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It's only a matter of time before Alex Rodriguez bounces back

Even though the results haven't been there, he has put hard contact on the ball consistently.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what you think about Alex Rodriguez the person, he's still Alex Rodriguez the player. And as long as he's Alex Rodriguez the player, some of his God-given abilities are always going to be there. They'll obviously continue to diminish over time, but I'd bet that even at age 50 he'll still be able to launch a baseball once in a while.

The question, then, is: when do we reach that point of no return where those moments of greatness are too few and far between, when his name means more than his actual plate appearances? I would argue we're not there just yet, but if you were to ask the beat writers or other pundits, we got there a month ago.

Even though his 2015 redemption story makes for good content, trouble in paradise adds even more intrigue. Andrew Marchand wrote that A-Rod has no value unless he hits. The Daily News tried to lump A-Rod in with Matt Harvey's troubles, trying to break down the psyche of struggling players. One of the funniest was the New York Post mocking A-Rod's claim that his one-home run spring was good. There's nothing wrong with this. It's a legitimate narrative, and articles like this sell the papers. The narrative is wrong, though.

Alex Rodriguez has not been playing poorly. The results haven't been there, I will admit, but having good plate appearances and making outs are not mutually exclusive. Of course things even out over time in the sense that good plate appearances correlate with success, but one month can produce funny results. For example, look at A-Rod's exit velocity compared to league so far this year:


He has never been below league average this year! He's only hitting .145/.242/.273 (48 OPS+) with just two home runs, but he's hitting the ball hard. And even when you look at how he hits the ball hard in the zone, it compares favorably to last season.

Last year:


This year:


The only real problem you could find is that A-Rod is having serious problems with pitches up and inside, which will require a legitimate adjustment to make sure he can catch up. In regards to everywhere else, he seems to be punishing mistakes.

Now, exit velocity isn't strictly linear as it relates to OPS. Launch angle also has a role, because hard hit balls don't mean much if they're high fly balls. There isn't aggregate launch angle in the public sphere, but line drive rate is a decent proxy.

His line drive rate this year so far has been 25%, higher than last year's 18.2%, and higher than the league average of just 20.7%. His BABIP is also just .176, even though his soft hit percentage is exactly league average (19.4%).

So what we have here is a prime positive regression candidate. It's kind of ironic because his line drive rate and hard hit rate will probably regress negatively, but his actual results, the thing we care about, should regress positively. When you hit the ball hard consistently above league average with a lot of line drives, generally those balls start to drop in for hits.

His injury, though, is of obvious concern. His MRI on his oblique came back negative, so he's going to travel with the team and could play sometime soon. The team could still place him on the DL to free up a roster spot, but there's a likelihood he's back in the lineup relatively soon. If he comes back with the strength he had before the injury, there's decent evidence that there is something left in the tank. He may be 40, but he's hitting the ball hard. That's what matters this early in the season.