Alex Rodriguez is not having a bad season. He’s put up a 134 wRC+, good for 4th best among American League third basemen. He’s gotten there mostly by getting on base, hitting .292/.391/.431 on the season. He has just 5 home runs and 3 doubles. He’s improved significantly on his batting line over 2010-2011.
He turns 37 years old in July. At this point in his career, we should probably expect Alex Rodriguez to enter his decline phase. He’ll still be effective at times, but slowly fade into obscurity. Or will he? A closer look at Alex’s batted ball outcomes could lead us to some information here.
Arod has a 20% HR/FB ratio right now, not far off his 22.5% career rate. Last season, he got a bit unlucky with 14.5%. However, Alex is hitting fewer fly balls than ever before, at just 24%, versus a career rate of 40%. He’s managed to be effective because he has evenly distributed those remaining balls in play to both ground balls and line drives – he has career highs by miles in both categories.
I’m no swing expert, so I’m not going to make a nice little .gif about how Alex Rodriguez’s swing is different than it used to be. But he definitely seems to have changed his approach significantly. He’s not getting different results on a fly ball, he’s just getting different results on a ball in play. That’s a very important distinction. Arod may be transforming his late career into a high-OBP, moderate-power decline. Maybe this is the best way for him to remain effective late into his contract?
I think the important thing to draw from these numbers is that we’re not dealing with random luck. We’re dealing with different inputs from Alex, possibly for the first time in his Yankee career. Previously, his GB, FB, and LD percentages were very stable. Now, they are different. Regression and luck won’t drag him back to 35 home runs.
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