What Kind of A-Rod Will We See?

Alex Rodriguez

News Today

     The Yankees welcomed Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez in Chicago today to make his season debut against the White Sox.  A-Rod is expected to be in the lineup, returning to his original position for the club.  The other major event on Monday is Commissioner Bud Selig announcing the suspensions of 12 players for 50 games, and Rodriguez’s 211 game suspension, which takes effect  on Thursday, August 8th.  This has been appealed by A-Rod already as reported by the MLB Twitter account.   A-Rod will be on the active roster through the appeal process, and  should be able to play a few weeks before his status is ultimately decided on, so what can we expect to see from him on the field?

Click for Full-Size Image

Looking at his Performance

     Rodriguez played in 15 minor league rehab games to ease his return to the big leagues from off-season hip surgery. In those games, he hit .214 with a double, and 3 HR, while driving in 10 runs.  In this extremely small sample size of varying levels, it’s difficult to make any reasonable assessment.  However, we can look at a few peripheral statistics to try and gauge they type of A-Rod we’re going to see.  In his 51 minor league Plate Appearances, A-Rod struck out 13 times and walked 6.  This leads to a 25.5% K-Rate and an 11.8% BB-Rate.  The small sample size accounts for a large amount of error, but these numbers don’t appear to be too drastically apart from his usual self.  A-Rod’s career K-Rate is 18.2%, and it is 19% over the last 5 seasons.  As he’s aged, Rodriguez’s strikeout numbers have marginally increased, and seems to be following that trend.  He walked 10.9% of the time over his career, and 11.3% over the last 5 seasons.  A-Rod has become a more disciplined hitter with time, as pitchers have also been more cautious and pitch around him at the plate.

     Due to A-Rod’s K% and BB% in the minors seeming to be fairly stable compared to his past performance, I believe that we’ll see A-Rod maintain his current career trajectory.  His durability is not what it has been in the past, but he should return to the player he would’ve been in 2013, injury or not.  I don’t see a sudden huge drop-off, or surprising upturn in performance happening.

Click for Full-Size Image

Career Trajectory

3

Click for Full-Size Image

Click for Full-Size Image

     The following three plots show A-Rod’s Career trajectory in OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage), wOBA (Weighted On-Base Percentage), wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created, Adjusted to the League where 100 is average), and WAR/162 (Wins Above Replacement Prorated for 162 Games).  In all of the categories, higher numbers indicate a better performance.  I used 4th power exponential trend lines to approximate in all of these cases except for WAR, where I used a 6th power polynomial to account for the increased variance.

     The reason for choosing a 4th degree polynomial is that I believe it truly reflects the path of A-Rod’s career.  He burst on to the scene during his first full year in 1996 with the Mariners, as he was named an All-Star, won the Silver Slugger Award, and finished 2nd in MVP voting.  His line that year was .358 / .414 / .631 and an OPS of 1.045.  Rodriguez experienced a “Sophomore Slump” if you can call it that where he hit a measly .300 / .350 / .496 and an OPS of .846, garnering his second All-Star Game appearance.  it would take A-Rod two more years to return to his 1996 performance, causing this first curve.  This curve started slowly climbing upward in 2001, his first year with the Rangers where Rodriguez admitted steroid use due to the pressure he felt to perform.  He reached his peak in 2007, an MVP season where he hit .314 /.422 /.645 with an OPS of 1.067 and 54 Home Runs, the most of his career.

     This is where his current downward trend begins, as A-Rod began creeping into his mid-late 30s which bring us to where we are today.  I’ve indicated A-Rod’s drop-off since 2007 by the vertical black lines.  Notably, A-Rod’s agent Scott Boras announced during the Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, as the Red Sox were about to clinch a championship, that Rodriguez would be opting out of his contract.  The Yankees initially didn’t want to negotiate with A-Rod, but later signed him to a new deal, worth $275MM over 10 years.  Seeing A-Rod’s current decline, this was not a good move for the Yankees.  However, this was perfect for A-Rod, as he secured the deal coming off of an MVP caliber season when his value was the highest.  It’s just Boras working his magic again.

     Alex Rodriguez is on a downward decline, but as stated earlier, we should see a version of A-Rod resembling what he would be if he never missed time for injury.  This is a much needed boost for the Yankees, as their 3B for the year have accumulated a -0.9 WAR, which is 26th in the league.  With A-Rod, who I projected to have a 2.1 WAR, the Yankees greatly improve at his position.  Assuming A-Rod plays 15 games before we know the results of his appeal, he’ll accumulate a 0.19 WAR, while the Yankees other 3B options would produce a -.08 WAR based on their performance this season.  This is a 0.27 WAR swing for the Yankees.  If you prorate this over a 162 game season, this would be a 2.92 WAR improvement which is on the Solid Starter/Good Player borderline.  For however long the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, he will be a huge improvement for them.  It’s just a question of how well A-Rod can focus on playing during one of the most controversial and stressful times in his long career.

For further reading, this is an excellent article by Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald:
Before he was A-Rod.
Something that struck me personally was when I saw one of my former summer ball coaches, a High School teammate of A-Rod, in one of the pictures included with the article.

Advertisements

Scouting: Carlos Rodon – LHP NC State (R4 Eligible: 2014)

Today’s USA Collegiate National Team vs the Cuban National Team game sprung upon me.  I remember hearing about the series at some point, but I saw a tweet from Ben Badler with the streaming link, and saw that Carlos Rodon was on the hill.  Link = Clicked.

Bio:

Carlos Rodon is a rising Junior LHP at NC State, who will be eligible in the upcoming 2014 First-Year Player Draft.  Rodon burst on to the scene as a freshman, pitching NC State into the Super Regionals, and becoming a Golden Spikes Award finalist.  I’ve seen Rodon before in a rain shortened start at the University of Florida for the 2012 Gainesville Super Regional.  From the limited amount I saw of him then, I could tell that the hype was real, and he was legit.

Stats:

rodon

The ERA hike jumps out at you, but how easy is it to repeat a year with a 1.57 ERA?  Teams were prepared for Rodon this year.  There’s no way to know for sure if that affected him, but he still put up one heck of a 2013 season.  He tied for the most Games Started, was 3rd in Innings Pitches, and led the NCAA in strikeouts.  On to productivity rates, his K/9 climbed, and BB/9 fell.  That is exactly what you wanted to see from Rodon this year.  His command is improving, which proves that he’s on an upward trajectory.  The reason for Rodon’s spike in 2013?  Luck.  Many people try and stay away from BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) because of it’s unpredictability, but I love it.  In my opinion, BABIP proves if a guy is truly preforming to his ability or not.  Rodon’s BABIP climbed by 50 points in his Sophomore year, within the average .290-.310 range.  This brings us back to the point made earlier, Rodon wasn’t a secret anymore.  He benefited from being an unknown, developing superstar as a freshman, but as teams figured him out (relatively speaking), he regressed towards his true ability.  In my opinion, Rodon’s true ability is still superior to any other college arm I’ve ever seen (in person).  He’s the top college prospect for the 2014 draft.  Barring an injury, or surprising decline, that is unlikely to change.  However, he will be battling for that spot with other Team USA players, Vanderbilt RHP Tyler Beede, and his NC State teammate, SS Trea Turner.

Side note: Rodon only gave up 4 doubles in 2013?  How crazy is that!

Rodon vs Cuba

Rodon was dominant in the first, retiring the Cuban offense in order, capped by a weak groundball to short by superstar Yulieski Gourriel.  I unfortunately missed Rodon’s second inning of work because I had to take my laundry out of the dryer. #CollegeKidProblems I can’t be walking around the MLB offices in wrinkled clothes!  Rodon stayed consistent in the the 3rd, and faced the first batter in the 4th.  He was then pulled due to being on a strict pitch count tonight.  His line: 3 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0 R.

I had to deal with an unfortunate camera angle, so movement was hard to decipher.  But, here are my grades on Rodon from what I could see.

rodon2

*OFP formula may be slightly inaccurate. I couldn’t find the formula online, so I based it off memory.

Fastball velocity courtesy of this tweet from Patrick Ebert.  Rodon impressed, and shut down a high-powered, dynamic Cuban offense.  The only concern I had was control, which seems weird considering his manageable BB/9.  Rodon seemed a little shaky pitching to his arm side low in the zone.  Often times he either missed a spot arm-side for a ball, or missed an inside location which put the ball over the plate.  From what I saw, no Cuban hitter was able to jump on one of those mistakes, but this could cause problems at the professional level.  Nevertheless, Rodon is a first-rounder, and if he can be more precise low in the zone, he will be without a doubt your #1 overall pick.

Could an Astros farm system with Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, and Carlos Rodon be a thing?