02/15/2004 6:23 PM ET
Better numbers in store for A-Rod?
Scouting report: Slugger will see more pitches to hit
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
While it remains to be seen how well Alex Rodriguez will adjust to playing third base for the Yankees, he could put up even more offense for New York than he did for the Texas Rangers.
|Alex Rodriguez went 5-for-24 (.208) in six games last season at Yankee Stadium. (Ben Margot/AP)
The unprecedented trade, now just awaiting approval from the Commissioner's office, of a reigning Most Valuable Player to a team that will now open the season with five starters who drove in at least 100 runs last year -- and five who posted on-base percentages of .393 or better --raises the question of what to expect now that A-Rod's perennially potent bat is likely headed to the Bronx.
"At Texas, especially his first year, there were times you could pitch around (Rodriguez) when certain other guys weren't hitting," one Major League scout said. "Now you drop him in a lineup that already has (Jason) Giambi, (Jorge) Posada, (Hideki) Matsui, (Derek) Jeter and now (Gary) Sheffield, that's strong, home or road, and (it doesn't matter if it is) righty or lefty (opposing), they will score a ton of runs and he'll see more pitches to hit than he has the last couple of years.
"(The Yankees) won't have as much speed without Alfonso Soriano, but when you have that many guys who can get on base and knock the ball out of the park, they won't miss Soriano. This lineup means a lot more offense, more breathing room for that pitching staff and more headaches for (opposing pitchers)."
Rodriguez struck out 126 times for the Rangers last season. He probably won't feel as compelled to chase as many pitches this season with the likes of Sheffield and Giambi hitting behind him. Sheffield fanned just 55 times last year and had an on-base percentage of .419.
Also impacting A-Rod's offensive production will be the new schedule. By moving from Texas and the American League West to the Yankees and the AL East, Rodriguez will be getting more at-bats against more pitching staffs he has hit well during his career. This includes Toronto (a .343 career average against), Baltimore (.327), Boston (.289) and of course Texas (.318) -- a staff he hasn't faced in three years. Rodriguez is also a career .294 (47-for-160) hitter with 10 homers and 26 RBIs at Boston's Fenway Park.
Conversely, because of the unbalanced schedule, Rodriguez will see two of the staffs that have given him the most problems during his career -- Seattle (.286) and Oakland (.274) -- less often than he did when he was playing in the AL West. Rodriguez owns a .225 career average at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum and .274 at Seattle's Safeco Field.
"I don't think (Yankee Stadium) will hurt his hitting at all," the scout said. "(The Ballpark at Arlington) is more of a hitters' park than New York, but it won't matter in A-Rod's case since he's a guy that uses the whole field. A guy that hits gap to gap would be (affected more)."
In 14 games against the Yankees last year, Rodriguez hit .289 (11-for-38) with three homers and nine RBIs, but most of that damage was done in Arlington. He was 5-for-24 (.208) with two homers and two RBIs in six games at Yankee Stadium. For his career, Rodriguez is a .289 (50-for-173) hitter in the Bronx, with 14 homers and 32 RBIs.
Though he has power to all fields and is considered a spray hitter, the right-handed hitting Rodriguez has exhibited more power to left than center or right. He has hit 104 homers over the last two seasons with 53 going to left, 31 to center and 20 to right field.
Of course, the demands of learning a new position can sometimes detract from a player's offense. And there is another potential stumbling block for A-Rod: He has hit only .254 against AL East member Tampa Bay, his second-worst average against any American League team. He hit only .121 against the Devil Rays last year, including .090 (2-for-22) at Tropicana Field.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.