New York Yankees: 7 Reasons Alex Rodriguez Will Bounce Back in 2012

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIFebruary 22, 2012

New York Yankees: 7 Reasons Alex Rodriguez Will Bounce Back in 2012

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    Alex Rodriguez will have a bounce-back season in 2012.

    Call it a bold statement, call it an ignorant remark from a college freshman, but mark my words: Alex Rodriguez will silence his doubters in 2012.

    Rodriguez was pretty productive in 2010 and was on pace for similar production had he not gotten injured.

    In 99 games (373 at-bats) last season, Rodriguez hit 16 home runs, drove in 62 runs and tallied 103 hits. That was good enough for a .276/.362/.461 line.

    As is the general norm for Rodriguez, he struggled in the Division Series against the Tigers. He hit .111/.261/.111 with three RBI and six strikeouts in 18 at-bats.

    The Yankees aren't necessarily relying on Rodriguez to put the team on his back in 2012, but they need him to return to the 30 home run, 100 RBI man that he has been consistently in the past.

    If you still aren't thinking that Rodriguez will have a bounce-back season, here are seven reasons why he will.

Health

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    All signs point to A-Rod being completely healthy for the first time in quite a few seasons.

    After taking the advice of fellow superstar Kobe Bryant, Rodriguez went over to Europe to undergo orthokine treatment, an experimental procedure that takes the patients' blood, incubates it and re-injects it into the concerned joints.

    The procedure seems to have worked well for Bryant, who went through the treatment in June of last year. Lakers point guard Derek Fisher saw results, claiming that Bryant's knee was better than ever.

    As we've seen in the past, a healthy Alex Rodriguez is a dangerous Alex Rodriguez. The last time he was completely healthy was 2007.

    During that season, he played in 158 games, mashed 54 home runs, drove in 156 RBI, hit .314/.422/.645 and was the American League MVP.

    In four seasons since, he has averaged a putrid 125 games played, a pedestrian 28 home runs, an unacceptable 98 RBI and a slash line of .284/.374/.518. Granted, those numbers are diluted a bit by his injury-riddled season in 2011.

    As the No. 4 hitter in the Yankees lineup, those averages are unacceptable. If A-Rod can average those numbers over 125 games, imagine the possibilities if he is healthy enough to play in 140 to 150 games.

    He will be healthy enough to accomplish such a task in 2012.

The Lineup Around Him

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    Although the lineup around Rodriguez is virtually the same as last season (the addition of Raul Ibanez is the only change), it's rumored that Robinson Cano will be batting third at the onset of the season.

    Pitchers are likely to pitch carefully to Cano, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the most complete hitters in the game.

    After pitching carefully to Cano, pitchers are likely to go right after Rodriguez. Mark Teixeira, despite having a down season himself in 2011, is currently a more feared hitter than Rodriguez. Also, many people around the game have more confidence in Teixeira to produce next season than they have in Rodriguez.

    With those givens, Rodriguez should see plenty of hittable pitches hitting fourth in the lineup.

    Assuming both Cano and Teixeira produce at the expected levels, placing Rodriguez fourth in the lineup would be a smart move by manager Joe Girardi.

History

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    There are several career milestones on the horizon for Rodriguez, and I'm sure he would like to get them out of the way sooner rather than later.

    We all remember the slump he went in prior to hitting his 600th home run against Shaun Marcum, formerly of the Blue Jays.

    Rodriguez currently has 495 career doubles, 1,824 runs scored, 2,775 hits, 629 home runs and 1,893 RBI.

    He has a realistic shot at hitting his 500th double and driving in his 2,000th run in 2012—and an opportunity to get himself close to 2,000 runs, 3,000 hits and 700 home runs.

    It will most likely require two more productive seasons to reach the runs and hits milestones, while three productive seasons seems more plausible for 700 home runs.

    A-Rod's career is clearly on the down slope, but, with a strong season in 2012, he will put himself in great position to reach several key milestones in the upcoming years.

Motivation

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    After four consecutive unhealthy seasons, Alex Rodriguez seems motivated coming into 2012.

    Aside from the news of his orthokine treatment, Rodriguez has kept relatively quiet this offseason. He has stayed out of the media spotlight and has focused on being in good shape for the beginning of spring workouts.

    The last time Rodriguez was really motivated was the 2009 playoffs. He carried the team in the 2009 postseason, hitting .378/.497/.834 with six home runs, 18 RBI, 19 hits and 15 runs scored.

    To date, that is his most successful playoff performance as a Yankee.

    The orthokine treatment was the sign of Rodriguez being motivated this offseason, as he was willing to try experimental treatments in order to get healthy. He even went through the trouble of checking with Major League Baseball to make sure it was within the rules to go through with the procedure.

    A motivated Rodriguez should be a scary thought for American League pitchers in 2012.

Designated Hitter Rotation

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    Even though the Yankees made the Raul Ibanez signing official on Tuesday, Girardi will be making good use of the DH spot in the lineup to rest his aging veterans.

    The veteran in need of the most time at DH is A-Rod.

    In an effort to keep him healthy throughout the season, Rodriguez will be given many half-days off. It's realistic to think that Rodriguez may be DHing once a week, but he will more than likely be the DH once every two weeks.

    Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira will also see time at DH this season, so Rodriguez will need to be able to play the field a majority of the time.

    Being a part of the DH rotation will help to keep Rodriguez's legs fresh in 2012, which will definitely help to keep his legs strong deep into next season.

AL East Pitching Has Gotten a Bit Worse

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    Although the AL East's pitching rotations will look similar to the one's of years past, each team's rotation (aside from the Rays) has gotten a bit worse.

    The Orioles traded their lone reliable starter, Jeremy Guthrie, to the Rockies, making Jason Hammel or Zach Britton their ace. On most other teams, Hammel or Britton probably wouldn't even crack the starting five.

    Baltimore will add Japanese lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada to the rotation, both of whom are big question marks given their lack of Major League experience.

    The top three in Boston's rotation (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz) is very solid when healthy. That's just the problem, though. Beckett and Buchholz are huge injury risks.

    The top three in the rotation are followed by Daniel Bard, a man who has never started in the majors, and either Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla or Alfredo Aceves. Each of those three options are question marks as well.

    After Ricky Romero, the Blue Jays' rotation is filled with high upside question marks. Brandon Morrow has all the talent in the world, but he has still yet to put it all together.

    Brett Cecil, Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan figure to round out the Toronto rotation. 

    Cecil has shown flashes of being a capable starter in the AL East, Alvarez will be entering his first full season in the league and McGowan didn't pitch at all in 2009 or 2010.

    Last season in five games (four starts), McGowan posted a 6.43 ERA.

    Rodriguez should be able to capitalize on some of the below-average pitching in the AL East in 2012.

A Different Kind of Pressure

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    Sure, there is pressure on Rodriguez to produce in 2012.

    If he doesn't have a strong first half, he could see his name dropped down in the lineup card after the All-Star break.

    That being said, Rodriguez no longer has the pressure on him of being the best hitter in the lineup.

    That title now belongs to Robinson Cano, and he has shown no signs of being affected by that designation.

    Relieved not be counted as the best hitter in the lineup, Rodriguez may be able to slip into his comfort zone and just focus on playing his game.

    He no longer carries the world on his shoulders, so to speak, and that should become evident to all of us in the beginning weeks of the 2012 season.

Predictions

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    There's no doubt in my mind that Alex Rodriguez will have a bounce-back year in 2012.

    Health will definitely play a factor, as will the other pieces of evidence I have given.

    I fully expect Rodriguez to hit 35 home runs, drive in 120 RBI and have a slash line around .285/.360/.480.

    The Yankees will be well on their way to a deep playoff push behind the strong play of Alex Rodriguez in 2012.