(That guy's feeling the effect... Courtesy of Getty Images)
All horse-related jokes and puns aside, I have to admit that I've been shocked by Alex Rodriguez's success since returning to the lineup just a week ago. He's looked healthy, he's looked quick and sharp in the field, and he's looked comfortable and powerful at the plate. In his first 7 games back A-Rod is 8-26 with 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 R, 6 RBI, and 2 BB. Throw an HBP in there and he's a guy who's been productive both as a run producer and scoring-opportunity creator in the middle of the lineup, something the Yankees were missing. Not only has his presence back in the lineup resulted in big-time production from him, but it's also contributed to the rest of the offense around him starting to get things clicking and getting back to what the Yankees do best.
It isn't reflected in the 3-4 record over the last week, but the Yankee offense has responded to A-Rod's return and followed his lead in getting back to playing Yankee baseball. They've scored 42 runs in their last 7 games, including a season-high 13 on Sunday, which comes out to a healthy 6 runs per game average. They've also boosted their team BB rate up to 8.9% for the month of September with 24 free passes after posting an un-Yankee-like 8.0% in August. That may not seem like a major increase, but when you consider that 18 of those 24 walks came in the last 4-game set against Baltimore and Robinson Cano, king of the free swingers, has drawn 6 walks himself (4 in his last 3 games), the signs are there that the traditional Yankee patience that has been missing is coming back.
Maybe I'm just being an A-Rod homer here, but I'm attributing this offensive bounce back to his return and his presence in the lineup. Say what you want about his decline in production or how he'll never live up to the rest of his contract, but don't say that Alex Rodriguez doesn't have an impact on how the Yankee lineup functions. He's one of the smartest players in baseball, he knows how to work pitchers and approach at-bats, and that kind of experience rubs off on guys, especially in situations like the one the Yankees were in where they weren't doing those little things and were pressing to make something happen. A-Rod came back, started doing those things, and the rest of the lineup has followed suit. They're getting back to grinding out at-bats and getting starters out early, taking walks if they don't get anything good to hit, and not trying to do too much with RISP.
It hasn't resulted in a big winning streak yet, and A-Rod can't help iron out the wrinkles in the pitching staff, but it's a far cry from the 3.31 R/G drought of last Monday and a step in the right direction. The Yankees are going to need to keep this production up with Mark Teixeira possibly heading back to the DL, and with The Horse back in the middle of the lineup as a steadying force their chances of doing so are much greater.