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October 10, 2006

Final Tally On A-Rod In The Clutch This Year

Back in June of this year, I looked at how Alex Rodriguez was batting in what I consider a clutch situation - when the Yankees were losing by 2 runs or less.

Yesterday, WasWatching.com reader "redbug" asked me - in a comment to something written here - to update that study. Thanks to the Day By Day Database at Baseball Musings, here's the final 2006 numbers for A-Rod, as well as how he did in this view during 2004 and 2005:

ARodScoreDown.jpg

As you can see from the data, during 2004 and 2005, when the Yankees needed the "big hit" from Alex Rodriguez in a game situation where they were trailing by 1 or 2 runs, A-Rod came through for New York. Actually, it's funny - while Alex was great at this during his MVP year in New York (2005), he was even better at it during his first season in the Bronx (2004).

But, as was the case when I looked at this back in June, this season, A-Rod was terrible for the Yankees when batting in a game where the Yankees were down by a run or two. In these spots, he batted .209 with very little power.

What's interesting here is the At Bat totals for each season - they're very consistent. This means that A-Rod had the same amount of chances - in this type of situation - each year that he's been in New York.

Of course, the main question here is: What happens if Alex plays for the Yankees in 2007? Does he return to his great form in these situations or does he maintain his lack of performance when the chips are down? Related, what caused the slide in 2006 in the first place?

One theory is that Sheffield and Matsui took some of the pressure off A-Rod in 2004 and 2005 - and once they went down in 2006, and the heavy lifting on the Yankees was left to A-Rod and Giambi, Alex caved.

That's just a theory - but, it's very possible.

Sheffield should be gone from the Yankees in 2007. But, Bobby Abreu will be here next season for all 162 games (in Gary's place). Matsui will be back next year too.

Therefore, it would not shock me, if the Yankees keep A-Rod next season, to see Rodriguez "bounce back" as a batter in spots where the Yankees need him the most.

The only real question may be if the "drama" that came as a result of Alex's troubles in the clutch this year have done too much damage for the Yankees to keep him in 2007. A huge post-season for A-Rod this year would have gone a long way to make a return possible. As it is now, I think we'll be tracking how Alex does in 2007, down by two or less, for a team other than the Yankees.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at October 10, 2006 11:21 PM

Comments

I think the first thing he should do is to shorten his swing. I know I'm a broken record on this, but A-Rod has the longest swing I've ever seen in my life. He cannot hit an inside-high fastball. If you watch pitchers pitch to him this year, they went there constantly. If they ever threw something away, it was a mistake.

His swing seemed to get longer and longer and longer. He actually had this problem in his MVP year, too, but it got worse in '06.

I can't even remember how many times I saw him swing right through a fastball -- if it was 89 or 98.

Posted by: baileywalk [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 12:09 AM

Steve, what about with the score tied?

Posted by: 98Yanks [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 02:58 AM

Many thanks Steve for doing the research and posting this!

I'm surprised his '06 average moved up from .087 (from earler in the season when you orignally posted) to a little over .200. I guess he went on a real tear!

There's no question in my mind that the Yanks want/need to move Alex. I'm sure he wants out. The only question is will Cashman be able to get equal value in return. After the the drama yr Alex had, teams feel they have the upper hand in negotiations. Cashman will not give him away.

Posted by: redbug [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 06:35 AM

baileywalk,
I've noticed and commented on that long swing as well. Seems to me he gets in these stretches (most of the year in this case) where he reverts to what I'd call a Hollywood swing. Perfect in everyway... top hand extended gracefully skyward on the follow through with fingers pointing to the power alley, head majestically motionless, leg kick straight out of the chorus line.... but, oh yeah, nothing but air. I've had a chance to coach kids that were suffering from being over-coached. Their parents had spent boatloads of money on instructors, clinics, and camps. The kids had their mechanics down to the gnats rear-end, swing after swing after swing, rarely to the right outcome. They were so focused on the swing details, that they'd lost concentration on the ball. I had to work hard to deconstruct this overly mechanical approach to get them to be more relaxed, loose in the hands and hips, and work on just attacking the ball. From what I saw with the kids it was as much a head problem as a technique problem. They'd lost the idea that hitting was fun and turned it into work. They were wringing their hands over their next plate appearance (praying for a walk, or in one case, to be hit by a pitch) instead of running to the bat rack when they knew they were due up in the inning.

I'm on firm ground up to this point.... now the leap in logic.... Alex suffered some real personal demons this year and that 16 year old psyche came bubbling out. I think this makes sense because his fielding tanked as well. Whatever his coaches did or didn't do, they were unable to get him on track and keep him there. Don't know if it is his failure or theirs. Kind of irrelevant. All that matters is how he responds next year and beyond. He needs a little more grip it and rip it swagger and less videotape analysis.

Posted by: #15 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 07:20 AM

From a true statiscal standpoint (standard deviation, normal distribution, etc), there isn't much difference between the 3 years. The difference between last year and this year comes down to 9 bad at bats or about 8% of the sample. If you look at RBI, which is really a more accurate indicator of production, ARod performed better this year than last when trailing by one or two runs. The drop from .297 to .209 certainly has more shock value though.

Posted by: christopher [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 08:03 AM

~~~Steve, what about with the score tied?~~~

I don't consider that to be a pressure situation. If you fail, the score is still tied - you've got nothing to lose.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 09:37 AM

~~~I'm surprised his '06 average moved up from .087 (from earler in the season when you orignally posted) to a little over .200. I guess he went on a real tear!~~~

Could be two things - the arrival of Abreu to take off pressure and the fact that the race was over in August.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 09:38 AM

~~~From a true statiscal standpoint (standard deviation, normal distribution, etc), there isn't much difference between the 3 years. The difference between last year and this year comes down to 9 bad at bats or about 8% of the sample. If you look at RBI, which is really a more accurate indicator of production, ARod performed better this year than last when trailing by one or two runs. The drop from .297 to .209 certainly has more shock value though.~~~

I'm sure that the standard deviation, normal distribution, etc., between getting Pam Anderson to give you a Christmas Card and getting Janet Reno to give you a Christmas Card would say there's not much difference between the two - but, in the real world the difference is huge. (And, yes, I'm talking about the kind of Christmas Card that Elaine gave George.)

As far as RBI, that's the worst thing to look at - because it's team dependent. Not making an out in these spots is more important than the RBI totals.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 09:44 AM

All the data show is that small sample sizes can vary widely and that, as the sample size increases, the data tend to approach the norm.

That's why A-Rod's BA is .299 and his SLG is .546 in your data, numbers which are almost exactly in line with his overall numbers as a Yankee: .299 BA and .549 SLG. That's also why Jason Giambi hits .344 one month and .158 another.

The fixation on A-Rod's "clutch hitting" (a chimera) seems to have more to do with certain Yankee fans' frustration over not making the World Series during his tenure than anything else.
I wish every Yankee player were so great that 35 HRs and 121 RBI were an off year.

Posted by: tfmarkviii [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 10:26 AM

One theory is that Sheffield and Matsui took some of the pressure off A-Rod in 2004 and 2005 - and once they went down in 2006, and the heavy lifting on the Yankees was left to A-Rod and Giambi, Alex caved.
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Could just be a statistical fluke.

I don't see where Sheffield or Matsui enter the picture; I don't remember them "protecting" ARod in the batting order. Besides, they were together in '05, and his BA dropped 112 pts.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 10:30 AM

The fixation on A-Rod's "clutch hitting" (a chimera) seems to have more to do with certain Yankee fans' frustration over not making the World Series during his tenure than anything else.
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A lot of it is fueled by the media. It has been like this all season. IMO, I think it started when he grounded into that DP last year in Anaheim.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 10:35 AM

tfmarkviii - if it's just about HR and RBI, then Joe Carter was a great player, right?

J/K.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 10:43 AM

//IMO, I think it started when he grounded into that DP last year in Anaheim.//

I think it started a little before that, with the MVP arguments at the end of the season last year. The pro-Papi people were using clutchiness as a reason to give him the award, while pointing out A-Rod's lack thereof. So when post-season comes around, everyone is fixated on the clutch stuff. Hence the "MVP, but..." headlines.

Posted by: Jen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 10:53 AM

Well, Obviously A-Rod has a lot more going for him than the 35 HRs and 121 RBIs. Joe Carter would have killed to have an OBA of .392. I didn't want to cite his whole statistical line but will do so next time for the sticklers on the board. :)

I'm not one of those who worries much about when something is done, just so that it's done. For example, the data cited by Mr. Lombardi didn't include situations in which the team trailed by three runs and Alex hit a 3-run homer to tie the game (not that that has necessarily happened, but it's the kind of significant event that would be left out of the "trailing by one or two runs" data).

Alex has averaged 40 HRs and roughly 120 RBI a year since he joined the Yankees and had a postseason OPS of .913 as a Yankee coming into the most recent series with the Tigers. Although I'm not happy with his performance against the Tigers (along with most of the rest of the team), I find little to complain about with him and am continually amazed by those who advocate trading him.

The Yankees didn't trade Mantle when he went 5-40 in the postseason in the early 60s, so why would you trade Alex for doing basically the same thing?

Posted by: tfmarkviii [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 11:47 AM

Probably because Mantle was loved by his teammates. (wink)

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 12:02 PM

I actually find the Mantle-Rodriguez comparison somewhat apt.

Although I'm not old enough to remember Mickey as a player, I've read that he was widely booed and always adjudged to be falling short of expectations since he was, as he put it, supposed to be "Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe Dimaggio all rolled into one." So nothing he ever did was enough until the early 60s, when he suddenly became beloved of the fans.

As with Mickey, the expectations for A-Rod seem ridiculous. I recall one fan claiming that A-Rod would be a "true Yankee" (whatever that is) when he hit a HR in the bottom of the 9th of the 7th game of the World Series with the Yankees trailing and 2 outs to win the World Series. That's something that has never been done and now A-Rod's supposed to do that to become a true Yankee?

Posted by: tfmarkviii [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 12:10 PM

I can't answer that. I don't know what a true Yankee is.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 01:05 PM

I can't answer that. I don't know what a true Yankee is.
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I'm stil trying to figure that out meself.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 01:59 PM

AROD fan here. I think that we should keep AROD... Damn I wish we could trade Giambi.

We should keep him because I have a gut feeling that his shortcomings are behind him. I see AROD having a MONSTER season next year. NO MATTER WHERE HE IS AT. Can you imagine how tuff the Angels lineup would be with Vlad and AROD. It would be sick, since you know for a FACT that he will definitely return to his monster hitting ways the minute he leaves NY.

Posted by: rmd0311 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 11, 2006 03:15 PM