Coming into April of 2015, the range of expectations for Alex Rodriguez wasn’t all that wide. There were essentially two lines of thought regarding how he’d fare coming off of his suspension and various nagging injuries still leftover from 2013 and before. One line of thought was, at least nominally, optimistic: he’d probably do okay because of health and his immense talent as a baseball player. The other was damningly pessimistic: he’d probably embarrass himself because of rust and age. Suffice it to say, Rodriguez has surpassed those expectations. Aside from a few hot weeks by Brett Gardner, A-Rod has arguably been the team’s best and most consistent hitter for all of 2015. He went into yesterday’s games with a line of .284/.390/.508/.898 with 15 home runs, a total few would’ve guessed he’d have through July 4.
Rodriguez’s so far, so great season was largely aided by an absolutely stellar month of May, in which he hit .316/.369/.571 with six homers and five doubles. That power output–marked by a .255 ISO–was his best of the season so far (we’ll have to wait and see what July brings). While June was still successful–a .411 OBP with 18 walks as opposed to the seven free passes he got in May–it was his “worst” in terms of power, indicated by a .168 ISO. That number is definitely still good, but after what he did in May, June was a slight let down.
In terms of the way pitchers approached Alex, May and June were fairly similar. He faced about the same amount of fastballs and changeups, though there was an uptick in sinkers against him in June, which is actually where we can find some of the swooning power. Taking a look at his results, Rodriguez performed well against sinkers in May. While he had an ISO of just .105 against them, that stings a lot less when you’re hitting .316 against a given pitch type. In June, however, both of those numbers fell off the table. The increase in sliders–85 in May, 112 in June–led to a lower batting average, .208, and a nonexistent ISO of .000. A similar decrease occurred in the changeup category as well. During May, Rodriguez hit just .250 against the 41 changeups he saw, but he crushed the ones he did put in play to a .750 SLG and a .500 ISO. Once again in June, A-Rod hit .250 against changeups, but this time, his hits against the pitch only went for singles.
Anecdotally this year, we’ve watched A-Rod crush fastballs and hard stuff while struggling against breaking balls and other soft pitches. This runs contrary to what we may’ve thought coming into the year–time off could mean diminished bat speed, etc.–but it’s been fairly true and was fleshed out in both his best and “worst” power months. In both May (.375 AVG; .679 SLG; .304 ISO) and June (.333/.536/.222), he’s demolished fastballs and struggled a bit against breaking pitches–averages of .188 and .192 respectively, as well as SLGs/ISOs of .313/.125 and .308/.115. May saw Alex rip offspeed pitches (.400/.800/.400), but that didn’t happen in June: .222/.222/.000.
Regardless of the power drop-off from May to June, June was still a great month and Al from Miami has had a great season; there is little, if anything, to fret or complain about. He’s been a great hitter; he’s taken to the DH role well; he’s said and done all the right things. Here’s hoping he can continue this great year into the second half, and hopefully, into the playoffs.