A-Rod’s swing hindering his quest for 600

Mike Lowell and a possible return to pinstripes
The A-Rod effect on the Blue Jays' tickets
Photo credit: Duane Burleson/AP

For the past week and half we’ve experienced the mystique of a round number. To almost everyone, it has grown old. Alex Rodriguez has not homered in his last 43 plate appearances, leaving him at 599. I’d repeat the tired phrase, stuck on 599, except it doesn’t seem true at all. This isn’t like 2007 when A-Rod hit 54 homers but experienced a lull between Nos. 499 and 500. In 2010 a home run drought doesn’t seem as out of place — or wouldn’t, if everyone understood the type of year Alex has had.

Earlier in the season I looked at some interesting A-Rod trends from the first 33 games. That’s an incredibly small sample, so I expected some things to change. For the most part they have, though it hasn’t produced better results. At the time A-Rod was swinging at fewer pitches, making contact more often, and striking out less. While those numbers are for the most part still off of his career totals, they’ve clearly regressed towards that mean. The effect is clear. He’s been swinging more than he did earlier in the season and is therefore walking less. He’s also striking out a bit more, which probably results from a longer swing. That shows up in his power, which is up considerably.

Even considering the increased power production — a .168 ISO in the first sample and a .228 mark since — we’ve seen A-Rod experience a home run drought during that second stretch. From June 3, when he hit a home run in his second PA, until June 22, when he hit a homer in his first PA, A-Rod went 53 PA without a home run. No one, of course, claimed that he was stuck on No. 591, because 592 isn’t a a round, easy to digest number. Being somehow stuck on 599 is just a narrative created because of our obsession with round numbers.

Still, it hasn’t been the greatest 43 PA stretch for A-Rod. He started it off well, following up No. 599 with a double. Since then, though, he’s just 8 for 37 with three walks and only two extra base hits. That might be a result of him pressing, sure. Just because we can’t definitively pin down psychological aspects of the game doesn’t mean they don’t exist. But since we’ve seen this kind of stretch from him this season it’s difficult to determine the cause of this current slump.

Today at FanHouse, Frank Piliere discusses the mechanical side of A-Rod, noting that he’s not generating power from his lower body.

If you look back at his playoff home runs when he was driving the ball out to right-center field, A-Rod’s swing looked effortless mainly because of his strong base. He had what every hitter strives for, and that’s a lower half providing the power and the ability to let his hands fly through the zone. The swing we see from Rodriguez now is one more reliant on his upper body, with far less explosive torque and his hips following his stride. It’s more spread out and far less compact in every way. Obviously, with all that said, questions about whether his now famous troublesome hip has anything to do with his problems immediately arise, but there’s really no way to know for sure.

There’s plenty more to it, including the problem with A-Rod’s leg kick, a problem that has hurt him from time to time in the past, but which has seemingly been a problem for most of this year. That leads to problems in all parts of his swing. “Now, he’s more upright and not sitting on that back leg, losing that power on his front side,” Piliere writes.

A-Rod did miss time in June with tendonitis in his hip, though he and the team claimed that it was not related to the surgery he had last March. After a five-day rest A-Rod returned to the lineup, but he hasn’t been at all the same since, hitting .238/.312/.470 in those 173 PA. The power, a .232 ISO, is still there, but it comes at the cost of contact and discipline (9.8 percent walk rate). This is not the A-Rod we’ve come to know; it’s not even the A-Rod who hit .290/.361/.482 in his first 255 PA of 2010.

It hasn’t been the greatest year for A-Rod in 2010, and that extends far beyond his long journey to No. 600. His vital numbers are down across the board. Whether this is a correctable issue or just a general sign of decline remains to be seen. We know A-Rod will work hard to overcome these problems. But for 2010, I wonder how much he can do.

email
Mike Lowell and a possible return to pinstripes
The A-Rod effect on the Blue Jays' tickets
  • Tampa Yankee

    This will end badly…

    • Tampa Yankee

      And by that I mean this and below:
      http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....nt-1006044 (safe). You guys may want to get out ahead of this early.

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        We’re on it. Please email us these types of requests in the future instead of posting them as off-topic comments.

        • Tampa Yankee

          Sorry, my bad. That’s not a problem.

  • http://theyankeeu.com Matt Imbrogno

    Maybe he should’ve had the second hip surgery?

    /hindsight’d

  • Bret

    How many years and how much per year would Arod get on the open market if he were a free agent and the season just ended and the Yankees were not bidding?

    I say at most 50 million for 4 years. So he is only overpaid by about 160 million.

    Steroids was bigger than anyone thinks – in terms of injuries, in terms of production, in terms of being a fountain of youth once you hit mid 30’s. I think by the end of Arod’s deal they will be paying him 30 million and he will not be in the big leagues (on any team).

    • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

      It’s not the money that worries me about A-Rod’s deal. It’s the years. He’s overpaid, but he’s also under contract through 2017. Nate Silver’s predicted decline weighs heavily in my mind too.

      • ChrisS

        That contract was just a bad idea all-around. Years/money whatever. Maybe they can trade him to the Dodgers in 2013 so they can trot out someone similar to Garret Anderson this year. I like A-Rod, and I think he gets an undeserved bad rep most times. I hope this isn’t the beginning of the end, but on my most-pessimistic of days, he’s only going to get worse, Jeter & Posada will follow with him, and the Yankees will try to trot out 3 DHs on the field in the name of loyalty.

        From your link … On the other hand, if he draws Albert Belle’s ping-pong ball, he might not top 600

        Yikes.

      • http://twitter.com/YanktheMike yankthemike

        after an entire year of being a 538 junkie that article came instantly to mind when alex’s hip problem surfaced, but after his amazing “comeback” from surgery i kinda dismissed it from my mind. As much as i’d like him to break all the records, i’d be more than happy if he can maintain the production we’re seeing this year for at least the next 3 or 4. I feel like i have make the obligatory comment that he seems to do better in odd numbered years.

      • Pete

        http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-288398

        i laughed really, really hard at that comment for some reason.

    • ZZ

      How do you know his injuries have anything to do with steroids?

    • Ross in Jersey

      I think saying he’ll be out of baseball by 2017 is a bit pessimistic. For all the MSM loves to shit on A-rod (sometimes deservedly) he never gets enough credit for his work ethic. His production is clearly down this year, but does anyone doubt he has a few more 35/120 years left in him? It’s not like he’s going to be satisfied this year and stop working at it. If anyone can have a resurgent year in his late 30s, it’s A-rod. I wouldn’t count him out unless this turns into a 3 year downward trend.

      The fact he’s overpaid is a given. He was overpaid in 2007 when he had the best individual year a Yankee has had since the 1960s. With the Yankees revenue, does it really matter?

  • ZZ

    To my knowledge tendonitis generally requires complete rest to fully heal.

    It could very likely be lingering given the problems he is having with his lower half.

    Getting a big lead in the AL East would allow the Yankees to really rest A-Rod, but I don’t think that is realistic, hence my desire for Mike Lowell.

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

      Yeah, I was talking to a masseuse/physical therapist when A-Rod sat out those games, and she was concerned about the rest issue. Not only does tendonitis require complete rest to fully heal, but it requires multiple weeks of full rest. Not easy in this situation.

      • http://www.teamnerdrage.com dr mrs the yankee

        That’s why he’s supposed to get these days off like yesterday, but then he doesn’t even get a full day off. Sigh.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      “To my knowledge tendonitis tendinitis generally requires complete rest to fully heal.”

      /friendlyhelpout’d

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

        I never got why the O changes to an I when going from tendon to tendinitis.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          English is a bastard language.

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

            In any case, both get the little red line under them.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              Really? My spellcheck doesn’t like tendonitis but is fine with tendinitis.

              Wiki seems to say either version is okay, so… whatevs.

        • Andy In Sunny Daytona

          It’s from the great Scrabble Wars of 1977.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            TALK IS CHEAP MUTHAF#$%A

      • ZZ

        I always thought it was spelled either way.

        Is tendinitis medically the correct spelling?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          “Tendinitis” seems to be the preferred spelling in the medical community. But yes, “tendonitis” is also apparently okay.

          • ZZ

            Gotcha. Thanks.

            • larryf

              and with multiple tendons we have “tendonitities”…. accent on last 2 syllables

              • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

                I wish I had more hands. So I could give those tendonitities 4 thumbs down.

  • jsbrendog (returns)

    imo i dont feel it is “stuck on 599″ because it is a round number but because it is an important number. if he had 578 hr and the all time record was 579 then he would be “stuck on 578″

    but agian i could jsut be projecting my views on everyone, which is good, because i am smrt

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      your a bk randy

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        wow. i wish i didn’t reread that because the spelling mistakes are making me angry. i would say im just tired but i do it even when im not haha

      • Ross in Jersey

        I can’t believe I missed out on this. Stupid work.

        I just want to say I’m an avid video gamer and I have no idea what the hell this means.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          THATS CAUS YOUR THE BK RANDY WE R ALL LAUGHIN ABOUTS

          • Kevin G.

            i’ll wreck you in cod mw2 and dropshot you so badly

          • Andy In Sunny Daytona

            http://www.facebook.com/BKRandy

            I think we should all add him as a friend.

            • jsbrendog (returns)

              i had no idea what any of this was….now i know

        • Kevin G.
        • Steve O.

          I missed it too, had to cut the grass. Yeah, I’ve never heard of a “bk randy.”

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            I missed it too, had to cut the grass.

            Is that what they’re calling it these days?

            • Steve O.

              Well done.

          • Ross in Jersey

            I guess it comes from the retarded Halo 3 subculture, something I’ve thankfully been out of touch with for a long time.

            • Steve O.

              My younger brother loves halo 3, so I play it with him from time to time. I don’t think it’s retarded, but some people get a little too far into the game.

              *CoughNickMarCough*

          • http://twitter.com/iiKeane JobaWockeeZ

            It’s bad kid random.

            • Steve O.

              Even that doesn’t explain what it is. I just googled it, and that’s ridiculous. It’s some random kid that happens to be on your team in Halo or COD and he sucks.

  • billbybob

    Good thing the Yankees have him for only 7 more years. Oh wait…

    • larryf

      but the arod deflation will be countered by the rise of Jesus.

  • Wooderson

    the sheer fact that he put up those monstrous postseason numbers last year makes me think this isn’t just a ‘decline’, as it would be way too rapid. injury-related decline, however..

    • ChrisS

      as it would be way too rapid. injury-related decline, however..

      Injuries are usually what cause declines, IMO. Age-related declines and injury-related declines are not mutually exclusive.

  • bonestock94

    Screw the milestone, I don’t care about that, it’s been ruined for me. I just hope this season isn’t beginning of the real decline. .352 current wOBA, ZIPS projects .364 wOBA, for how many millions!? How many years!? Fredo Steinbrenner really botched this one.

    • bonestock94

      the beginning*

  • Guest

    I’ll admit it. This season has been scary with A-Rod. Not just offensively, but defensively as well. And when you combine his decline with the fact that Jeter is a year older than he is…oh my.

    There was a moment on Saturday where a ground ball was hit through the left side of the infield and neither Jeter or A-Rod even thought about moving for it. It’s not that I think either of them could have possibly made the play, its that there wasn’t even a cursory step towards the ball from either of them. They looked like an old couple that wanted to change the channel but neither of them could muster up the energy to even try and get to the remote…so they just sit there. My wife and I replayed it like five times to appreciate the sad hilarity.

    I have a very bad feeling about what the defensive metrics are going to look like on the left side of our infield for the next half-decade.

    Which is why it was so important that Cash did everything he could to make this team better for this year. We win back to back championships, and it might cushion the blow of the decline years we are going to face.

    Then again, hopefully, Teix, Cano, CC, Hughes, and Jesus might help to cushion the blow as well.

    • Steve O.

      They looked like an old couple that wanted to change the channel but neither of them could muster up the energy to even try and get to the remote…

      This actually happens quite a bit. Does it have predictive value? No, it doesn’t. A-Rod and Jeter aren’t good defensively, and we all know this.

      Then again, hopefully, Teix, Cano, CC, Hughes, and Jesus might help to cushion the blow as well.

      This. As the old get old, and play progressively worse, the young guns come in and step up. All those bad contracts in the past never stopped the Yankees from doing anything and A-Rod’s contract won’t either. The fact that the Yankees have him into his 40s sucks, but it is what it is.

  • larryf

    That front leg kick is absurd for a man of Arod’s strength. A little bit higher and he will hit his elbow. He can hit it out to right with minimal front leg elevation….

    • Paramecium Jones

      Is that you, Mr. Hriniak?

    • GG2010

      Maybe he’s practicing the “El Duque” dance …

    • CS Yankee

      The leg kick is just his timing mechanism…while it also helps keep his weight back (as long as his balance and head doesn’t move) which is like a Cobra striking (ala Mattingly).

      While more can go wrong with his timing (see ’09 Swish) it is what helps him stay back before opening (sending) the hips and “squishing the bug”. Not all batters need the same look (same as pitchers), and as long as the feel confident, are consistent, and have success we need to realize that nobody has cornered the market on hitting.

      Different things mean different things to different people.

  • Simon

    How many homers do you think A-rod will end the year with and how many do you think he will have next year?

  • http://de.ventro.org Ventro A.

    Do you have a twitter ?