(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)
Alex Rodriguez‘s home run off of Roy Halladay this past Sunday, meaningless as it seemed from a statistical standpoint, was actually more important than you might think because of the swing he took to hit it. It was a compact, balanced, fluid swing that drove the ball to the opposite field with power, and in terms of the eye test it passed with flying colors as it represented a part of A-Rod’s game that has become increasingly absent over the past four seasons. As he’s dealt with his litany of injuries, A-Rod has struggled with his swing mechanics, likely compensating for whatever was ailing him at the time. As a result, his effectiveness as a hitter has been seriously compromised, most noticeably his ability to hit to the opposite field with authority. Whether it’s been the hip, knee, or groin, Alex hasn’t had the same lower body torque and fluid rotation in his swing that he showed on Sunday, and that lack of lower body drive has sapped him of his opposite-field potency.
2007 was the high water mark for Alex in a Yankee uniform from a statistical standpoint (.314/.422/.645, .449 wOBA, 178 wRC+), and sometimes it feels like that was eons ago after watching the past four seasons of injury problems and declining production play out.
While it’s perfectly normal for a 36-year-old professional baseball player to experience some level of age-related decline, it is the dramatic drop in power that is most concerning with Alex and that raises a red flag that his injury problems are also negatively affecting his performance. That same drastic decline in overall production and power is present in A-Rod’s opposite field splits since 2007. It speaks to the problems that A-Rod’s injuries have caused with his swing and where in his swing they are doing the most damage.
It’s one thing to lose some bat speed and strength and not be able to muscle the ball all over the yard to the tune of a wOBA in the .400s when you get to your mid-30s. It’s quite another to drop off to the point of being below average when hitting the ball the other way, and that’s where Rodriguez finds himself after posting back-to-back sub-.300 wOBA values in 2010 and 2011. This past season, he bottomed out at .280, with a .664 OPS and 69 wRC+. Remember, this isn’t some schmuck third baseman here, this is Alex Rodriguez, the same guy who was the greatest baseball player on the planet for a period of time not too long ago. Home runs like the one he hit off of Halladay used to be common place for him. Now they’re such a rare occurrence that they inspire blog posts like this one. It is these types of home runs and line drive hits to right field that need to return to A-Rod’s offensive game to help stifle the disturbing downward trend we’re seeing in his production.
It’s easy to forget just how great a hitter A-Rod was and still can be when he’s 100% because of how bad he’s looked at times when playing through his recent injuries. Part of what made Rodriguez such an offensive force in his prime was his ability to hit to all fields and hit to all fields with power. He was, and still is, a more dangerous hitter to the pull side and up the middle; that’s where A-Rod makes his living. But he’s always had the ability to muscle a pitch out over the right field fence like he did on Sunday thanks to the power he generates in his swing with his lower half, no matter where the pitch was thrown. That’s what Alex has been losing most over the past few seasons as he’s battled injuries, and that’s what he needs to regain this year if he can stay right physically.
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