Will A-Rod break Barry Bonds' record?

43 Comments

Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th homer today. That’s well and good, but if the poll results are any indication you all don’t really care. But you will probably care more if and when he breaks 700 and starts knocking on the door of messers. Ruth, Aaron and Bonds.  Will it happen? Let’s break down some rough numbers:

  • A-Rod has 600 homers;
  • The record is 762;
  • A-Rod is under contract through 2017;
  • If he stays on his current pace for the rest of the reason, he’d finish with around 26 or 27 homers for 2010, putting him 152 or 153 homers shy of a new home run record.

Thus, Rodriguez would only have to average around 21-22 homers a year between now and the end of his deal to break the record. I find that eminently doable.

From 1996 — when he became a full time player — though 2009 he averaged 41.7 home runs per season. Those days are likely over now, but even if you assume that his production for 2008-2010 is the “new normal” for the guy, that puts him at around 30 homers a year, which puts him safely ahead of a record breaking pace. And that’s assuming he doesn’t pull out some late career mini-resurgence which gives him a random season of 40 here or there, which I could easily see happening.

Of course there’s nothing certain in this world.  Health being the biggest uncertainty. If A-Rod suffered a catastrophic injury all bets are off, but that’s the case for anyone chasing a record.  Just ask Ken Griffey Jr. what one’s late 30s are all about.

But A-Rod also, perversely enough, has his contract on his side. Being signed to that deal will give him more chances to come to the plate as he approaches the end of his career simply because there’s way less of a chance that teams will just turn their back on him like they did on Barry Bonds the year after he broke Aaron’s record.  Whether it’s the Yankees or some other team, the chances are very, very high that he’ll be on someone’s roster for the next seven years.

Sure, if A-Rod’s skills have eroded to a certain degree the Yankees — who will presumably remain competitive — may consider him a sunk cost and cut bait on him, but if that happens he becomes a very affordable gate attraction for the Orioles or the Athletics or any other team who needs a DH and some excitement. With the Yankees paying him $25 million regardless, Rodriguez would probably have no trouble signing with any other team for the veteran minimum, and if he gets his at bats, he should get his 21-22 home runs.

There are no guarantees in this world, but I’d feel pretty safe in betting that A-Rod will break Barry Bonds’ record one day.

Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly sits in the dugout prior to a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Monday, April 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
3 Comments

Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Sean Doolittle: “Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans.”

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 25:  Sean Doolittle #62 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 25, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
30 Comments

In the past, we’ve commented on Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle and his girlfriend Eireann Dolan’s community service. In 2015, the pair hosted Syrian refugee families for Thanksgiving and their other charitable efforts have included LGBTQ outreach and help for veterans.

Athletes and their significant others have typically avoided stepping into political waters, but Doolittle and Dolan have shown that it’s clearly no concern to them. In the time since, the Syrian refugee issue has become even more of a hot-button issue and Doolittle recently discussed it with Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.

I think America is the best country in the world because we’ve been able to attract the best and brightest people from all over the world. We have the smartest doctors and scientists, the most creative and innovative thinkers. A travel ban like this puts that in serious jeopardy.

I’ve always thought that all boats rise with the tide. Refugees aren’t stealing a slice of the pie from Americans. But if we include them, we can make the pie that much bigger, thus ensuring more opportunities for everyone.

Doolittle, of course, is referring to Executive Order 13769 signed by President Trump which sought to limit incoming travel to the United States from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. A temporary restraining order on the executive order was placed on February 3, a result of State of Washington v. Trump.

Doolittle spoke more about the plight refugees face:

These are people fleeing civil wars, violence and oppression that we can’t even begin to relate to. I think people think refugees just kind of decide to come over. They might not realize it takes 18-24 months while they wait in a refugee camp. They go through more than 20 background checks and meetings with immigration officers. They are being vetted.

They come here, and they want to contribute to society. They’re so grateful to be out of a war zone or whatever they were running from in their country that they get jobs, their kids go to our schools, they’re paying taxes, and in a lot of cases, they join our military.

Around this time last year, Craig wrote about Doolittle and Dolan not sticking to baseball. They’re still not, nor should they be. Hopefully, the duo’s outspokenness inspires other players and their loved ones to speak up for what’s right.

[Hat tip: Deadspin’s Hannah Keyser]