ESPN has an interesting sport science video outlining the decline of Alex Rodriguez since he won his last MVP award in 2007. It points at how generating the power of a baseball swing begins with hip rotation, and A-Rod has hip impingement which restricts hip joint movement. Up to 60% of his body mass can lag behind during his swing as a result. This forces A-Rod to generate most the power of his swing through the upper body, and to start his swing earlier. Over time his stance has become 75% wider, and he no longer strides forward but does a small legkick. These adjustments have slowed Alex’s bat speed by approximately 2.5 mph.
2.5 mph decrease might not sound like a big deal, but it can make a fly ball travel 13 less feet. That can be the difference between a ball hit at the warning track and a homer. With natural decline at age, the video said Alex’s swing would be initiated 5 thousandths of a second later than in his early 30’s. In that small frame of time a good cutter can move 1 inch, which can be enough to generate a swing and a miss, or move the ball away from the sweet spot of the bat. His HR to FB ratio has decreased while his strikeout rate has increased.
Even with the decline, Alex Rodriguez still has the potential to be a solid bat. From 2011 to 2013, he hit a home run every 23.6 ABs. If he gets 600 at bats that would mean hitting 25 home runs, or hitting 21 home runs in 500 at bats. That is not very bad at all. He also had a 10.6% walk rate in that span but also had a 21% strikeout rate. Even in his small sample size in 2013, A-Rod had a .423 slugging percentage. That might not catch the eye, but in 2014 that would have been the highest slugging percentage of any player who played in at least 100 games. Had he replicated his 2013 numbers, A-Rod would have had the highest walk rate on the team. There was also a chance that he would have led the teams in homeruns and OBP.
So while A-Rod is no longer an MVP, given the Yankees offensive struggles, Alex could be a major offensive contributor if he replicates his 2013 numbers in a full season. Whether you like A-Rod or not, the Yankees need A-Rod’s help if they are aiming for a postseason appearance. Over the offseason, Alex has worked with two phenomenal hitters so he can be able to learn from them. The two hitters are Edgar Martinez and Barry Bonds. Barry played until he was 43, and Edgar played until he was 41. Maybe the advice from these two men who played the game into their 40’s can help A-Rod to be a productive hitter well beyond his prime. Alex already has a hard work ethic so having some good hitting advice could really affect his productivity over the next few seasons. Alex isn’t going anywhere for the next 3 years, so he has to prove that he can perform adequately without steroids.