What’s Behind A-Rod’s Power Outage: The Sequel

When Yankeeist last looked at Alex Rodriguez‘s declining power numbers, I (and several others) came to the rather obvious conclusion that his paltry 8.3% HR/FB rate would soon escalate. Alex’s five home runs since that point in time have indeed bumped his rate up, but it’s only sitting at 12.1%, still well below his 23.3% career percentage.

A-Rod has eight home runs on the season to date; the lowest number through 58 games of his career and only the second time he has accumulated less than 10 this deep into a season — in 1997, he had nine through 58 games with the Mariners. So what’s going on with Alex?

The below table shows historical batted ball numbers for A-Rod, his year-to-date home run totals (in this case, through the first 58 games of each season), and his season home run totals (all data c/o Fangraphs and B-Ref):

Despite five big flies, Alex’s fly ball percentage is down from when I last looked at the numbers on May 10. Accordingly, his line drive percentage is also down, to 17.9% (though this is barely off his career rate) and his ground ball percentage is up, to 46.2% (pretty well above his 42% career rate).

As you can see, Alex has never had a Fly Ball % this low in a full season for as long as Fangraphs has recorded this data, which partially explains why his HR/FB rate has only risen by 3.8 points — he’s just not hitting as many fly balls as he usually does. Assuming his Fly Ball % normalizes to his career rate, we should see a corresponding uptick in the HR/FB percentage.

Here are the different pitch types A-Rod has seen:

Pitchers are obviously aware that A-Rod isn’t hurting the baseball as much as he usually does, as they are challenging him with more fastballs than ever before. Correspondingly he’s seeing less of every other pitch type since May 10, with the exception of a slight increase in changeups and split-fingered fastballs. Looks like the book on ‘Rod remains challenging him with the heater, which means he’s going to have to make some adjustments to his approach, as there’s no reason Alex shouldn’t be able to adequately handle a steady diet of fastballs.

And here are his swing percentages:

Since I last conducted this analysis, Alex is swinging at even more pitches out of the zone (25.8%) but making less contact with them (60.1%), and also swinging at more pitches in the zone (65.7%) and making less contact with those as well (91.8%, down from a crazy high of 97.3%). His overall contact percentage is 81.4%, still a good deal higher than his career rate of 75.5%.

It would appear Alex’s biggest problem is that he’s trying to make too many things happen with the bat right now — swinging at pitches out of the zone has contributed to an above-average (for Alex) contact rate, which is resulting in more balls being pounded into the ground than lofted into the air (hence the career-low Fly Ball %).

Alex has also eschewed his trademark patience during the past month. He had 19 walks through 31 games, but has only walked seven times since then over his last 27 games. His OBP has dropped from .381 on May 10 to .360.

While A-Rod still has time to improve his numbers, and ZIPS ROS projection has him hitting a robust .284/.378/.512, .392 wOBA and 18 home runs the rest of the way, that would still only get A-Rod to a full season line of .285/.371/.499 with a .381 wOBA and 26 bombs, which would mark his lowest SLG, home run total and wOBA since 1997.

Basically, A-Rod needs to stop swinging at bad pitches, take a few more walks and show pitchers he can still punish the fastball if we’re going to see significant improvements in the Fly Ball % and HR/FB rate and get his numbers anywhere near his career line of .304/.389/.573. I realize that’s a rather obvious conclusion that probably didn’t require a comprehensive statistical analysis, but it’s nice to see that the numbers support it.

Larry Koestler eats, drinks, sleeps and breathes the Yankees at his blog, Yankeeist.

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10 Responses to “What’s Behind A-Rod’s Power Outage: The Sequel”

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  1. Paul says:

    In the past two seasons three of the greatest sluggers of this generation have seen their power numbers decline. Both were popped for steroids during that time and another was implicated.

    Now I’ll save some of you the time of responding: “Manny Alexander!”; “Pitchers”; “Brian Roberts”; blah… blah… blah.

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  2. jfcincotta says:

    “As you can see, Alex has never had a Fly Ball % this low in a full season for as long as Fangraphs has recorded this data, which partially explains why his HR/FB rate has only risen by 3.8 points — he’s just not hitting as many fly balls as he usually does. Assuming his Fly Ball % normalizes to his career rate, we should see a corresponding uptick in the HR/FB percentage.”

    That’s not necessarily the case. Simply increasing FB% will not increase his HR/FB rate unless he hits a higher percentage of these additional fly balls out of the park than he has so far. Additionally, if he had been hitting a higher percentage of FBs so far this season, increasing the denominator in HR/FB rate, his five additional HRs would have increased his HR/FB rate by less than 3.8 points, not more.

    As Paul points out, there is probably some PED affect here, but he’s also getting older. His power is diminished, no doubt. He’s swinging at more pitches because of this, but he’s also making by far the most contact of his career both inside and outside the zone. Power hitters have a ton of swinging strikes because they swing so hard. That’s not the case for A-Rod this year. He’s swinging and missing way less than he has to this point in his career. I imagine several factors are at play:

    1. He’s not trying to kill the ball anymore because he just can’t.
    2. He’s fouling off a ton of pitches, prolonging at-bats and raising the contact rate in the process.
    3. He’s trying to compensate by being aggressive.
    4. He’s getting more pitches to hit (as you rightly point out), and he’s not stroking them for HRs because his skills have diminished, leading to more contact outs (K rate has fallen tremendously).

    Look, no one’s pitching to contact when A-Rod steps into the box, but they’re not afraid of him either, nor should they be.

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  3. philosofool says:

    His 4.7 GB/FB ratio on pulled balls can’t be helping. His HR/FB is WAY down on pulled balls as well, but since he’s not hitting balls he pulls in the air, he’s not hitting home runs.

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  4. DonCoburleone says:

    And the best part of all this?? The Yankees will be paying this clown $30 Million a year until 2018! Hahaha, make sure you really enjoy the next couple of years Yankee fans; cuz by the time 2014-15-16 rolls around you’ll be paying 3 completely over the hill infielders (Jeter,A-Fraud,Tex) and and an aging hippo on the mound over $100 Million a year.

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  5. DonCoburleone says:

    Now granted they’ll still have somewhere between $120 and $180 Million to spend to fill the other 21 spots on the roster, but it’ll definately cause Cashman to have to, you know, be a GM and actually acquire a few undervalued players.

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  6. hmm says:

    okay ignoring the troll above me, i was wondering if Arod’s lack of power can also come from his tight hip? also he seems to be shooting the ball up the middle more than ever.

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  7. Franco says:

    I think the obvious answer is the hip problems he’s been having on and off for the last year and half. There are rumors that he’s playing through another hip injury which explains the power outage and not catching up to the heater.

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  8. Tigerdog says:


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  9. Dave Woody says:

    Doesn’t it almost have to be a combination of normal aging, steroids, and that hip injury?

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  10. Dave Woody,

    Those factors are certainly playing a role in the power outage, no question, but I wouldn’t have expected that triumvirate to precipitate this calamitous of a decline.

    A-Rod at only 8 home runs nearly halfway through the season is troublesome (at least for Yankee fans), and I had hoped that an analysis of the numbers would provide a suitable explanation, though it may be as simple as “A-Rod’s old and banged up.”

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