Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Waiting For "The Kick" To Come From The Horse

Maybe I just didn't pay close enough attention to the big declines in his overall power numbers the past couple reasons.  Maybe I saw what Kobe Bryant's offseason PRP therapy did for him this year and got overly optimistic.  Maybe I'm just too much of a homer.  For whatever reason, I really believed that Alex Rodriguez was going to have a big year this year.  He got healthy in the offseason, he looked good in camp, and Joe made a point early in the season to start getting A-Rod regular rest through either DH days or full days off.  Yet here we are, just days away from the midpoint of the season, and The Horse is having a pretty pedestrian year.  The 13 homers are nice, but his slash line of .266/.357/.436 is down from last year, as is his ISO (.170), his wOBA (.352), and his wRC+ (119).

The assumption going into the season was that a healthy Horse in 2012 would be a more productive Horse, and that just hasn't been the case.  Rodriguez is already well on pace to exceed his games played and plate appearance totals from his injury-plagued 2011 and he's still seeing declining numbers across the board.  There haven't been any reports about there being any physical problems with him, and with 19 games at DH A-Rod should be plenty rested, so what gives?

This weekly breakdown of A-Rod's offensive output starting from the first game on April 6th provides some insight:

I don't know about anybody else, but what stands out most to me in this chart is that nothing stands out to me.  There's no big week in there where A-Rod just mashed; there's no surge in power, no big-time boost in production.  It's just a lot of average week-to-week numbers nowhere near representative of the type of production expected from someone hitting third or fourth in the lineup.  He hasn't hit more than 2 HR in a week this season, hasn't hit more than 5 total XBH in a week, and his runs batted in numbers are borderline pathetic.  I know RBI are a very misleading stat, but to see Alex Rodriguez only have 1 week with more than 5 and 5 weeks with 2 or fewer is troubling.  He was hitting behind Derek Jeter when Jeter was on base all the time in April, and he's hit behind Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, 2 more guys who get on base at solid clips, all season without major run production numbers.  That's not good.

This begs the obvious question of when is the big kick coming for A-Rod?  It's something we're very used to seeing , and all the rest suggests it should be happening soon.  Jack Curry tweeted last Tuesday that A-Rod was 17-42 with 6 HR and 12 RBI in the 10 games he's played this season after sitting out the previous game.  Those numbers have changed since then, but they show that this extra rest is working to a certain degree.  So I ask again, when is the kick coming?

Perhaps the correct, and more appropriate question to ask is IF the kick is ever coming at all.  Is this just who A-Rod is now?  And is this representative of the type of player he's going to be as he continues to regress through the remainder of his contract?  Age eventually catches up to everybody in baseball, and with the type of consistent rest and reported clean bill of health he's had this season, simple irreversible age-related decline would be the easiest explanation for Alex's output this season and why we haven't seen him turn the switch and go on a tear.  He just might not have the switch to turn anymore.

I certainly hope that's not the case, and I'm still holding out a slight bit of hope that everything will click for The Horse sometime this month.  But that slight bit is very slight.  I wrote a post on AB4AR a little over a month ago about A-Rod's new warning track power after he hit a ball that he thought was gone against Cincy and ended up as a long flyball out.  He hit another one of those loud out warning-track shots in the 8th inning of last night's game, and combined with the numbers in the chart above it was a very sobering visual reminder that I, and all Yankee fans, might be waiting a long time for this missing kick to come.

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