ] with less-than and greater-than)

              [a href="http://yourlink.com"]Text-you-want-to-show[/a]

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

    But why would he go to a Canadian doctor to get Advil???

    • rbizzler

      Heh.

      Personally, I hope he was getting himself the finest HGH in the land (or Canada). The only thing that has been proven about HGH is that it does help recover faster from injury. As Joe’s post proves, the Yankees were far better off with Alex on the field (obviously).

      • YankeeScribe

        “The only thing that has been proven about HGH is that it does help recover faster from injury.”

        Is HGH a Performance ‘Enhancing’ Drug or a Performance ‘Enabling’ Drug? Should players be penalized for taking drugs to help shorten their time on the DL?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. I’d never ever go to Canada to get health care.

      EVER.

      Sincerely,
      Sarah Palin

      • Bo

        Is that why Canada’s PM went to America to get surgery????

        But hey socialized medicine must be awesome there!

        • pete

          resisting…urge…to go there…(there being this argument, not canada for healthcare)

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

            And my comment wasn’t even a “one health care system is better than the other” comment.

            I was merely referring to the fact that Palin stated the other day that she went to Canada for health care as a child, despite saying the exact opposite as recently as 3 years ago.

            http://blog.seattlepi.com/seat.....197066.asp

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            …all this Canadia talk is BS.

            baseball is the AMERICAN pastime.

            which is why we need foreigners playing for us.

    • Chris

      It probably wasn’t Advil. It was probably Tylenol with Codeine.

  • CS Yankee

    Disclaimer: I’m old school in the way that I believe that these drugs are ruining the link and thread to the games history and how generations comunicate. I’m also not an Arod fan due to him being a flake, but can he rake.
    However, I do suspect that MLB, NYY, the players association & Arod all have “a dog in the fight” whereas a 250M$ outstanding commitment is wagered and that he has to get back to full steam quickly and completely. If “x” number of doctors know that HGH is the real deal but no one can endorse the treatment after all the political stances, a few deaths by under-aged youths (who had no business using unprescribed drugs) and bad press….I can easily believe that they planned to look the other way and let him take the risk (in the public arena) as they feel/know there are little/no medical risks to this rehab and the up swing (result of what actually happned) is what we all witnessed. Too bad that PR must offset a legitimate medical reason to take HGH and I feel in certain cases MLB should approve the use of these banned drugs but won’t because the line would be too long and the press would carve them up. Arod is a risk taker (a now a gamer) with the MSM but NO way the Yanks void that contract, Giambi already passed that test.

    • Zack

      “I feel in certain cases MLB should approve the use of these banned drugs”

      Pretty sure they do, if the player has a legit medical reason. Maybe they dont for HGH (they cant test anyways) but they give passes for other PEDs.

    • pete

      totally agreed. I think player’s should be required to get MLB approval on any potentially “performance enhancing” drug, but if players are spending 2 months on the DL when they could be spending 1 month on the DL by use of a medically legitimate and safe (in properly prescribed formats) drug like HGH, then I would prefer the “enhanced” players.

      It is still my opinion that no amount of progress in terms of player abilities will cause the titans of baseball history to fade into obscurity. Obviously, if they start playing in 250 foot parks and start using 2 oz baseballs and everyone starts taking muscle-building steroids then deservedly impressive power numbers from days of old may start to lose their luster to the next generation, but nobody is suggesting anything as egregious as this. HGH does not improve one’s power abilities, and while it improves eyesight, it only does so up to a certain point (copyright RAB Popular Agenda for the Acceptance of Normalization Curves ’09-’10), so it is unlikely that a player with good eyesight would suddenly become superhuman because of HGH.

      I think also that in the next decade or so, many of the players from the steroid era will begin to feel the effects of their drug abuse and that could scare off prospective users. But keeping illegal the use of HGH for injury recovery is, in my opinion, is an attempt to stifle progress, an agenda that does not deserve the credence it gets.

  • CS Yankee

    errr, maybe too windy for my first RAB post?

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Not at all. Rock on. Paragraphs would help, though.

      Welcome aboard!

  • chriso

    Hmmm. I think that all of these projections are WAY off.
    My dog, Po-boy, tells me that A-Rod is going to hit .310 this season and belt 47 homeruns.
    Po-boy has been on the money for seven years in a row now, just in case you’re wondering, has never been off by more than 5% in any of his projections. He thinks Bill James is a moron.