Happy Anniversary, Alex! One week ago today, Alex Rodriguez deposited a 2-0 fastball from Shaun Marcum over the centerfield fence at Yankee Stadium and into Monument Park for his 600th career home run, becoming the seventh player in major-league history to reach the milestone.
With that swing, he ended a drought of 42 at-bats without a longball, a drought which seemed like an eternity to the numerous fans and sportswriters held captive by his chase for the magic number 600. Surprisingly, it was actually the fourth time this season that A-Rod had gone at least 40 at-bats without a home run.
While those extended homerless droughts may be the norm for teammate Brett Gardner, its nearly unprecedented for Alex. From 2007-09 combined, he had just six homerless droughts of at least 40 at-bats, and the only season in his career where he has had more than four homerless droughts of 40-plus at-bats was as a 21 year-old in 1997.
But it’s not just the home runs that have been M.I.A. this season. He’s suffering through an overall power outage, with a .474 slugging percentage that would be the lowest of his career for a full season (excluding 1994 and 1995).
So, in the words of Yankees radio play-by-play announcer John Sterling, where have all the A-Bombs gone?
Last year, 50 percent of his balls hit into play went to the left (pull) side and he absolutely crushed the pitches he pulled. He slugged a robust .766, which dwarfed the MLB average for a right-handed batter of .628.
This year, while he is pulling nearly the same percentage of balls (48%), his power has diminished to that side. He is slugging only .543, and he hasn’t compensated with increased power to the middle or opposite field either, as those marks are nearly identical to last year.
Alex Rodriguez Slug Pct
Last Two Seasons
Not surprisingly, he is hitting a lot more groundballs to his pull side this year. 67 percent of his batted balls to the left side have been wormburners, compared to 59 percent last year and the MLB average for a right-handed batter of 57 percent.
Another key area where A-Rod appears to be struggling to find his power stroke is versus left-handed pitchers. Last year, his slugging percentage of .538 against lefties was well above the MLB average of .411 for a righty; this year, it's dropped way off to a below-average .374.
Since hitting a homer off southpaw Clayton Kershaw on June 27, Rodriguez has just three extra-base hits (and four hits total) in 38 at-bats versus lefties, for a slugging percentage of .184. Even Curtis Granderson, he of the .600 career OPS versus LHP, has a higher slugging percentage against lefties since June 28 (.231 in 39 at-bats)!
Rodriguez has had trouble getting good wood on fastballs from lefties this season, slugging just .397, compared to .500 last year and the MLB average of .438 for a righty. He was actually on pace to surpass last season’s performance in the first three months, though, as his slugging percentage reached .545 following the home run against Kershaw on June 27, which was off a fastball.
Since then, however, he’s managed just two hits (one double) in 24 at-bats ending on heaters from southpaws. Even worse, only three of the 19 fastballs he put into play from lefties since June 28 were deemed “well-hit” by the video scouts from Inside Edge.
Alex Rodriguez Slug Pct
Last Two Seasons
Alex homered last night off righty reliever Frank Francisco last night, but tonight he faces perhaps the most dominant southpaw starter in the majors, Cliff Lee. In 2010, Lee is holding righties to a .308 slugging percentage, the second-lowest mark by a lefty in the majors, and has given up just six longballs to the 474 right-handed batters he has faced.
But Lee has been vulnerable in his three starts at Rangers Ballpark since being traded. All three of the home runs that he’s allowed to righties since switching uniforms have come in the heat of Texas.
In their only head-to-head matchup this season, Lee held A-Rod hitless in four at-bats on June 29 in New York. Rodriguez did send three balls into the outfield against Lee, though two of them were shallow flies, and the fourth ball hit into play was a weak grounder to the shortstop.