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August 10, 2006

Jeff Albert On A-Rod's Swing

Jeff Albert has a guest piece at BaseballAnalysts.com where he explains that A-Rod is pulling off the ball.

I wonder if Lou Piniella or Don Mattingly ever thought of that?

To be honest, all you have to do is look at the fact that A-Rod's performance results numbers are down this year and the fact that his strikeouts are up, and you would have a huge clue that he's doing something wrong at the plate. And, as it is with most major league quality hitters, when they're doing something wrong in the box, it's usually along the lines of pulling their head and/or hips off the ball too soon and losing their timing and explosiveness through the ball.

But, is this (pulling off) the "root cause" of A-Rod's problems with the bat this year? Well, it's the mechanical cause of his drop-off, for sure. But, the "root cause" of the mechanical flaw is something else. When you're a proven, great, batter like Alex Rodriguez, and you've been doing it for a long, long, time, something has to be the cause for you to move off from what you've been doing so well (for so long).

Such a drift is usually the result of some injury - that prevents the batter from using his feet, hands, hips, arms, or head the way it's needed to be used in a swing (for success). But, with A-Rod, we know that he's not hurt.

So, why start pulling off the ball, trying to jerk everything 600 feet into left-field? It's called "pressing."

But, "pressing" (by itself) is not a "root cause" either. There has to be a reason for someone to "press." Think about it. "Pressing" is usually a reaction to being in a stressful situation where you feel like you have to make something happen, no?

Now, let's not forget that A-Rod was Mr. May this season. And, his season started going downhill in June.

Something happened in June of this season where A-Rod started to feel the stress, and he started to press, and then he started pulling off the ball. Here it is: Right about the time where A-Rod went south this season was when Gary Sheffield went down for the count.

Once Sheffield was gone, A-Rod became the Yankees "go to" right-handed power source. Note that A-Rod has been the Yankees # 4 hitter almost this entire season. Now, two months ago, I shared that A-Rod is not at his best when batting clean-up. In fact, in his MVP season of 2005, A-Rod batted at his best when he batted second or fifth.

Let's face it, in New York, on a team like the Yankees, with the media, fans, etc., Alex Rodriguez feels the pressure of having to be "the man" in the clean-up slot. And, that's his problem this season. Fix that and I would bet that A-Rod would then fix his swing. No video or hit charts required.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 10, 2006 04:52 PM


Pretty much, Steve, the only reason ARod's batting clean-up is Torre loves to go lefty-righty throughout the line-up. Sort of nullifies the LOOGYs that he doesn't believe in anyways. Acquiring Damon put a crimp in that plan originally since he preferred batting Sheff third but then you've got back-to-back righties with Jeter. Of course, most other managers don't get to make out a line-up based on that premise. Cashman's gotta sign more switch-hitters.

Posted by: JohnnyC [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2006 05:56 PM

To be fair, he had triple the AB's batting cleanup that he did batting in the 2-hole, and near double the ABs batting in the 5-hole...

It's obvious he's having an off year by his standards, but as alluded to before, I find it hard to believe that a year removed from winning the MVP that he all of a sudden has a mental issue with playing in NY

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2006 06:19 PM

I don't disagree, but I think you are speculating. We cannot prove that A-Rod is pressing. The fact that it coincides with Sheffield hitting the DL is circumstantial at best. That said, it is also my opinion that ARod's performance and swing issues are probably related to pressure. Or it could be that with Sheffield out, opposing teams chose to pitch him differently (pitch around him more, or use a different approach) and Arod started pulling in response to that. I'm just saying that the only thing that we *know* is that ARod has a mechanical issue with his swing which is related to his hitting success.

Posted by: Seamus [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2006 06:21 PM

If ARod is having this much trouble then he should be dropped to the 9 hole or be benched for Nick Green.

All jokes aside, I do think Sheff offered valuable protection for ARod. After the Yanks got Abreu it seems ARod's mechanics have gotten better. It sure seems like he's more comfortable.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2006 06:29 PM

I think the "problem" is expectations and people are trying to offer reasons for a problem that isn't a a problem but rather a trend.

For (my) simplicity I'll use OPS. I'm sure there's fancier stats to use though.

Arod's April OPS = .867 May= 1.031 June = .694 July = .900 August to date = .932 OVERALL OPS is .886

If the absence of Sheffield is the cause that Arod changed his form in June and is pressing (as you conclude)then what was the "problem" in April? I think he just had a terrible June.

His 2004 OPS was .887
2005 OPS was 1.031
2006 his OPS is .886

Perhaps 2005 will be his last glory / peak year. 2004 isn't much different than 2006.

Being out of Texas' fine hitting environment maybe his expected OPS should only be about .886 now. If that's the case maybe the problem is that's not enough for some's expectations.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 10, 2006 08:58 PM

Try not to boot me off here too quick for such a simple question, but has anyone discussed whether or not his eyesight has changed recently? How often do players get checked? I'm sure they've already done their homework, but considering that this season's offensive performance has abnormally deviated along with his new found wild throwing arm at third, for two different aspects of his game to change at the same time it seems like a sight problem....

Posted by: Athos333 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 12:49 PM

Remember when Posada was dropping pitches like crazy a few years back? Right away, the Yankees had his eyes checked. I think they would do the same here if that's what they thought it was for A-Rod.

But, again, remember, in May, he was fine. Great, actually. Do eyes just go on a dime that that?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 12:55 PM

That's true... good point. I do know that sometimes a change in prescription or even dehydration can have a quick effect upon the cornea by changing its shape, therefore changing one's prescription (as commonly seen in pregnant women). Either way, I just hope he improves soon... we really need him...

ps... saw this article when looking into sudden etesite change via google... seems like it was written for Arod:


Posted by: Athos333 [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 11, 2006 01:18 PM