Although his career numbers are better against right-handed pitchers, Alex Rodriguez has had great success off lefties throughout the years. Entering the series against the Baltimore Orioles, Arod has collected 152 career homers, 443 RBI’s and is hitting .287 for his career against southpaws.
However, this year so far has been different from the norm. Through 22 at bats against lefties, Rodriguez has just two hits (.091 avg.) with three RBI’s and six strikeouts. Against righties, he’s hitting a healthy .316. Six times in his career, Arod has hit for a better average against lefties than righties in a single season.
But why the shocking drop in production?
The book on Arod has been to pound him inside with fastballs. For a left-handed pitcher, it’s much easier to throw inside to righties. It’s obvious Rodriguez isn’t the player he once was. Even though he’s five years removed from his last MVP campaign, injuries and aging have slowed him down. Perhaps his bat speed has stalled a bit, which would explain his inability to turn on balls inside like he used to. He’ll be 37 this summer.
On the complete other side of the spectrum is the captain Derek Jeter. Entering tonights game, Jeter is hitting an unworldly .567 (17 for 30) with eight RBI’s and two homers against lefties.
What makes Jeter so great is the ability to put an “inside-out” swing on the ball and send it out to the opposite field. For his career against LHP, Jeter is hitting .339 vs. .305 against RHP. Jeter’s career average mark against LHP is the highest of any player with at least 2,000 plate appearances against lefties since division play began in 1969. Kirby Puckett (.337), Ichiro and Manny Ramirez (.335) and Tony Gwynn (.325) are behind him. Coming into 2012, Jeter had finished with a higher average against lefties in 13 of 15 seasons.
As Jeter continues his renaissance, Arod continues to try and recapture what made him so dangerous – being able to punish any kind of pitcher. After 2010, many thought Jeter was on his way out. Now, it appears he’s playing like he’s ten years younger. If Jeter can turn back the clock, then maybe Rodriguez can as well. It’s early enough in the season for Arod to turn it around. He’ll have a chance tomorrow night against Orioles lefty Brian Matusz. Rodriguez is 3 for 13 with 4 RBI lifetime vs. Matusz (Jeter is 11 for 22).
With the amount of talent Arod still has, its hard to believe his hitting trends will continue. After all, it’s a game of adjustments.