Alex Rodriguez: How Likely is a 30-Homer Season?

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees connects for a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians on June 10, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

In the history of Major League Baseball, a player at the age of 36 or older has hit thirty home runs or more just 57 times. I mention this because Alex Rodriguez will enter the 2012 season at the age of 36, and will turn 37 at the end of July.

Recently, Lord Duggan, inspired by a poll at ESPN, posted a similar poll here at Pinstripe Alley, asking users if Alex Rodriguez will hit under or over 30 home runs during the upcoming season. The results at ESPN were essentially neutral, while over two-thirds of Pinstripe Alley users, at the time I am writing this, believe he will top thirty homers.

At first glance, it doesn't seem impossible for A-Rod. Throughout his illustrious career, the megastar that is Alex Rodriguez has failed to reach thirty homers just twice since his first full season at the Major League level (1997, 2011).

However, once thought of as a shoo-in to surpass Barry Bonds as the all-time home run king, Rodriguez is now on an undeniable decline.

In order to determine the likelihood of A-Rod hitting 30 or more home runs in 2012, I complied a spread sheet of all the players who hit 30 or more home runs during the 2011 season. In addition to the list, I also took the averages and ranges of each stat.*

Here is how A-Rod measured up to the players who hit 30 homers last season in games played and power categories:

Games Played

ISO

SLG.

A-Rod 2011

99

.185

.461

Minimum

113

.217

.453

Average

148

.252

.536

In the table, the 'minimum' category is the lowest number for those players who hit 30 home runs in 2011. The average category is self-explanatory.

As you can see, the average 30-home run hitter took the field 148 times last season, had an ISO of .252, and a SLG of .536. The minimum in these categories of those who hit thirty homers was 113 games played, a .217 ISO, and a .453 SLG. The only slight advantage A-Rod has here is in SLG, but even that is minimal, especially when considering the age curve for power hitters. According to the curve, power peaks around the ages of 24/25 and then drops off a cliff after the hitter turns about 28 or 29.

In the last three seasons, two of which have included major surgeries, A-Rod has managed to play an average of just 120 games per season. After undergoing those surgeries, how likely is it for his legs to hold up while also staying away from the day-to-day baseball injuries that occur over the course of a 162 game season?

Additionally, A-Rod would also need to see a power increase. Over the last four seasons, A-Rod has seen his ISO and SLG decrease in each season. His .185 ISO and his .461 SLG were each the lowest of his career since 1995, when he received just under 150 plate appearances. In order for A-Rod to be a minimum 30-homer hitter, he would need to increase his ISO by .032, a significant increase for a player entering his age 36/37 season when considering the age curve.

It is not impossible for A-Rod to hit thirty home runs in 2012. However, a lot of things would need to go right in order for him to reach that level again. He needs to stay on the field and he needs his power to return. However, given that he has had two major surgeries within the last three years, and given what we know about the way power fades throughout the course of a player's career, it seems highly unlikely for A-Rod to reach thirty home runs in 2012, and maybe even beyond.

*Stats from fangraphs.com

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