New York Yankees’ designated hitter Alex Rodriguez’s early season slump has people worried that the slugger has nothing left in the tank.
In 2015, the Yankees, and many of their fans had vilified the then-39-year-old after the year-long suspension for his participation in the Biogenesis case.
No one knew if he would be strong enough to reignite his career, make a difference in the lineup, or even make a roster spot.
No one predicted that he’d hit the ball out of the infield, or be able to run 90 feet, or what a return from a year-long absence could do to a man of his age.
When A-Rod showed up to camp in 2015, his first press conference took place outside the confines of George M. Steinbrenner field on a sidewalk. Talk about a comforting start.
Then, the unfathomable happened.
Rodriguez answered those who questioned how he would perform with a .250 batting average, .356 on-base percentage, and .486 slugging percentage while leading the team in home runs (33).
While becoming one of the most productive hitters in the Yankee lineup yet again, he earned respect from his fans, teammates, and organization as a humble leader.
To add to his personal resume, Rodriguez passed Willie Mays for sole possession of fourth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list and reached the ultimate plateau for a hitter: 3,000 hits.
It certainly was a “Cinderella Season” for Alex Rodriguez.
The glass slipper didn’t quite fit as well towards the end of his season, however, as A-Rod slashed .191/.300/.377 with nine home runs in the final three months of the regular season.
“I ran out of gas in August,” Rodriguez told Andrew Marchand of ESPN. “My energy started to pick up again in September. I just stunk. In August, I was fatigued a little bit. In September, I felt great and played poorly.”
At the end of 2015, nobody seemed frightened that the 40-year old’s slump would carry over into 2016, especially since fatigue was the root of his troubles.
Unfortunately, here we are witnessing yet another catastrophic slump from the three-time American League Most Valuable Player.
So far this season, Rodriguez is just 3-for-25 (.120) and is hitless his last 12 at bats. At times, A-Rod has been late on average fastballs and appears to be off balance at the plate.
The lack of production from the 14-time All-star gives New York the absence of a right-handed bat, making the team susceptible to left-handed pitching.
This season, the Yankees have a .235 batting average against lefties and have scored two runs or fewer three times thus far.
The offense with little to no production from Rodriguez? It’s pretty rough. Is he or his team worried about it? Not a damn bit.
“I’m not making too much of it because it’s not that many at-bats,” said Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi during his press conference yesterday. “When you’re 40, you’re going to get asked those questions. And when you’re expected to produce and you’re 40, you’re going to get asked those questions even more.”
What his manager and coaches realize is yeah A-Rod is in a bit of a funk, but he has been making solid contact and isn’t necessarily pressing in the batters box.
The average launch speed of the ball off Rodriguez’s bat is currently at 95.98 miles an hour, according to Statcast, which is roughly six MPH higher than the league average (89.16).
Baseball Info Solutions listed A-Rod’s hard contact rate (measures how well the ball is hit) at 28.6% entering Thursday’s game, which was .01% below league average. On the contrary, his soft contact rate (when the ball is hit softly) is 0.0%.
Simply put: he’s hitting the snot out of the baseball.
His walk rate in 2016 is also 15.4%. His career average is 11.1% while the league average for this season is at 8.7%.
Basically, Alex Rodriguez is getting on base and has been hitting the ball hard to the wrong places, but hey, that’s just baseball.
Looking blindly at the standard numbers, you’d find his production alarming but to those who have watched A-Rod’s at-bats can confirm that it’s way too early to start hitting the panic button.
You should be concerned if A-Rod wasn’t driving the ball and wasn’t showing any discipline at the plate, but that is not the case.
A-Rod is a true professional when it comes to his craft and being a full-time designated hitter means that all of his attention is on hitting. But honestly, the balls he hits at 95+ MPH will find holes and you will start to see his batting average climb upwards.
Carlos Beltran was a disaster last April with his slash line of .162/.216/.265 but the Yankees were patient with him and were rewarded with one of their most productive hitters of 2015.
The same patience that was given to Beltran must be given to Rodriguez. After all, he is an imperative piece to the 2016 New York Yankees playoff hopes.