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A-Rod’s Odd Line

I’ll be honest, I have not really been following Alex Rodriguez since his return from injury, so his consecutive games with a home run streak led me to believe that he had been performing just fine. A quick glance at his OBP/SLG and wOBA entering last night’s action confirmed that, at .412/.595, and a wOBA north of .400, Rodriguez had certainly been helping the Yankees throughout their impressive winning streak. Then my attention quickly shifted to the first component of the slash line, BA, since his seemed ridiculously low. Coming into last night, Rodriguez had been slashing .189/.412/.595. Despite a sub-.200 BA, A-Rod was OPSing over 1.000!

After an 0-4 showing, his numbers look like this: .171/.382/.537, .398 wOBA. Can you recall an odder looking line of statistics? Rodriguez’s BABIP currently rests at a microscopic .069. He has seven hits in 41 at bats, five of which are jimmy-jacks. Some more oddities: the league average hitter is swinging at 24% of his pitches seen out of the zone, though A-Rod has swung at such pitches just 12% of the time. On these outside pitches, the league average makes contact 63% of the time; just 33% for Rodriguez.

Curious, I looked through my database for the leaderboards in two different areas: the highest OPS for players with batting averages of .200 or lower, and the lowest BA for players with OPS marks of 1.000 or higher.

Highest OPS, BA < = .200
#  NAME           YEAR      SLASH         OPS
1) Mark McGwire   2001  .187/.316/.492   .808
2) Elijah Dukes   2007  .190/.318/.391   .709
3) Roger Repoz    1971  .199/.333/.374   .707
4) Ruben Rivera   1999  .195/.295/.406   .701
5) Rob Deer       1991  .179/.314/.386   .700

You knew McGwire’s name had to be on here, but this definitely shows that A-Rod is currently performing in uncharted territories. The highest single-season OPS for a player with a sub-.200 BA is .808, over 100 points lower than Rodriguez’s current mark. There is no way Rodriguez continues to get hits on balls in play just 6.9 percent of the time, but don’t you dare ruin my fun! Here are the lowest batting averages for players with an OPS >= 1.000:

Lowest BA, OPS >= 1.000
#  NAME           YEAR      SLASH         OPS
1) Barry Bonds    1999  .262/.389/.617   1.006
2) Mark McGwire   1997  .274/.393/.646   1.039
3) Mark McGwire   1995  .274/.441/.685   1.126
4) Jim Edmonds    2003  .275/.384/.617   1.001
5) Reggie Jackson 1969  .275/.409/.608   1.017

So the lowest BA with correspondingly awesome OPS marks is .262, which is in no way what we consider to be a poor percentage of hits in at bats. The league averages, for hitters with at least 200 plate appearances:

OPS >=  1.000: .324 BA
BA  < =  .200: .542 OPS

A-Rod isn't going to sustain this low of a batting average if he continues to take walks and put the ball in play the way he usually does, but a slash line like his at the present certainly merits a few different double-takes. When those balls inevitably do fall in, watch out. Rodriguez is still an absolute beast and his slash line right now serves as the perfect example for why batting average tells us next to nothing on its own.