Know Your 40: Alex Rodriguez

Al Bello

It will be awhile before A-Rod returns to the Yankees, but what can be expected of him after another hip surgery?

Name: Alex Rodriguez
Position: Third baseman
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 37 (born 7/27/1975)
Height: 6'3" Weight: 225 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Five years, $114 million (expires after 2017)
2012 statistics: (MLB): 122 games, .272/.353/.430, 17 2B, 18 HR, 13 SB, .342 wOBA, 114 wRC+

A-Rod carries with him perhaps more mystery than anyone on this team aside from maybe Michael Pineda. The second hip surgery of his career has him out of commission for several months and he's technically not quite on the 40-man roster exactly since he's on the 60-day Disabled List. If we do get to see A-Rod in pinstripes again in 2013, it will be a surprise if it comes before the All-Star Break. In January, Brian Cashman said there is a chance that A-Rod will miss the full season recovering, but he does not expect that to happen. The same linked article reported that according to A-Rod's surgeon, Dr. Bryan Kelly, he should be back on the field playing in regular season games six months from the procedure, which took place on January 16th. Six months from then will be the All-Star Game, so the first game after that deadline is July 19th against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. If he's nearing optimum healthy and they want him to just return at Yankee Stadium, the next home game is on the 26th against the Rays.

At this point though, A-Rod's return is up in the air because we just don't know how his rehab will go from another hip surgery. It's certainly not a normal baseball injury, and A-Rod's missed enough time since '09 to offer enough concern. Some of those recent injuries were freaky flukes (breaking his hand on a Felix Hernandez fastball last July) and some were the result of wear and tear over the years (the hip injuries in '09 and '12, and the torn meniscus in his right knee in '11).

A-Rod's second hip injury really began to affect him in the second half of last year, although he's stated "hindsight is 20/20" about whether or not he should have had his hip examined sooner. Hitting coach Kevin Long said that he knew in August that something was amiss, since "his lower half was not letting him do the things he's normally able to do." That would certainly seem to jibe with his performance, as his slugging percentage dropped precipitously in September. When he was hit in the hand by the King Felix pitch and left the team for a month and a half, he was slugging .449. By the end of the season and 28 games in September with only six extra-base hits, it had fallen to .430.

Mike Eder of the Yankee Analysts presented a very telling GIF of his swing in October compared to June (that article has more swing analysis, so I recommend checking it out):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

It's quite evident from his legs that he wasn't able to generate the same swing on the ball that he did earlier in the season. He has a moderate leg kick in the first image, but barely any kick at at all in the second, a sign of nursing an injury.

A-Rod told manager Joe Girardi about his hip problems, and that helped lead to the pinch-hit appearances and days off we saw throughout the remainder of the playoffs. A-Rod had a tumultuous enough offseason even before the Biogenesis reports were leaked. This team is not getting out of that contract due to any investigations of the Florida company--that should go without saying. In David Walstein's excellent New York Times article from March 30th revisiting the history of A-Rod's second Yankees deal (a must-read), he noted "baseball’s substance-abuse policy mandates the punishment through suspensions; financial penalties are prohibited."

As convenient as it would be for the Yankees to wish away the big contract they signed with A-Rod after '07, it's simply not happening. Hell, even if they want any money back through medical insurance, there's a four-month deductible, and they are only reimbursed for 33 percent of salary in that first year if he's still out. The Times article reported that only if A-Rod is permanently disabled will the Yankees get as much as 75 percent reimbursed beyond the first four months.

So all we can do now is sit back and wait while A-Rod rehabs from his hip surgery while hoping for the best. On Opening Day, he told reporters that his recovery is in "Stage 1," and "going well" at the moment. A-Rod was against the decision to spend Spring Training in New York away from his teammates in Florida, but it was necessary according to his doctors. There are a lot of conditional statements about A-Rod's 2013 season. If he can come back and provide even some semblance of the power that he had as recently as last season prior to the broken hand, it would be a boon for a lineup that so desperately needs a charge. By then, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson will be back, as will Mark Teixeira as long as his wrist recovers well (no guarantees there though), so the lineup will be better than right now. They would still be missing the power provided by guys like Nick Swisher season though, so the addition of a healthy A-Rod would basically be a Trade Deadline acquisition for a power bat.

The Yankees can worry about where A-Rod will fit in the lineup with Kevin Youkilis now at third base when the time comes. By then, the team's health will have changed again in some way. A-Rod was a very good hitter well-respected around the league as recently as last year. Those statistics at the top of this article were far from terrible. If he can come back healthy, there should not be any doubts that he can really help this team's power.

If. If if if.

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