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July 20, 2006

A Pressing Sign?

I was just looking at the career strikeout rates for Alex Rodriguez:


This is interesting. In Seattle, as well as in Texas, A-Rod whiffed once every five At Bats - it's clear. In New York, Rodriguez is striking out at a higher frequency.

If you throw out the two cups of coffee that Alex had when he was 18 and 19, three of the four worst years in his career, in terms of whiffing, have come in New York. (And, for what it's worth, the one non-Yankees year in the top four was the season prior to becoming a Free Agent in Seattle.)

A bad sign is the AB/SO trend line in New York for A-Rod:

2006: 4.26
2005: 4.35
2004: 4.59

This is trending in the wrong direction.

What does this all mean? I think it's sign that Alex Rodriguez is not comfortable in New York. When someone with the talent level of A-Rod starts striking out more often it's usually because they are thinking too much and/or pressing.

Of course, there are studies out there that say a strikeout is no big deal - it's just another form of an out and it hurts the team no more than a pop-up or a fly-out, etc.

But, in the case of Alex Rodriguez in New York, I think strikeouts matter. The casual fan sees a strikeout as the ultimate failure. Even Joe Average Fan knows that, when a ball is in play, anything can happen on a batted ball and it's hard to get on a hitters case if the outcome is not favorable.

Maybe this mindset thing all goes back to "The Mighty Casey" striking out?

It just seems to me that making better contact could make A-Rod's life in New York a little easier - in terms of the fan reaction.

If Rodriguez is going to whiff once every four At Bats, then it's a lock that the fans will have one chance a game to boo him (for "failing").

Less strikeouts mean less booing - and less booing could mean less pressing - which should mean less strikeouts.

But, more strikeouts mean more booing - and more booing could mean more pressing - which should mean more strikeouts.

It's either a great circle or a nasty one - depending on the strikeout rate.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at July 20, 2006 11:37 AM


Honestly, I think he's striking out more because the hole in his swing is more obvious than ever. A-Rod can't hit anything above his belt and the league knows it and if a pitcher can hit his spot, he throws the fastball high and A-Rod swings right through it. If you were to compile A-Rod's strikeouts I could almost guarantee that 80 percent of them came on something upstairs. His swing is really, really long and slow. If he extends his arms, he can hit the ball a mile. But if it's up with a little something on it, he can't get around.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 12:07 PM

maybe his skill set is in decline? It's a good point about striking out and getting booed though, and I wonder if Mattingly and A-Rod have ever considered shortening his swing with 2 strikes.

Posted by: Nick from Washington Heights [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 12:19 PM

Not bad, only 2 of your last 7 and 3 of your 11 posts are about Alex Rodriguez.

He must be weighing on your mind lately.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 01:02 PM

Wow, those trends are horrendous. Let me know if I'm calculating this correctly:

If he had 600 at bats at a 4.59 AB/K he would have 131 strikeouts.

At this year's rate of 4.26 over 600 at bats it would be 141 strikeouts.

10 more strikeouts over 600 at bats? Is my math wrong?

No doubt about it. It's a sign he's not comfortable in NY.

By the way, if he just made contact I don't think that would be satisfactory to detractors.

I hope he gets hurt so the Yankee fans don't need to put up with such low quality baseball.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 01:19 PM

Rich, use 5.0 and 4.4 - those are the right rates.

That's the difference between 120 and 136 on the season. Sure, that seems like it's just 16 and "what's the big deal"?

But, it's 16 more whiffs lodged in the minds of the fans.

As far as my A-Rod posting frequency, gee, what do you want me to post about these days? Give me some ideas. What would you like to see here?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 01:28 PM

I like the stories about the lesser-known guys. I'm all A-Rodded out. Last year I was Stottlemyre-d out. I wouldn't have responded to the strikeout rates note if it was at the revised rates rather than the ones you gave at first.

The Guiel and Ramirez notes were interesting since I know little/nothing about them.

The notes I don't like are the ones that give me the impression that every single game is gotterdammerung. I know (look at last year) that one game can make the difference in the final standings but it's a long, long, season and so many negative takes about a team that is doing well is numbing to me.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 02:56 PM

Hysteria aside, bailey brings up a very good point. ARod's swing is really long and he can't get extension on anything middle in and up. Even Paul Byrd was getting in his kitchen this season. Either Mattingly works that loop out of his swing or ARod's going to have to dedicate himself to attacking the outer half of the plate. He's not going to get decent pitches to hit until he shows opposing pitchers he's not trying to pull everything like Sheff. George should think about hiring Piniella as a batting consultant just for Alex. I'm not worried about Donnie's ego. Should we be?

Posted by: JohnnyC [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 02:58 PM

JohnnyC, not disagreeing but posing the question: what's Donnie on staff for if he can't correct the problem himself? Isn't that what hitting coaches are for?

I've long felt that the Yankee coaches of recent vintage (Mel, Donnie, Gator, Chambliss, Lee Maz) were just guys with "names" that Steinbrenner felt comfortable with. I have no idea if that's true or not but I'm just wondering why we'd need to hire a special consultant when one of the best hitters of his generation is sitting right there...

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 04:29 PM

"As far as my A-Rod posting frequency, gee, what do you want me to post about these days? Give me some ideas. What would you like to see here?"

For starters, knock it off with the passive-aggressive fiddle-dee-dee "I'm really a big fan of Alex" phoniness. Nobody's buying it.

Posted by: nokidding [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 07:19 PM

Blog what you want Steve. Even when I disagree with you, you make good points and I come back.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 20, 2006 07:59 PM

nokidding - check my posts on A-Rod last year, or, better yet, look at this newspaper write-up on me from last year:


that 16x20 hanging on the wall behind me, on my right, is of A-Rod. (I should take a better picture of that for ya'll soon.) The picture has been there for over 6 years. I've been a big A-Rod fan for a long time.

rbj - thanks. That's music to my ears.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2006 10:00 AM