I’ve spent the last month or so analyzing Alex Rodriguez on a week-by-week basis as he suffered through one of his more painful slumps in recent memory. While it’s possible A-Rod has had worse stretches as a Yankee, the 106 plate appearances he recorded from April 15 against the Rangers through May 16 against the Rays (25 games) in which he put up a .181/.264/.287 line (with 25 strikeouts and only 10 walks) has to be up there.
However, after an emphatic .419/.438/.742 (.513 wOBA) last seven days at the plate — not to mention the fact that he’s simply looked far comfortable up in the batter’s box than he’d been — let’s hope A-Rod has turned the page on that nasty slump for good. It’s no coincidence that the Yankees went 13-15 during Alex’s slump, and 5-1 since he started hitting again on Tuesday in Tampa Bay.
So given that we took a look at several statistical profiles to see what was wrong with Alex, let’s see why things went so very right for him this past week (data c/o Fangraphs):
Hitting one-fifth of your balls in play as line drives will certainly go a long way toward a monster week, as will a 50% HR/FB% ratio. Interestingly, Alex actually hit fewer balls in the air this past week. He also managed to increase his HR/FB% from 13% on the season last week to 17.3%, which is still not quite where we’d like Alex to be, but it’s a significant improvement.
Surprisingly, Alex swung at a higher percentage of Out-of-Zone pitches this past week than he had in any of the three previous weeks, although it wasn’t as detrimental as it could have been because he swung at fewer pitches overall (43.9%) than he’d been.
He also went back to waiting for his pitch, only offering at 59.1% of the pitches he saw In the Zone, but making contact on 92.3% of the In-Zone pitches he did swing at — way up from last week’s 80.7%. He also recorded a four-week low in Swinging Strike%, at 5.6%. The lower Swing% combined with the lower SwStr% resulted in fewer opportunities for Alex to get himself out and put the onus on the opposition — if Alex can maintain something near this level of selectivity he will continue to be a tough out.
A-Rod saw a significant uptick in fastballs this week and a significant decrease in sliders, which certainly helped his cause, as he’s mostly punished fastballs in 2011 (6.6 runs above average), but has been relatively stifled by sliders (-1.4 runs above average).
Here’s how Alex was pitched to this past week (courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com):
Last week we saw that Alex had been swinging at a fairly high number of curveballs and sliders out of the zone. This past week, to his credit, he really only primarily chased fastballs, either of the four-seamer, two-seamer or cut variety. That one high four-seamer above the strike zone was that bizarre swing he took when Mike Pelfrey struck him out yesterday; really the only time he’s looked bad since Tuesday.
Again, more high and inside and low and away to Alex, which is basically how he’s been pitched to all season.
Looks like Alex may have had a few questionable strike calls, but he also appears to have gotten a few gift balls, so everything pretty much evened out here.
And perhaps the best aspect of Alex’s great week was that he somewhat pulled his numbers against lefthanded pitching back up to respectability. As I noted in the offseason, and both Cliff Corcoran of the Pinstriped Bible and I noted last week, Alex has really struggled to hit lefthanded pitching for much of the past year; which is pretty baffling.
Alex now has a .261/.341/.550 line against righthanded pitching, and a .282/.370/.385 lines against lefties. Although he’s still not doing much against lefthanded starters, posting a measly .220/.298/.320 line across 57 PAs. I can’t quite figure out why Alex’s power numbers are way down against lefties, although as our own William pointed out in a response piece to my initial study of A-Rod’s struggles against lefties back in January, it appears it’s at least partially due to the quality of lefthanded pitching he’s faced.
Alex will get a chance to improve those numbers against lefties in short order, as the Yankees will see three of them over the next week — Ricky Romero on Tuesday (though if anything A-Rod’s numbers vs. lefties are likely to decline after facing yet another elite southpaw in Romero), Jo-Jo Reyes on Wednesday (Reyes has surprisingly good numbers but really isn’t anything special) and Jason Vargas (this could also be a tall order, as Vargas is the classic junkballing lefty that tends to stymie the Yankees, though Alex did key a major rally against him last July) in Seattle on Sunday.
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