Sunday, May 13, 2007

The A-Rod Apologete (Vol. III)

I apologize that my final installment of The A-Rod Apologete is about as timely as the Vatican's admission of the heliocentric nature of the solar system. I have deliberately avoided completing this series for over a month, as presenting the statistical analysis debunking the myth that Rodriguez can't get the job done in the playoffs is by far the most tedious chore of my defense. It is far easier, and more fun, taking pot shots at the common fan.

In his 53 postseason at bats prior to joining the Yankees, A-Rod batted .340, with 3 doubles and 3 HRs. He was good for a .375 OBP/.566 SLG/.941 OPS. His career regular season OPS is .962, which places him among the handful of greatest players in the history of the sport. The difference between .941 and .962 is
a) completely statistically irrelevant based on the number of at bats and
b) less than one would expect given that
1) teams with bad pitching rarely make the playoffs
2) 5th starters never pitch in the playoffs
3) the ass-end of bullpens rarely see the light of day in the postseason

By now, you should be convinced that Rodriguez was an excellent postseason hitter, before becoming a member of the Yankees. But what of his playoff performance in New York?

Alex Rodriguez's was phenomenal in his first Yankees playoff series. In the 2004 ALDS against the Twins, Rodriguez went 8 for 19, with 3 doubles and a home run. For those sabermetrically inclined, he put up a .476 OBP/.737 SLG/1.213 OPS.

"Surely he compiled these numbers in the midst of blowouts, right?"
Not at all, straw man. Allow me to walk you through it.

After losing Game 1, the Yankees were in nearly a must win situation in Game 2. They could not afford to go down 2-0 in a best of 5 series. Alex Rodriguez broke a 3-3 tie in the 5th inning with a home run. He then singled in a run in the 7th to extend the lead to 5-3. The resilient Twins rallied back to tie the game up in the 8th inning. The game remained knotted at 5-5 until the 12th inning, when Rodriguez came up with runners on first and second. He proceded to blast a game-winning ground-rule double into the gap.

A-Rod's Game 2 Numbers: 4 for 6, a double, a HR, 2 Rs, 3 RBI. He was the only player on the team with more than one hit. He put the Yankees ahead twice, including the game winning hit in the 12th inning. Certifiably clutch performance.

Up 2-1, going into Game 4, the Yankees needed a win in order to avoid playing a deciding Game 5 in Minnesota. In the 9th inning of a 5-5 tie, Alex Rodriguez led off the inning with a double. That his teammates couldn't drive him home does not make this hit any less clutch.
Still tied in the 11th, A-Rod ripped a one out double. He then stole third base. He then scored on a wild pitch. So he single-handedly scored the winning run of Game 5. Unquestionably, Alex Rodriguez was the MVP of the 2004 ALDS, saving his best games for the two hard-fought extra-inning affairs.

"Yeah, but he sucked in the next series against the Red Sox!"
Straw man, you are making this far to easy.

The Yankees started off the 2004 ALCS up 3-0, due in no small part to the fact that A-Rod went 6 for 14 with 2 doubles, a HR, 7 runs, and 3 RBI! Then in Game 4, A-Rod hit a 2-run homer to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the game that could easily have been the game that clinched the series for them.

So at this point in his career, Alex Rodriguez had had 88 postseason at bats. All he had done was hit .375, with a .414 OBP/.670 SLG/1.084 OPS. Those numbers are slightly better than Lou f'n Gehrig's career regular season OPS of 1.079. Not too shabby.

"Fine, but he choked in Games 4 through 7".
Straw man, you clearly have shit for brains!

First, like I already said, Rodriguez hit a go-ahead homer in Game 4. Granted, he went 0 for 3 after that at bat, but he still did his part that day.

The next day, A-Rod went 0 for 4 with 2 walks. While obviously not a great performance, Game 5 was only a big game IN HINDSIGHT. The Yankees were up 3-1 in the series, with homefield awaiting in Game 6 and 7. They were still playing with the house's money at this point. You can't decide which at bats are clutch ex post facto. If nobody thought those plate appearances were crucial at the time, it's hard to make the case that Rodriguez crumbled under the pressure.

Rodriguez then went 1 for 4 in Game 6, which while not great, seems highly forgiveable, given his track record to that point. Finally A-Rod went 0 for 4 in Game 7. Not good. But what if you found out the Red Sox won 10-3 and were leading 6-0, by Rodriguez's second at bat. Had he hit 4 home runs, they still would have lost the game. In fact, if he hit a solo homer and a 2 run dinger in said game, they would probably remembered as "more meaningless A-Rod home runs".

This is where he first develops his reputation as a choke artist? In a post season in which he bats .320, with 3 HRs, 11 Rs, 8 RBI in 11 games. Absolutely ridiculous!

I can't defend the 3 for 29, Rodriguez has put up in the past two post seasons. But these things happen, even to great players. He has shown that he is capable of being brilliant in the playoffs before and he will again. Perhaps the only thing stopping him is the utter lack of support from his home fans. After hitting like Paste in Bases Loaded for 8 playoffs games, A-Rod was treated like a bumbling Fredo figure, dropping the revolver and letting the Yankees' World Series hopes get shot to shit in the last three. He must feel that he has to be super-human to please Yankees' fans. That can't be a good thing to have in your head, as you step to the plate in a big spot.

(Check to verify all stats)

No comments: