1. Rest Will Do a Body Good
Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees brass continued to ignore Dr. Mark Philippon’s post-surgical rehabilitation guidelines through the first six weeks of his faster-than-anticipated return.
Though initially instructed to rest once a week during this time period, A-Rod instead played on a daily basis—barely permitting Joe Girardi to put him at designated hitter for a “half day of rest.”
In order to avoid the inevitable fatigue A-Rod experienced in his hip, the team will adhere to Dr. Philippon’s regimen for at least the next month.
This will allow him to continue pool rehabilitation that may in fact prevent an expected offseason procedure, according to his surgeon.
2. The Numbers Speak For Themselves
Since the first of the aforementioned “rest periods,” A-Rod is 9-for-27 (.333) with 3 HR and 13 RBI in just eight games played.
This trio of home runs included a 400-plus foot opposite field blast in Citi Field—a place where long balls are usually sent to die like former NFL stars in Oakland. Mets announcer Keith Hernandez admitted he “had never seen anyone hit a ball that far” in the ballpark.
Similar to the gradual turnaround of David Ortiz in Boston, A-Rod has put together a humble six-game hitting streak. Not coincidentally, New York has won all six of these games—again sprinting within striking distance of their biggest divisional rival.
3. Confidence, Confidence, Confidence
Any struggling hitter will tell you that self-assurance makes up half the battle in the trenches of a major league batter’s box. The confidence in knowing that the pitcher has no chance against you makes all the difference in a 3-for-5 night as opposed to a 0-for-5.
Philosophers and theorists feel that “the failure to plan is planning to fail,” and confidence allows hitters to formulate and execute a plan at the plate—as opposed to hoping and wishing for positive results.
Listening to A-Rod answer media questions following Tuesday night’s game spoke volumes about how he is currently feeling. He stated that he feels refreshed, has heightened agility, and can reach pitches he couldn’t in past weeks.
Whether or not all of these things will continue to hold true is anyone’s guess, but he believes it, and that’s all that matters.
4. Pitchers Believe That He Is
Opposing pitchers believing that A-Rod is a dangerous hitter is almost more important than him believing it about himself.
Rodriguez has collected 10 walks in the last six games alone, which helps to portray the level of respect he has regained from a handful of hard hit balls. The combination of careful pitching and better pitch recognition has given A-Rod a .620 OBP over the last six games, as well as a .514 OBP since his rest period in Miami.
A-Rod is once again receiving sliders and changeups on 2-0 counts, and is proving to be enough of a threat to alter a pitcher’s game plan. He is soon to become an automatic intentional walk in big spots, as his successes coupled with Robinson Cano’s repeated failures will force a manager’s hand.
5. Up & In: The Black Hole of a Compromised Slugger
From David Ortiz to Ken Griffey Jr. to Hideki Matsui, the first pitch to expose an injured or deteriorating slugger is the high and inside fastball.
It requires the most hand and bat speed of any pitch in baseball, and causes embarrassing swings on outside off-speed pitches for those who need to cheat to catch up inside. This results in a hitter’s hip opening far too soon, and this “bailout” makes it virtually impossible to protect the outside corner.
A-Rod was particularly affected by this as a result of preseason hip surgery—causing him to compensate inside more than the average case. Pitchers were able to toy with him for the early part of June, and it stripped him of most of his confidence.
Last night, however, A-Rod took a fastball up and in and launched it into the night sky. It was a warning sign to anyone who planned on challenging him in the weeks to come, and will help to restore the fear he once put in the minds of anyone standing on a mound.
6. Bonus: Did You Know?
Regardless of A-Rod’s stint on the disabled list and embarrassing start to June, he is still on pace for 34 HR, 110 RBI, and a nearly .400 OBP.
When putting these numbers in the context of a 162-game average, A-Rod would be able to produce 41 HR and 134 RBI. Though his batting average stands at just .233, his power numbers are rather remarkable considering the 2009 circumstances.
He may not be the A-Rod Yankee fans know and try not to love, but all they need is for him to be a legitimate threat—something he is steadily transforming back into.