Grading the Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
By Matt Hunter
Oh boy. What can I say about Alex Rodriguez that hasn’t been said already? The guy became the scapegoat of the New York Yankees in the postseason last year — he slumped, he got benched, he flirted and he got ridiculed by fans and publications alike. This frustration with the Yankees’ former star player isn’t entirely unwarranted. A-Rod did slump in the playoffs, he did have a down year, and he is getting paid a fortune for what he’s currently worth.
But at some point, the criticism went too far. Fans forgot about other players who were slumping. They forgot that A-Rod’s regular season struggles were largely fueled by injuries (as were, it turns out, his postseason struggles were as well), and that he still wasn’t that bad when he was on the field. Fans saw the huge paycheck, saw the postseason struggles, saw the former prima donna (or, pre-Madonna), and found an easy scapegoat for the Yankees’ failure.
So in this edition of Grading the Yankees, I’ll try to evaluate A-Rod’s season from an objective lens. Let’s ignore the cloud of drama that follows A-Rod wherever he goes, and instead look at his performance versus expectations. And by expectations, I don’t mean his salary, but what it is reasonable to expect from the player himself at this age.
**If you’re curious about our grades for other Yankee players, you can find them all here.**
To begin, let’s just take a look at A-Rod’s statistics from 2012, straight from his FanGraphs player page:
It was clearly a down year for A-Rod. Not counting his first two partial seasons in the majors in ’94 and ’95, A-Rod had a career-low in Isolated Power (ISO), RBI, wOBA, wRC+, and WAR. He had a career-high strikeout rate, his worst walk rate since 1998, and only hit more home runs than his previous low in 2011 because he played 23 more games. He also spent a significant amount of his playing time at DH, which lowered his value even more.
A-Rod will probably never be a valuable piece of the Yankees again. It’s time to lower expectations. (Image: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)
That’s the bad news. On the other hand, A-Rod still added 2.2 wins above replacement to the team, which is nothing to scoff at. His wRC+ was 114, or 14 percent better than the average player. So while it may seem that he couldn’t hit a beach ball, he was actually better at the plate than the average player. Sure, it’s a far cry from his 9-win, 150 wRC+ days, and much worse than his previous three 4-win seasons, but he was still able to provide some value, even through his injuries and old age.
Not that A-Rod is that old. He was 36 to begin the season, and there were nine other players of that age or older who provided more value (including Jamey Caroll!). A-Rod has clearly felt the effects of age more strongly than the normal player, which is unfortunate for the Yankees, given that he’s signed through 2017 (!).
However, we need to take expectations into account before giving A-Rod too harsh of a grade. While this may not be a common sentiment, or at least it didn’t used to be, we just can’t expect elite production from A-Rod any more. His body is wearing down, and as fans we need to accept that fact. It’s not A-Rod’s fault – he underwent an experimental surgery in Germany in order to get better, for goodness sake! But even that wasn’t enough to slow Mother Nature’s wrath.
Final Grade: D+/C-
- Quality of work has declined
- Absences interfere with progress
- Attitude shows improvement
- Flirts with girls during class
- Responds well to teasing
Conclusion: Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t give him too harsh of a grade, but let’s be honest, most Yankees fans probably would have failed him. A-Rod undoubtedly disappointed, but he wasn’t awful. Plus, given his age, we need to temper expectations. A-Rod is doing his best to provide value and avoid injury, but it’s unlikely that he’ll even play a full season, or provide more than 3 wins of value, ever again. In fact, if he does what he did last year in 2013, I’d probably give him a B or higher. A-Rod’s time as an elite player has long passed, and Yankee fans need to just accept that and take what they can get.