A-Rod’s Numbers

After a leak of the results of MLB’s 2003 anonymous survey testing for performance enhancing drugs, Alex Rodriguez admitted in an interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons using them from 2001 to 2003, the three years he played for Texas.

“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure, felt all the weight of the world on top of me to perform and perform at a high level every day.”…When asked if his usage took place from 2001-2003, Rodriguez said, “That’s pretty accurate.”
Rangers owner Tom Hicks, who took over the team in 1998, was shocked by Rodriguez’s admission.
“I certainly don’t believe that if he’s now admitting that he started using when he came to the Texas Rangers, why should I believe that it didn’t start before he came to the Texas Rangers

If ARod started using PEDs in 2001, then they had no effect, as his three years in Texas are statistically indistinguishable from his previous two years in Seattle. His jump in performance was between the 1998 and 1999 seasons.

Listed below is how Oliver sees Rodriguez, park adjusted, year by year. His career breaks down into three five year periods.

In four of his first five years, from 1994 to 1998, A-Rod’s percent of homeruns by batted balls was between .066 and .070, with 1997 at .044. This is a range occupied by the career rates of Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Alfonso Soriano, Vlad Guerrero, Jesse Barfield, Kevin Mitchell, Larry Walker and Matt Williams. Very good, but not quite the top, usually good for 35-40 homers a year. During these five years, A-Rod’s isolated power (slugging minus batting averages) never exceeded .265.

In the five years from 1999 to 2003, A-Rod’s HR% ranged between .092 and .110, roughly a 40% increase, ranking him with the top six of all time, Sammy Sosa, Babe Ruth, Jim Thome, and Adam Dunn, and only exceeded on a career basis by Mark McGwire‘s .125. His isolated power ranged from .287 to .312. His walk and strikeout rates also took a jump in 1999, going from below average walk and strikeouts to above average on walks and average on strikeouts. Three of these five years also saw his lowest batting average on balls in play (SDT%).

The last five years, 2004 to 2008, have all been with the Yankees. In two of those seasons, 2005 and 2007, Rodriguez’s HR% was in the same range as the previous five years. In the other three, his HR% has been near but still above his rates from his first five years, with his isolated power showing the same pattern. His walk and strikeout have continued to rise, and his SDT% returned to previous levels, which have combined to have his overall productivity, measured with wOBA, remain high despite the fall off in homeruns.

One other note which shows that hitting homeruns is more than just hitting the ball hard. Greg Rybarczyk’s Hit Tracker has calculated normalized distances and speed off the bat for most all homeruns hit beginning in 2006. A-Rod hit 35 HR’s in 2006, with a mean SOB of 113.1 mph, followed by 54 in 2007, averaging 110.0 mph, and then 35 again in 2008, averaging 108.0 mph. His 113.1 SOB in 2006 is the highest single season mark of the least three years. The scatter plots of HR locations shows that in 2006 A-Rod hit 25 of his 35 HRs more than 400 feet, and many were hit to CF. His number of HR’s in 2007 jumped to 54 despite a lower average speed, as 21 were hit under 400 feet but pulled to LF where the fences are generally shorter. In 2008 Rodriguez only pulled 4 under 400 foot homers to LF. Correlating the speed off the bat with the HR/Fly for all batters with 10 or more homers total from 2006 to 2008 results in a factor r of .37, meaning that 35-40% of the probability of a flyball going for a homerun is determined by how hard (and thus how far) the ball is hit. The rest would be where the ball was hit (which direction and how far was the fence.)

Alex Rodriguez has now admitted to taking PEDs, but if we believe that they actually do enhance performance, the statistics show he likely started earlier than he has said. At age 32 he is still one of the top five batters in the majors, but his stats also show normal signs of aging, a so far gradual decline in power.

1994 SEA 18 0.293 0.343 0.559 0.380 0.265 0.323 0.070 0.068 0.197
1995 SEA 19 0.275 0.314 0.505 0.347 0.230 0.312 0.070 0.051 0.227
1996 SEA 20 0.350 0.405 0.602 0.427 0.252 0.374 0.066 0.084 0.151
1997 SEA 21 0.295 0.343 0.479 0.356 0.184 0.322 0.044 0.061 0.152
1998 SEA 22 0.305 0.353 0.539 0.380 0.235 0.318 0.069 0.058 0.158
1999 SEA 23 0.283 0.351 0.576 0.389 0.293 0.279 0.101 0.092 0.187
2000 SEA 24 0.321 0.417 0.622 0.436 0.300 0.336 0.094 0.138 0.179
2001 TEX 25 0.313 0.389 0.604 0.418 0.292 0.324 0.098 0.096 0.185
2002 TEX 26 0.294 0.377 0.606 0.413 0.312 0.288 0.110 0.106 0.177
2003 TEX 27 0.293 0.383 0.580 0.407 0.287 0.303 0.092 0.110 0.184
2004 NYA 28 0.285 0.370 0.507 0.378 0.222 0.311 0.073 0.109 0.192
2005 NYA 29 0.320 0.415 0.603 0.433 0.284 0.349 0.100 0.120 0.199
2006 NYA 30 0.290 0.386 0.518 0.391 0.228 0.329 0.078 0.127 0.211
2007 NYA 31 0.312 0.413 0.635 0.439 0.323 0.310 0.111 0.123 0.175
2008 NYA 32 0.300 0.383 0.565 0.403 0.265 0.330 0.086 0.098 0.203

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Brian got his start in amateur baseball, as the statistician for his local college summer league in Johnstown, Pa, which also hosts the annual All-American Amateur Baseball Association. A longtime APBA and Strat-o-Matic player, he still tends to look at everything as a simulation. He has also written for StatSpeak and SeamHeads You can contact him at brian.cartwright2@verizon.net

29 Responses to “A-Rod’s Numbers”

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  1. WOW says:

    Are you forgetting one thing…….. AGE? Power develops, so it stands to reason that A-Rod wasn’t as strong at 19 as he was when was reaching his mid twenties and filled out. You completely neglect that fact and try to insinuate he’s been taking steroids from 1999-2008.

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  2. I am not forgetting age. I remarked that he is currently losing power due to age. Although there is a general increase in power up until age 27 or 28, not all players follow the same trends. Rodriguez was a number one pick at age 18, and had 54 doubles and 29 homers in the majors at age 20, so there’s evidence he filled out earlier than most players.

    Rodriguez was consistent at one level for his first 5 years, then at another level for the next 5. He admits he used PEDs, but the visible change in performance is not where he states he started using. I suggest he was using from 1999-2003, not 2001-2003. I have no evidence that he has used since 2003, when testing with penalties started.

    I listed all the numbers, instead of say, just wOBA, so that you have more data to make up your own mind. And I admit I’m a steroids skeptic, I wait for proof and am still looking for evidence of how much, if any, benefit there is from using.

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  3. kensai says:

    Nobody knows when A-Rod started using, whether he admits to it or not. It’s not right to assume he stopped using because of testing or that he didn’t use prior to 2001. Not that I really care either way.

    A large part of what steroids help with is strength endurance and recovery times. I believe he only missed 1 game while in Texas, so that would be pretty good evidence that was when he started using.

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  4. Very interesting. A-Rod is an incredibly unique case in part due to his age in the big leagues. I would imagine that many players experience a spike in strength and physical maturity in their early 20s; is there a way to test Rodriguez’s gains against other players who were in the Majors at the same young ages?

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  5. Mark says:

    Does this mean Griffey also did roids?

    Arod had a jump in 1999 at the age of 23.
    Griffey had a jump in 2003 at the age of 23.

    In fact Griffey’s AB/HR was 12.9 when Arod’s was 12.0… not much of a difference. Griffey had a much better season with an OPS+ of 170 vs 134 for Arod.

    It’s unreasonable to suggest Arod started at this time due to increase in performance when it’s just aging. If you say Arod is declining now with age, why say his incline wasn’t age but roids?

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    • terry says:

      It’s not unreasonable. A-Rod admitted to taking steroids, he said that 2001-2003 was “pretty accurate,” meaning he could have taken them before. Brian just looked and figured out that a jump in numbers happened before 2001. It is reasonable to assume, since we know for a fact that he took steroids, that he took them earlier than he admited. It would look even worse on his part if he signed the largest contract in baseball history with the help of steroids.

      The reason he says his incline was roids and not age, unlike Griffey, although he never specifically says Griffey didn’t take steroids, is because A-Rod admitted to taking steroids!! A lot of people mature physically in their early twenties, but when someone admits to taking steroids two years after their largest jump in numbers, its not a great injustice to wonder if maybe he lied about when he started using.

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  6. Matt B. says:

    I am not sure steroids help you hit the ball farther, or harder. Why don’t golfers juice then, its the same principle? Swing mechanics are swing mechanics.

    Steroids help you work out harder and recover faster. They don’t give you better plate discipline, or better footwork, or hand eye.

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    • Jason T says:

      Golfers have a slightly different, let’s say…moral outlook, on their game than most atheletes. That fella just recently laid awake all night and then called the PGA the next day to admit he used the wrong ball. And that was to get his PGA card.

      Besides, the vast majority of golf is location and touch as opposed to hitting a baseball, which is hit it as hard as you can as square as you can.

      However, I’m not saying that steroids are the be all end all of hitting a ball really far.

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    • Jack says:

      If you think steroids help you work out harder, then you’re sure steroids help you hit the ball harder.

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  7. What Terry said.

    Looking at Junior, his HR%, starting in MLB at age 19, was 038, 037, 044…basically league average. Yes, I drafted Greg Briley instead of Griffey. In 1992 he started a 3 year incline, 051, 086, 105, rising to elite level HR% ate age 24. In 1995, he was at 085 when he broke his wrist May 26, and struggled from his return in early August until mid September, finishing at 075 for the year. In 1996, at age 26, he returned to form, 102, 105, 101, 93, 92 up until age 30. Then 066, 044, 092, 075, 076, 068, 061 and 040 from age 31 to 38.

    Griffey took 3 years, from age 22 to 24, to rise to an elite HR%, and stayed there for 8 years, before starting to decline at age 31. Unlike Rodriguez, he never admitted to taking drugs, and I will not make any assumptions.

    There is absolutely no difference in A-Rod’s stats from 2001-2003, when he says he took, and 1999-2000. There’s only two explanations. He started in 2001, and the PEDs did nothing for him performance wise. The 1999 rise was totally due to natural aging. Or, he started in 1999. Because he confessed, I’ll lean towards the first explanation, but you guys feel free to make up your own minds.

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  8. GoPhils says:

    Matt B. — I would not simply dismiss the possibility of steroid use on the PGA tour.

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  9. Wally says:

    Brian, these are neutralized numbers right? Well, what happened from 1998 to 1999 with the Seattle Mariners? And where did A-rod go in 2001?

    I don’t find it shocking at all that A-rod hit 40% more HRs in Texas at age 25-27 than he did in the Kingdome at age 18-22. Then his age 23 and 24 seasons at SafeCo could be partially influenced by park factors favoring RHBs? I don’t know. But I do know the Ballpark is a big time hitters park.

    To suggest A-rod did steroids because his performance increased during his ages 23-27 (pretty much exactly a hitter’s peak years as we understand them now), while moving parks, is not something worthy of this site.

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  10. scatterbrian says:

    Interesting analysis. It’s hard to make much of 1994-1995 though, considering he only had 208 PAs over that stretch. The number that strikes me–while not particularly the best–are his 91 extra-base hits in 1996 as a 20-year-old, which is still a career high. He’s the youngest player to ever top 90, evidence that he’s not only always had power, but historic power. But based on the rest, it doesn’t seem like Rodriguez was really aided by whatever he took….unless it just simply kept him on the field.

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  11. WOW says:

    Sorry, doesn’t do it for me.

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  12. Brad says:

    Brian, I am sorry, but this analysis is not particularly meaningful. Suggesting that a player used steroids simply because his numbers changed radically, as opposed to gradually, is rediculous. Players improve in their early 20’s, particularly their power, and not all players improve at the same rate. Alex Rodriguez has admitted to using some sort of PED, so some skeptism is allowed. But a player is supposed to improve in their early and mid 20’s the way Rodriguez did. There were no unusual trends in his body size, and nothing in his numbers suggests anything other than natural progression of a great slugger. There are plenty of players that have sudden jumps in production in their prime. Chipper Jones for example, had a “sudden” jump in production in 1998 and 1999 to what would become his career norms. That does not mean he was using PED’s, it just means he was a 25-26 year old who naturally added power as he aged.

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  13. Josh S says:

    I have to agree with the general sentiment above. You could do an analysis for every player, except that most don’t reach the majors at 18(with that pedigree). I’m sorry, but if you believe that his body isn’t radically changing from 18 to 23 your crazy. Even Joe Mauer has made jokes in the past about waiting for his “man muscles”.

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  14. Brian Cartwright says:

    Like I said before, I am a steroids skeptic like most of you seem to be…but when Wally says “To suggest A-rod did steroids because his performance increased during his ages 23-27″ – I am not suggesting, A-Rod admits it. I am trying to match his statements up with his performance. It is a fact that Rodriguez said he used from 2001-2003. It is also a fact that his numbers from 1999-2003 show no changes. You decide what it means.

    To Josh, I have looked at thousands of players minor league stats. Many improve their power up until 26-28, I have charted the average rate. Many don’t increase. A few decrease. At 18 or 19, Carlos Gonzalez and Delmon Young looked like they might have 30 HR power, now, meh. People are individuals.

    And yes, the numbers I gave are park adjusted, including for rhb or lhb, and btw, Kingdome was a big HR park as well. Kingdome from 1992-1998 had HR factor of 1.09 for rhb, 1.09 for lhb. Ballpark in Arlington 1994-2007 1.01 for rhb, 1.22 for lhb.

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  15. Josh B. says:

    I have to say I am dissapointed with the conclusion stated in this analysis.

    It would be one thing to say “Statistically speaking I cannot see the effect steroids had on Arod….. if steroids does what we beleive it does, then the real jump in his stats begins in his age 23, season, of course there are many other factors.

    E.G. Expansion in 1998, new ball park, natural aging, the lineup around him, modern weight training, big money as he entered his arbitration years, he admitted to using Ripped Fuel as a Mariner, so maybe that helped him gain some more weight.

    Also, Arod claims that he and his cousin may not have even been using it correctly, which most people think is a BS way of saying see it didnt affect my numbers, but maybe your numbers are proof that he is telling the truth.

    Either way, I think it is pretty beneath this website to make an assumption like that, because if that were the case, then Wade Boggs probably used steroids 1987, etc.

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  16. Wally says:

    >“To suggest A-rod did steroids because his performance increased during his ages 23-27? – I am not suggesting, A-Rod admits it. <

    No, he admits from 25-27.

    Otherwise, I second what Josh said. Trying to pull a PED’s effect out of the numbers is futile. We will probably never be able to control for all the other factors that go into the fluctuation of a player’s performance.

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    • Brian Cartwright says:

      I read your comment as my suggesting that A-Rod did steroids at all…better written then as “to suggest A-Rid did steroids before 2001″

      If he did start in 2001, as he states, then the PEDs didn’t do anything to enhance his performance, there’s no change. That’s the first thing I was trying to point out. There could have had other benefits we can’t quantify, but that does go against conventional wisdom. CW might very well be wrong – many people are quick to scream that ALL of these guys value comes from the PEDs, which of course is not true. Early in his career, Rodriguez was a 360-390 wOBA guy who put up 35-40 HRs with even more doubles, which would in most years make him the best offensive shortstop in the majors. In the middle of his career, he got even better, with about 15 of those doubles converted into HRs, and his wOBA was consistently 410-420.

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  17. Bill Andrews says:

    One thing that is hard to debate: Nothing A-Rod says, has said, or will say in the future is ever to be trusted.
    The man doesn’t have an ounce of sincerity in him. I think back to that little league play he made a few years ago against the RedSox pitcher – hacking the ball out of his glove on his way down the first base line- and his fake total disbelief hands on head act as he was called out for interference. The guy’s a proven cheater with no remorse.
    One other thing beyond debate: the number of championship rings A-Rod has. That would be ZERO. Maybe it’s because most of his homers come against inferior pitching and he’s overmatched against the better pitching he faces during the playoffs.

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  18. Lisa says:

    There are many factors that people (who don’t care about baseball) don’t think about. If there is anything at all that someone could call “surprising” in this crazy story; it is motive.NP First of all in 2001, Alex Rodriguez was 26 years old and coming off the biggest baseball Contract in Major League History (252 Million dollars). This brings me to the reason why Alex’s standard motive is that entire surprised people. Despite the tremendous amount of pressure that he was under being the beneficiary of that deal, “Pressure” was never a reason to use steroids. The reasons have always in the past turned out to be (both factually and admittedly) Age, or to overcome an injury. Which bring me to why this admission was such a big deal? Alex Rodriguez coming forward and admitting this just demonstrated how heavy the “steroid culture” was at that time. This was an epidemic that washed up. injured, or older players turned to so they could turn out some big numbers. I believe that everyone, I repeated everyone was exposed to and pressured to do performance enhancing drugs. So the paradox of questions includes: Who is really responsible? The players seem to be scape-goats in my opinion. It seems that the union, the trainers and Major league baseball as a whole are equal if not more responsible for this epidemic. You have to be very careful where you draw the line here. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that athletes are bred and brought up (and paid) like entertainers. An actor does not become disqualified for an Academy Award for going to a personal trainer, a plastic surgeon, an acting coach or anyone else who may “enhance” their performances, right? You have to set the tone for these players from the day they get off the plane at their first minor league city that there is a big difference in the “entertainment” of sports and athletes being entertainers”. And more Importantly, The Major League Baseball Commission from head Honcho Bud Selig down to the bat boys in the dugouts need to establish if that is a distinction they want to make, and if the answer is yes, clearly define it. I think that you cannot point figures and start lawsuits and ruin somebody’s life work, or insignificate their life’s work over an area that is all grey. I mean Why out of the 104 names on that list from unanimous (The test was given by the players’ union, and the results were supposed to determine whether drug testing was necessary in Baseball) test was A-rod the only result that was leaked? The bigger question is why are their names on a test that was supposed to be taken unanimously?

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  19. Joe says:

    great post lisa, i totally agree. :) sometimes the people on this site are so full of self-righteousness they cant see the larger perspective of what’s going on. i welcome your post with open arms!

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