clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

With the return of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees finally have right-handed power

New, comment

Alex Rodriguez's return is very welcome given how the team has performed against left-handed pitching.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

We've gotten to watch this Yankees team for about two months now, and I think at this point the strengths and weaknesses are pretty easy to see. The clear strength is that they have a great bullpen, and the obvious weakness is that they have not been hitting enough. They've certainly improved offensively since the beginning of their six-game winning streak, but it's still a work in progress.

One reason for their offensive problems, I think, is that they are just dreadful against left-handed pitching. General manager Brian Cashman acquired both Aaron Hicks and Starlin Castro to help balance the lineup, but it hasn't exactly worked so far. Here is the main roster of position players against left-handers:

PA wRC+ vs. LHP
Alex Rodriguez 34 174
Didi Gregorius 42 137
Austin Romine 30 127
Mark Teixeira 61 116
Starlin Castro 62 115
Jacoby Ellsbury 56 95
Carlos Beltran 59 93
Brian McCann 38 53
Brett Gardner 54 39
Aaron Hicks 42 17
Chase Headley 61 3

There are some positive surprises, but there is absolutely more negative than positive. Castro has been effective as expected, but Hicks, Headley, and Beltran are not, and that's hurting. Overall the Yankees have a .658 OPS in 579 plate appearances against left-handers, and a .712 OPS in 1082 plate appearances against right-handers.

This is why Alex Rodriguez returning becomes all the more important. Rodriguez, as many might know, has been out since May 3rd after straining his right hamstring. He was also heating up just as he got hurt; even though he hit .154/.250/.308 for the first two weeks of the season, he hit .263/.317/.579 from April 19th until his injury.

This return could end up being similar to another one of A-Rod's returns, in 2013. That year he returned from injury on August 5th, and at that time the only right-handed hitters on that team were the likes of Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, and Alfonso Soriano (who was good but wasn't acquired until July 26th). Up to August 1st, the 2013 Yankees had a .652 OPS against left-handers. Afterward they had a .717 OPS against left-handers, and that helped the team stay in contention way longer than they deserved. It helped that A-Rod had a 114 wRC+ that season.

I absolutely think it's possible he comes back and performs at that 2013 level; he had a 129 wRC+ last season, and even with his injuries, the projection systems still think he's an above-average hitter (ZiPS has 111 wRC+, and Steamer has 105).

This is a team that has been on the upswing these past few weeks, and they also have the easiest part of their schedule coming up. With a little bit of added right-handed pop at an opportune time, you might find this team on the edge of contention.