• Nerves & Lack Of PEDs Behind A-Rod’s Failures?

    Posted by on August 3rd, 2010 · Comments (21)

    Bob Klapisch weighs in on Alex Rodriguez today -

    You had to listen hard, really hard, but there was no mistaking the boos that sprinkled over Alex Rodriguez like a light mist in the ninth inning. He had failed (again) to convert on a chance for career home run No. 600, and the crowd, already irritable from A.J. Burnett’s collapse, had finally reached its breaking point.

    Yes, a small number of fans really did turn against Rodriguez, who’s gone 43 at-bats since his last home run with no sign of a breakthrough. His swing has become choppy and mechanical. Pitchers are challenging him without fear. Fastballs are beating Rodriguez in the heart of the strike zone.

    Those are the red flags a hitting instructor sees. Joe Girardi, however, picks up on the body language of his troubled slugger. It’s those deep breaths A-Rod takes before he steps into the batter’s box: They’ve become so exaggerated even the Lamaze handbook would consider them a hazard. It’s not an encouraging sign for a slugger looking to make history.

    This extended drought is bound to raise questions about Rodriguez’s long-term resiliency. It’s crazy to even ask, but the Yankees have to wonder which A-Rod will be occupying the cleanup spot in the postseason.

    Will it be the one who was practically unstoppable last October, the one who hit six home runs with 18 RBI? The one who finally broke through as a mainstream Yankee? Rodriguez finally had turned off the spigot on his narcissism, trading in the ego for a World Series ring. Taking down Barry Bonds’ home run was the next soft target.

    But the quest for No. 600 has peeled away a few layers of A-Rod’s psychological flesh, revealing the anxious, self-doubting A-Rod of old. Forty-three at-bats are too many to blame bad mechanics. It’s all about anxiety now, nourishing itself one failed plate appearance at a time.

    Rodriguez actually is fighting a two-front war, both against his nerves and Mother Nature. At 35, he’s clearly begun his decline phase – evidenced by a 62 at-bat home run drought earlier this season and one that spanned 72 at-bats in 2009. Before 2010, Rodriguez averaged one home run every 14 at-bats; this year that ratio has plummeted to one every 23.

    He’s reached the age that, without chemicals and amphetamines, the muscles no longer fire as quickly. Recovery takes longer. He tires more easily. That, coupled with the stress of the last two weeks, A-Rod’s bat feels heavier, although he’s desperate enough for positive signs to have said, “I thought I swung the bat a little better [Monday].”

    Two lines here really caught my attention:

    …But the quest for No. 600 has peeled away a few layers of A-Rod’s psychological flesh, revealing the anxious, self-doubting A-Rod of old…

    and

    …He’s reached the age that, without chemicals and amphetamines, the muscles no longer fire as quickly. Recovery takes longer. He tires more easily. That, coupled with the stress of the last two weeks, A-Rod’s bat feels heavier…

    So, what do you think? Do you agree with what Bob’s saying here? Why?

    Me? I think they’re both valid points. I’m not saying they’re correct – because I don’t know. Yet, I think they’re at least worth examining and discussing, etc. But, I would be interested in hearing how others feel on this as well.

    Comments on Nerves & Lack Of PEDs Behind A-Rod’s Failures?

    1. Raf
      August 3rd, 2010 | 11:17 am

      I tend to stay away from pop psychology as it usually seems to be projection from the author. It’s safe to say, though, that 2007 was probably a high water mark that won’t be reached again.

      Anyone have his xBABIP? I noticed his was awful low (.280).

    2. August 3rd, 2010 | 12:11 pm
                      
      Year    PA BAbip
      2004   698  .308
      2005   715  .347
      2006   674  .326
      2007   708  .309
      2008   594  .328
      2009   535  .303
      2010   433  .280
      
    3. August 3rd, 2010 | 12:59 pm

      Loved Klapisch’s point about how the Yankees aren’t going to run away with the division this year, the way they did last year. In 2009 on this date, the Yanks were 63-42, a half-game ahead of the Red Sox. This year, they’re 66-39, tied with the Rays.

      The rest of his piece was psychobabble. Half the time, he’s suggesting A-Rod traded in his ego and turned off the spigot on his narcissism. The other half, it’s about his insecurities and nerves. He can’t even come up with one theme for that psychobabble!

    4. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:05 pm

      @ Raf:
      2010 BABIP = .280
      2010 xBABIP = .307

      The BB% is down to a career-low 9.7% and the O-Swing% is up to a career-high 26.1%.

      Looks like in addition to some bad luck, A-Rod is just not walking enough and swinging at good enough pitches to get the line drives (LD% is 15.3%, lowest it’s been since 2005′s 15.6%) he needs to get his hits.

    5. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:07 pm

      @ lisaswan:
      The funny part is that Klapisch is attacking A-Rod for being too humble, too giving and lacking in the requisite self-involvement that comes with stardom? That’s a new one! First he’s a me-first diva and now he’s not narcissistic enough. A-Rod just can’t win…

    6. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:10 pm

      The chase for 600 has clearly affected him the last 3-5 games.

      It is possible that hip/groin thing he had earlier is bothering him still.

      Presumably, he was without PEDs last season, and he was hot down the stretch and in the playoffs. We’ll see.

    7. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:11 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      @ lisaswan:
      The funny part is that Klapisch is attacking A-Rod for being too humble, too giving and lacking in the requisite self-involvement that comes with stardom? That’s a new one! First he’s a me-first diva and now he’s not narcissistic enough. A-Rod just can’t win…

      People will understand just how valuable A-Rod is/was only after he’s gone.

    8. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:12 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      People will understand just how valuable A-Rod is/was only after he’s gone.

      I wholeheartedly agree.

    9. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:14 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Year PA BAbip
      2004 698 .308
      2005 715 .347
      2006 674 .326
      2007 708 .309
      2008 594 .328
      2009 535 .303
      2010 433 .280

      Which means his “normal” BABIP with the Yanks is in the .310-.320 range. If his BABIP was .315 instead of .280, he’s hitting .294/.365/.499, and that assumes all the missing hits are singles, not doubles. Still would be a sub-par year for him…

    10. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:14 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      It is possible that hip/groin thing he had earlier is bothering him still.

      I have no idea if I was imaginig it or not but I saw A-Rod wince in pain twice last night. First, after striking out in the bottom of the 3rd inning and then, next, in the top of the 4th inning after making a play on a grounder.

      It wasn’t a big thing, just a little expression on his face, almost like a reaction.

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was battling an injury all year, frankly.

    11. August 3rd, 2010 | 1:16 pm

      lisaswan wrote:

      Loved Klapisch’s point about how the Yankees aren’t going to run away with the division this year, the way they did last year. In 2009 on this date, the Yanks were 63-42, a half-game ahead of the Red Sox. This year, they’re 66-39, tied with the Rays.

      Lisa, is it JUST POSSIBLE that Klap meant “In the end”?

      Yes, on 8/2 last year the Yankees were up just a 1/2 game. But, by 8/9 – just one week later – they were up by 6 1/2 games and never looked back, winning by 8 games.

      I think that’s what Bob is saying here – that the Yankees are not going to have a huge cushion that they can ride for the last FIFTY GAMES of the season – like they did last year.

    12. August 3rd, 2010 | 1:18 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      I have no idea if I was imaginig it or not but I saw A-Rod wince in pain twice last night. First, after striking out in the bottom of the 3rd inning and then, next, in the top of the 4th inning after making a play on a grounder.
      It wasn’t a big thing, just a little expression on his face, almost like a reaction.

      Yes, but what color were his lips? Were they blue? That’s what the world wants to know!

      And, yes, I’m just busting chops.

    13. August 3rd, 2010 | 1:22 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Which means his “normal” BABIP with the Yanks is in the .310-.320 range. If his BABIP was .315 instead of .280, he’s hitting .294/.365/.499, and that assumes all the missing hits are singles, not doubles. Still would be a sub-par year for him…

      You may find this interesting –

      BABIP is clearly not without its flaws. Because it only takes account of balls put into play, home runs and strikeouts don’t count. A hitter could have a very low BABIP, but if they’re hitting 45 home runs every year, who cares? A pitcher might have a high BABIP but if their ERA is perennially in the low 4’s and they consistently have over 200 K’s, it makes no real difference. That’s why BABIP is more effective in predicting players that you don’t know much about.

      source: http://tinyurl.com/2ax9687

    14. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:26 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      I think that’s what Bob is saying here – that the Yankees are not going to have a huge cushion that they can ride for the last FIFTY GAMES of the season – like they did last year.

      Klapisch couldn’t know that because no one could foresee the Yankees sweeping Boston in that four-game series which dramatically changed the tenor of the standings in that one week span.

    15. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:55 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      Evan3457 wrote:
      Which means his “normal” BABIP with the Yanks is in the .310-.320 range. If his BABIP was .315 instead of .280, he’s hitting .294/.365/.499, and that assumes all the missing hits are singles, not doubles. Still would be a sub-par year for him…
      You may find this interesting –
      BABIP is clearly not without its flaws. Because it only takes account of balls put into play, home runs and strikeouts don’t count. A hitter could have a very low BABIP, but if they’re hitting 45 home runs every year, who cares? A pitcher might have a high BABIP but if their ERA is perennially in the low 4’s and they consistently have over 200 K’s, it makes no real difference. That’s why BABIP is more effective in predicting players that you don’t know much about.
      source: http://tinyurl.com/2ax9687

      That’s all well and good, but we’re not talking about an player who has a .280 BABIP every year. When an established hitter suffers a severe drop in BABIP from his own usual numbers, that’s usually an indicator of bad luck. Like with Nick Swisher in 2008, remember? Or when we pointed out that Phil Hughes’ BABIP was very low when he was red-hot early in the year, and that he was due for a huge correction?

      Sometimes hitting can get through a whole season with a BABIP much lower than his career record would indicate. If he’s 34-35 (A-Rod/Jeter), then you have to at least consider a real change in performance due to aging.

      However, to consider it is not to conclude it.

    16. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 1:56 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Steve Lombardi wrote:
      I think that’s what Bob is saying here – that the Yankees are not going to have a huge cushion that they can ride for the last FIFTY GAMES of the season – like they did last year.
      Klapisch couldn’t know that because no one could foresee the Yankees sweeping Boston in that four-game series which dramatically changed the tenor of the standings in that one week span.

      Might see the reverse of that this week, with the Sox winning 3 of 4 at the Stadium.

    17. MJ Recanati
      August 3rd, 2010 | 2:35 pm

      Evan3457 wrote:

      Might see the reverse of that this week, with the Sox winning 3 of 4 at the Stadium.

      Given the pitching matchups and the overall lack of consistent offensive output on our part (as well as Ellsbury coming back for Boston), it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

      The Yanks, on paper, will probably be in second place by 2-3 games by the time next Tuesday rolls around.

      Hopefully not, though.

    18. August 3rd, 2010 | 2:42 pm

      @ Evan3457:
      @ MJ Recanati:

      Yeah, I’m worried about Boston too – since this is their big short to get back into it…and the Yankees pitchers, even CC, have not been great lately.

      I really fear Big Papi going nuts and us seeing the number on Swisher’s back too many times in this series.

    19. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 2:49 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      @ Evan3457:
      @ MJ Recanati:
      Yeah, I’m worried about Boston too – since this is their big short to get back into it…and the Yankees pitchers, even CC, have not been great lately.
      I really fear Big Papi going nuts and us seeing the number on Swisher’s back too many times in this series.

      I tried to tell you last week to worry about Boston. Oh, well…

    20. Evan3457
      August 3rd, 2010 | 2:50 pm

      Well, actually, that’s not correct. I didn’t tell you to worry about Boston. I told you that the important thing was the lead over Boston for the Wild Card.

    21. Raf
      August 3rd, 2010 | 6:41 pm

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      2010 BABIP = .280
      2010 xBABIP = .307

      Thanks, that’s what I was looking for. I was kicking around his FG page, and I saw a few things were “off” but I couldn’t connect the dots…

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