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Monday, August 2, 2010
The struggles of A-Rod, Berkman, Wood


If you’re a little anxious over the chase for 600, a few things to know about Alex Rodriguez, and the potential debuts for Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood heading into tonight’s matchup with the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

Alex Rodriguez has homered against seven different Blue Jays pitchers. A search of Baseball-Reference.com tells us that the only other team against whom he’s homered against seven pitchers currently on the roster is the Red Sox (makes sense … divisional opponent).

In this case, Rodriguez has exactly one home run against each of the seven Blue Jays pitchers, with one against tonight’s starter, Brandon Morrow.

It would make more sense for Rodriguez to target the bullpen tonight -- Morrow's home run rate (0.64 per nine innings) doesn't quite rank among the best in the American League, but it's close, and he's the league's top strikeout pitcher, averaging almost 10 per nine innings.

If Rodriguez doesn't touch Morrow up today, Tuesday doesn't look too promising, with the Blue Jays starting Ricky Romero. Lefties have been giving Rodriguez a lot of trouble lately. Since homering against Clayton Kershaw on June 27, Rodriguez is 4-for-26 with seven strikeouts against lefty pitchers.

Rodriguez has struck out twice as frequently against lefties in this stretch as he had prior to it, and fouling off pitches with much greater frequency as well. One primary culprit -- fastballs away from lefties, which were the finish pitch in six Rodriguez at-bats vs southpaws in July, without his getting a hit.

Lefties have been giving Rodriguez trouble all season. Rodriguez’s .215 batting average against lefties is just one point higher than Curtis Granderson’s, and ranks 121st out of the 132 hitters with at least 100 plate appearances vs lefties (in other words, 12th-worst).

Rodriguez’s struggles against lefties are mild compared to Lance Berkman’s .188 batting average and one home run in 64 at-bats. Like Rodriguez, hitting the fastball away from a lefty has been an issue. He’s got just one hit and an .063 batting average against those pitches this season.

Speaking of Berkman, if you’re thinking he’ll be a good weapon off the bench, when he doesn’t start, keep this in mind. He’s 5-for-45 for his career as a pinch-hitter

During our trip to Cleveland for the Mets series a few weeks ago, we got the impression of a dislike for Kerry Wood, not quite to LeBron James levels, but still more tangible than expected. Here’s why. Wood’s fastball seems to have lost some zip.

When Wood cranks it to 95-miles-per-hour, he’s very hittable -- our Inside Edge data charts him with a .394 opponents batting average against those pitches (nearly 150 points worse than the league average) and a miss rate of 11.1 percent (slightly better than half the league norm). That may cause a lot more anxiety than the chase for 600 will.

Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight.