Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Strict "On Field Only" Analysis Of A-Rod's First Game Back

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It may have slipped past you yesterday, what with ESPN and the rest of the MSM completely ignoring the story, but Alex Rodriguez actually made his 2013 season debut last night.  The collection of circumstances surrounding that debut are their own topic of conversation, and one every other MSM outlet seems to be covering just fine.  For the purposes of this post, what you think about A-Rod as a person and whether you think he deserves to be on the field is irrelevant.  He is on the field, it looks like he'll be eligible to be for the rest of this season, and the Yankees can definitely use him.  Focusing strictly on what he did on the field last night, here's what I thought about Alex's first game back.

First, I liked that he was patient at the plate and took pitches instead of coming out swinging.  A-Rod took 4 walks in his final MiL rehab game on Saturday and the indication from his final few games in Trenton was that his batting eye was still there and he was starting to get his timing back at the plate.  Seeing 17 pitches in 4 plate appearances last night is another positive indication that A-Rod's pitch and zone recognition skills are still intact.

As for the bat speed and the power, the jury is still out on that.  Alex's first at-bat in the 2nd resulted in a bloop single, one that he hit by pulling his hands in on a 2-0 Jose Quintana slider inner half.  There was enough bat speed to get around on the pitch and just enough power to get it over the shortstop's head, but normally that's a pitch that A-Rod can, should, and used to hit harder down the line for a double.  Alex drove a fly ball to semi-deep center in his second AB and lined out to semi-deep left in the 6th off Quintana, and the swing he put on another slider on that lineout was much better than the one in his first AB.  Still, it was hard to say he displayed even warning track power on either hit.

In the field, A-Rod looked alright fielding his position.  He definitely doesn't move as quickly as he used to, but he can still cover some ground and still moves relatively smoothly to his left.  His throws to first base were a bit wide, especially the one to end the bottom of the 3rd.  I'd chalk that up to a lack of real, in-game reps where you don't have time to fully set yourself for a throw.  Although he's no longer anywhere near Gold Glove territory and chances are Joe will be giving him regular DH days, A-Rod looked like he could still handle himself at the hot corner.

For a 38-year-old with multiple hip and leg surgeries under his belt in the last few years, there was nothing that A-Rod did or didn't do last night on the field that came as a surprise.  He's slower than he used to be, both with his legs and his bat, and it remains to be seen how he can hold up health and production-wise when he's playing every day.  The bar has been set incredibly low for him with what the other third baseman have done this year, and his ZiPS-projected .253/.335/.410 batting line would actually be a huge boost.  Based on last night, I'd say there was enough to think A-Rod is still capable of doing at least that.

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