What Went Wrong: Alex Rodriguez

Mailbag: Pineda, McCann, V-Mart, Draft Picks
The RAB Radio Show: October 26th, 2012

Over the next few weeks we’re going to spend some time reviewing the entire 2012 season, which featured another division title and unfortunately another disappointing playoff exit.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

There is nothing in baseball quite like the optimism of Spring Training. Everyone has a clean slate, every young player is poised to break out, and every old and declining player is poised for a rebound. Alex Rodriguez has been that old and declining player poised for a rebound for three years running now, as the usual stories of him being fully healthy and in great shape and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda ran rampant when camp opened in February.

Fast forward to October, and it was the same old story for A-Rod. His performance continued to slide and he missed considerable time with injury. He sparked some minor controversy along the way and like just about all of teammates, he didn’t hit in the postseason. Because he’s A-Rod, he drew most of the ire and his benching made national headlines. Talks of a possible offseason trade — with the Yankees eating most of the $114M left on his contract — soon surfaced. In other words, it was a typically messy year for the club and their third baseman.

You know what the weirdest thing is? It’s that A-Rod was actually productive this season. No, not by the lofty standards he established earlier in his Hall of Fame career, but compared to his peers. Alex hit .272/.353/.430 overall, a 114 wRC+ that ranked eighth among all third baseman who qualified for the batting title. When Felix Hernandez broke a bone in his hand with an errant pitch on July 24th, A-Rod owned a .276/.358/.449 batting line. Is that the monster hitter he was in his prime? No, of course not. But it was certainly above average and damn good production for a 36-year-old.

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

That broken bone was essentially the end of his season as an effective hitter. Alex didn’t return to the team until September 3rd and even then he only had a handful of minor league rehab games to his credit. He went 12-for-43 (.279) with three homers in his first eleven games back but quickly faded, going just 17-for-68 (.250) with one extra-base hit (a double) in the team’s final 17 games. His postseason featured a 3-for-25 showing, including an 0-for-18 mark with a dozen strikeouts against right-handers. Joe Girardi lifted him for pinch-hitters and flat out benched him at times as well. To their credit, both Girardi and A-Rod said all the right things and didn’t allow the situation to spiral out of control.

All told, Alex set new single-season career-worsts in strikeout rate (21.9%), extra-base hits (36), ISO (.158), SLG (.430), OPS+ (112). wOBA (.342), wRC+ (114), fWAR( 2.2), and bWAR (2.0). That doesn’t count his partial seasons in 1994 (17 games) and 1995 (48 games), just to be clear. He had stretches of 16 straight games without an extra-base hit (longest of his career), 17 straight games without a homer (third longest), 11 straight games without an RBI (second longest), and 13 straight games without a walk (second longest).

The Yankees like to use the DH spot to rest their older regulars — Girardi calls them half-days off — and Alex certainly saw plenty of time there. He led the team with 38 starts at DH, 13 more than anyone else. His previous career high was a dozen DH starts in 2010, and believe it or not he only had 50 career starts at DH coming into 2012. A-Rod’s defense at the hot corner actually wasn’t bad at all this year, but the Yankees did go to great lengths to keep him (and his bat) physically fresh and didn’t get much of a reward for their effort.

The contract is what it is at this point. There’s no going back in time to change it and there’s not much sense in holding it against Alex. The Yankees made their bed with the contract and are going to end up paying the vast majority of it either way, whether they keep him or trade him. The best case scenario for A-Rod these days is that he continues to be an above-average hitting third baseman whenever he actually is on the field, which these days is something like 100-125 games. Expecting more at this point is foolish. Hope that A-Rod can rebound and become an offensive force has morphed into hope that he can merely avoid falling off the cliff further the next few years.

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Mailbag: Pineda, McCann, V-Mart, Draft Picks
The RAB Radio Show: October 26th, 2012
  • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Drew

    Well this isn’t too much of a surprise even though going into the 2012 season I thought Alex had one 25-30 HR season left in him. Now, I have little to no confidence to him being that player ever again.

    • Mike

      He was actually on pace for 24 home runs over a full season, and 25/season over the last two years. He has not been able to stay healthy, although this year was pretty fluky. Give him 150 games, and I think 25 is still reasonable.

    • commerce

      I kinda think you are right (Drew); however, I am still drawn to one of his last bombs this season that he hit in Seattle. Alex has way more than enough power to launch 25-30 HRs if he gets 500 ABs. That much action would require his generally being healthy all season. To get the performance, he will have to clean up his swing. His leg kick militates against good timing which causes his being late; moreover, he likes the big/arcing swing which also destroys his timing even if he gets his foot down on time. Our old friend, Austin Jackson, had the big leg kick and the loopy swing which got him around the ball leading to about 200 Ks in ’11. The Tigers eliminated his high kick and taught him to keep his hands inside the ball resulting in a much shorter swing radius–he eliminated nearly 50 Ks this season. Seems to me that a superstar w/ over 15 seasons in the big leagues could get his mechanics straight.

      Staying healthy and cleaning up hitting mechanics are the recipe for a return to respectable production for Alex.

  • jjyank

    I’m sure stuart and dalelama have been itching for this thread.

    • vin

      Hopefully it’s quickly crushed by a “Mo re-signs with Yankees” post.

      • Thunder Road Runner

        +1

  • Eddard

    And Cashman should be on the phone this entire offseason trying to move ARod. When this team was looking for a leader to replace its fallen Captain it was thought that ARod would be that guy. Where was he to be found? Signing baseballs for fans and getting their phone numbers. Nuney is a great talent. He’s young, energetic and he wants to be here. I fear that he will be the one traded and not ARod because the fans just won’t accept that youngsters may make mistakes, yet they’ll bend over backwards for veterans that don’t live up to their contracts. Keep Nuney, trade ARod.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      I’m not even going to get started on this.

      • jjyank

        #EddardWorld

    • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

      I’ll bite.

      If Al is an overpaid league average 3B with a prediliction for post-season chokes, then who, exactly, would want to trade us something of value for him?

      If that trade presupposes we’ll be paying a LOT of his salary, then isn’t the remainder what a slightly above league average 3B would cost us anyway, especially in light of the transactions costs and frictions?

      • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

        Don’t do this. It’s so tempting, but just not worth it man.

        • jjyank

          Get out while you still can!! Eddard World’s gravitational pull is twice that of Earth!

      • commerce

        That’s logical…we made the deal 5 yrs ago and must live w/ it for another 5. The contract is prohibitive…we just need to embrace it. He asked for a “divorce” after the ’07 campaign but we begged him to stay–then gave away the store to keep him.

    • LK

      Dude, I know! The fans have just been bending over backwards for A-Rod since he got here. I, for one, am tired of how accomadating Yankee fans have been to him. It’s like he can do no wrong in their eyes.

      • thenamestsam

        I laughed.

      • Mike HC

        haha

    • WhittakerWalt

      “Keep Nuney and pray he’s a 90 OPS+ hitter who makes fewer than 30 errors a year. Because SMALL BALL!”

    • moose

      if nunez was the starting 3b, he’d set the record for most errors in history by a 3b

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    Did he have a big split between DH batting and 3B batting?

    • jjyank

      As a DH: .307/.371/.467 in 170 PA.

      As a 3B: .258/.348/.416 in 356 PA.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        hey thanks.

        can you point me towards where’d I’d find the league average’s for DH and 3B?

        I know there’s more to it than just that split (when he hit that, etc) but if Arod can play 3B twice a week and replicate those DH numbers I’d be pretty happy to see it…

        (good luck with that foot DJ!)

  • Mike HC

    I think his defense has been a bit underrrated of late. He has really turned himself into an excellent third baseman. As for his offense and health, I think he still has some good years left in him.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      He has a pretty good glove and a nice arm, but his range is limited. Just comes with the age though.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

        I think Arod is more than solid at 3B but I recently heard an interview of Cashman recently with Michaal Kay and he went out of his way to point out that Chavez was a major defensive upgrade over Arod at 3B.

        • Steve (different one)

          Isn’t Chavez considered one of the great fielding 3Bman of all time? This isn’t prime Chavez, but Arod can still be “solid” and a downgrade from Chavezz

          • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

            I think Chavez is pretty much average at 3B at this point after all the debilitating injuries and his age.

          • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

            4 out of the last 5 years he’s played, Chavez has had a negative UZR and UZR/150.

    • commerce

      I take issue w/ your evaluation of Alex as an “excellent” 3bman. He has good tools including a rifle arm and good hands. He usually exercises good judgement too. I think he is “above average” overall; however, he is weak coming in on soft stuff, and his range to line is, at best, average. He has above average range to his left. He has one really bad habit–he often ends up on his knees after fielding a ball that doesn’t require leaving his feet. He gets away w/ it on throws to first and second because of his strong and accurate arm, but he often is too slow to turn a DP due to his having to rise from the ground before delivering the ball to Cano.

      I am not complaining about his D but rather giving him a lower mark than you do.

  • Athenian

    So apparently using RAB from work is frowned upon. Whatever!

    I think Mike’s last paragraph says it all about ARod. It is really the money he is receiving that is the sticking point. I don’t think any logical person would have expected him to continue his power hitting ways, especially following hip surgery and then getting Felix’d this year.

    But his inability to catch up with fastballs is of concern. Perhaps it is just the broken bones not being fully healed or the layoff.

    • commerce

      IMO, he just needs to eliminate his high leg kick and modify his swing by focusing on keeping his hands inside the ball…those two adjustments will allow him to keep up w/ the avg big league FB.

  • bob imperato

    FYI, Astros moving to AL in 2013

  • LiterallyFigurative

    I was always worried that A-Rod’s average would be the trait he lost first, not the power.

    .270/.350/.450 is pretty good, and I hope he is willing to make a Jeterian adjustment to catch up to the fastball. It’s one thing to look bad on 95 mph, quite another to be late on 90 mph heat.

  • JLC 776

    I’ve always said, look at A-Rod’s numbers exclusively against league averages and ignore the contract and suddenly he becomes much more palatable to keep around. Obviously the numbers will continue to decline, but two or three years of average to above average production is just fine with me.

  • Get Phelps Up

    I really don’t get how this has only 24 comments when yesterday there were 90 comments hating on Cano.

    • jjyank

      You can’t predict RAB commenting, Suzyn.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      I’m saving up for the “What Went Wrong: Brian Cashman” thread

  • dalelama

    The cover-up continues……this is what happens when an admitted cheat gets off the juice.

  • LarryM., Fl.

    Unless the Yankees trade Alex during the off season or during the 2013 season. He will be ours to enjoy. If Alex could hit .270 with 20 Hrs and 85 Rbi’s. I’d sign off for this production. He plays a very decent third base. I never played baseball after coming back from a broken bone in my hand but I hear that the power is not there. Power is generated from bat speed.

    I was disappointed with another Arod flop in the post season but I would give Arod a pass on his post season. I do hope that he goes back to the drawing board and pulls a revitalized Arod much as Jeter did for the second half of 2011 and 2012.

    I’m a Yankee fan so I hope or wish for the best from the players on the roster.

    • commerce

      I generally agree w/ all of this…but Alex has been a notorious “no-show” in postseason except for about 6 games in ’04 and ’09 (when he was a monster!). His ’05 showing against the Angels was atrocious as was his work in ’06/’07/’10/’11 and ’12. Two of those postseasons (’05 & ’07) were MVP seasons for Alex…he may have even been on the juice, but he still fell flat on his face just when he was badly needed. His ’09 was out-of-this-world good–proved that he could take over a series and lead the club to the promised land. Not often enough…

  • http://fendersonandhampton.com Cuso

    Getting sick and tired of the “he is what he is and he’s good because he’s 8th best” garbage.

    We all know his contract is terrible. We all no there’s no way we can trade him.

    You know what’s getting old really fast? People trying to be “realistic” and “accommodating” because A-Rod is still valuable as a 3rd baseman.

    You know what? He makes $30M a year. Money that can be better spent on other pieces that could help the club win. And believe it or not, there IS a budget. They’re not spending $300M on a team that doesn’t sell out the park.

    So we’re stuck with A-Rod – fine.

    A-Rod is stuck with us booing his asa for being a 40-year old in a 36-heart old body. He gets enough money to put up with it. Fair trade off.

    And everyone that condescends to people that are unhappy with the “new” A-Rod can suck it. You’re not above us, nor are you immune to frustration. People have EVERY RIGHT to vent about what he is now.

    • bpdelia

      no. you’re just another whiny baby. suck it up and stop being a little bitch. it is what it is. he’s 37 he’s had two MAJOR injuries and he signed the contract offered. stop the bitching and moaning dude. bits just sad

    • JLC 776

      Do you really enjoy complaining that much?

  • dalelama

    The Arod apologensia will not tolerate any criticism of their beloved “Purple Lips”.

    • Get Phelps Up

      You’re enjoying every minute of this.

  • http://yesnetwork Jim

    Top picture reminds me of the MICK throwing his helmet after striking out. The MICK did it better!