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August 14, 2005

A-Rod Vs. Sheffield

From The News:

On the Yankees, for instance, Alex Rodriguez entered the weekend with 10 more homers than Gary Sheffield, but only three more RBI.

What allows Sheffield to close the RBI gap is his performance with runners in scoring position. He entered the weekend leading the majors with a .400 RISP average (44-for-110), picking up 66 of his 87 RBI. Rodriguez, in 21 more RISP at-bats, has 13 fewer RBI because of his .260 average. Of the 25 American League players with the most RISP at-bats this season, only Eric Chavez has a lower average than Rodriguez.

Rodriguez's 1,519 career RISP at-bats, just like Sheffield's 1,956, are probably a better indicator — and both sets of lifetime stats are those of superior hitters who take advantage of their RBI opportunities. But only one of them has maintained that level of performance while dealing with the pressure of playing in the Bronx.

I have less of an issue this season with A-Rod being "clutch" than last year. Why? Because he's launching bombs at a good pace - and, because of his placement in the Yankees line-up.

I think back to 1977-78. The Yankees had Munson batting third, Reggie fourth, and Chambliss fifth - or, at least, if memory serves correct, this is how they batted most of the time. I'm pretty sure this is the way that Billy Martin set them up. And, the logic was: Munson was the best clutch hitter but not the big bopper (because Yankee Stadium worked against him) so he hit third. Reggie would whiff a lot (for that time) but he was the one who could break a game open with one swing - thus, he batted clean-up. And, Chambliss was the security blanket in case Reggie failed. Chris had some power - but was also a contact hitter who would put the ball in play when runners were on base. This is why Chambliss batted fifth.

And, this season, Sheffield = Munson, A-Rod = Reggie, and Matsui = Chambliss......so, it's all in the same sound formula. Therefore, who cares if Alex whiffs sometimes with runners on? His job, in this line-up, is to try and deliver the death-blow. I see no need to get on him for doing his job.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at August 14, 2005 09:34 PM


A-Rod has been sensational this year. He's hitting for power and getting on base at an amazing clip, and he's doing this at Yankee Stadium, a pitcher's park for right-handed batters if there ever were one. And after a few miscues early in the year, his fielding has been excellent: great range and a powerful arm. He potentially saved the game Saturday, and definitely did when the Yankees were about to blow that 3-run lead in Boston earlier in the year starting the 5-2-3 DP.

Articles like this will continue to haunt him so long as he's 1) the highest paying player in the game and 2) hasn't won the WS. I'm getting sick of it, and he's rapidly becoming my favorite player on the team.

Posted by: Paul in Boston at August 15, 2005 07:02 AM

I agree with you Steve. Enough already with this A-Rod-in-the-clutch stuff. He is having a terrific year. By the way, did the Daily News article touch on how great A-Rod has been at third compared to Sheff's problems in right field?

Posted by: Joel at August 15, 2005 08:19 AM

I love Sheff but there's no doubt that A-Rod is having the better year. In fact, since I am 27, it probably is the best season by a Yank that I have ever seen. I have vague recollections of Mattingly's 1985(?) campaign and a couple of Winfield seasons, but I have to say that this is shaping up to be the best individual season in at least 15 years. Am I wrong?

Posted by: Nick at August 15, 2005 09:11 AM

Good question Nick.
Let me look at that.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi at August 15, 2005 09:38 AM