Alex Rodriguez: 2008 Value

Before I start, I’d like to apologize for not posting the past few days. It has been an absolutely crazy week, and I’m exhausted even as I’m typing this. Hopefully things will calm down soon.

As for some good news, I’ve been talking with Greg Rybarczyk about constructing a home run system revolving around HitTracker, which I talked a little about the other day. Also, I have been thinking about stolen bases over the past couple of days, which is something I haven’t talked much about this year. Look for a post on that maybe Sunday.

Alex Rodriguez: 2008 Yankee?

Moving on. I’ve been getting some questions lately regarding the 2008 value of Alex Rodriguez. With so many Yankee fans — and much of the media — hating on Alex Rodriguez, many are wondering what his value will be in 2008. What if the Yankees decide to ditch Alex, and he signs with a crappy team willing to shell out some money, similar to what Barry Zito did last off-season in signing with the Giants? Here’s my take on it.

As a Mets fan, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees part ways with Alex Rodriguez and have Omar Minaya swoop in and sign A-Rod to play second base for us. In fact, I am actually tempted to buy one of these. One, it would be funny to see how many Yankees fans come up to me and pat me on the back, and two, because I would love the irony of it.

Why the answer to the previous questions is “YES”

All pipe dreams aside, I don’t see the Yankees letting Alex Rodriguez go. If you’re interested in why Yankees fan are wrong in thinking they would be better off without him, read the post entitled “Buckle Up, Everyone” on FireJoeMorgan.com about a quarter of the way down the page. It’s from July, but most of it is still relevant.

Alex Rodriguez is currently leading baseball in VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) with 93.7 runs. His closest competitors? Hanley Ramirez with 83.9 runs and Magglio Ordonez with 78.8 runs. Basically, he’s good.

With a replacement level player in his spot (as many genius Yankees fans are suggesting because they want to spend all of A-Rod’s money on elite young pitchers, because there are plenty of those on the open market every winter), the Yankees offense would have scored 93.7 less runs. That’s a lot of runs. They would be 81-65 without him (according to Bill James‘ Pythagorean expectation formula), which doesn’t look like much in light of the Yankees’ current 83-63 record, but when you consider that their current, Pythagorean adjusted formula is 89-57, it’s much more apparent that A-Rod is important.

One player, single handedly, has been worth 8 wins this year above what a replacement could do. That’s just crazy. In many years, for many teams, 8 wins is the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.

Brian Cashman, ladies and gentleman, is no dummy. He has seen these numbers and he knows how good Alex Rodriguez is. There is very little chance he will let him go. The only way I see A-Rod leaving the Yankees is if he decides he wants out… if he decides that he’s had enough of being the best player in baseball and constantly being slammed by the media and fans. If that doesn’t happen, we will most likely see him in pinstripes for the next few years.

A-Rod’s Fantasy Contributions

So how good is A-Rod, fantasy-wise? Well, pretty darn good.

Many people are surprised that A-Rod was able to rebound from a 35 home run 2006 to the tune of 52 home runs (so far) this year. He hasn’t put up a total that high since he hit 57 with the Rangers in 2004 when he set the single-season record for home runs by a shortstop. Still, if we inspected his HitTracker data from last year, we would have seen how few short home runs he hit (just 9 of his 35 went less than 400 true feet and 4 went less than 390 true feet) and realized that he was probably in for a power spike. His power has still been great this year; it just looks better because it has been adjusted to portray his true power levels. Continue to expect excellent power going forward.

A-Rod is batting .317 after his average had dipped to .290 last year. This looks pretty legit to me. His .310 BABIP is his lowest since 2003, and his career BABIP is .326. This could be do to his line drive percentage of just 16.5%, but it was lower than that in 2004 and 2005 when he had BABIPs of .313 and .349, respectively. The extra home runs make up for this, though, as his Batting Average on Contact is a very good .347. His contact rate is improved from the past few years, sitting now just above 80%. This could regress a little bit, but with his current power skills and an improved BABIP, A-Rod should still be able to hit .300 next year.

22 steals with an 88% success rate is quite good, especially from a third baseman. We’ll talk more about steals and speed another day, but for now, you just need to know that A-Rod gets a little extra value from being able to steal these bases.

The thing most readers were worried about was his RBI and run numbers for next year. Fear not; Alex Rodriguez will be fine with both. Even if he went to a terrible team he would still do pretty well. 55 home runs is a guaranteed 55 RBIs plus however many batters are on base for these home runs. He would only need a modest number of RBIs from other sources (singles, doubles, sac flies, etc.) to get over 100 RBIs. As I expect him to stay with the Yankees, though, that number should be much higher than 100.

He also wouldn’t have much trouble scoring runs on a poor team, again, because he would automatically get 55 or so from home runs. Also, his walk rate is 14% this year. When you combine that with a .300 batting average, he would have to score runs just based on how often he’ll be on base. Again, though, this is a moot point. Alex will most likely be a Yankee again next year, meaning he’ll score tons of runs in that offense.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, I wouldn’t expect much of a regression from A-Rod. He’ll probably hit .300 with over 50 home runs, tons of RBIs, tons of Runs, and a bunch of steals as a bonus. He is a true five-category stud. I can’t say anything for certain yet, but I’d have to think Alex Rodriguez will be #1 on my draft board next year.

If you’re in a keeper league, it might be a good idea to plant some seeds now with A-Rod’s owner. Point him to every article from now on where a New York sports writer bashes A-Rod and constantly tell him how A-Rod will be playing for a crappy team next year and his value will take a hit. Try and get him for less than he’s worth, because he will be able to seriously help your team next year. Not exactly the boldest statement I’ve ever made, but really, there is no other conclusion to draw. Alex Rodriguez is flat out good.

On one final, unrelated note, I’d like to apologize to anyone who has has sent me an email over the past couple of weeks that hasn’t gotten a reply. Things have just been so crazy that I haven’t had the time to give the detailed responses that I like to give.

As of tomorrow, I’ll be clearing out my Inbox. If you still would like your question answered, I welcome you to send it again, and it will get answered. As many of these emails were time sensitive, I don’t want to put my time in answering all of them now when the answer might already be irrelevant. If your still looking for an answer, though — again — please ask. Thanks everyone for your understanding!

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