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February 12, 2007

Reasons To Expect A-Rod To Do Better This Year

Diane Firstman of Diamonds are for Humor took a look at Alex Rodriguez' "clutchness" the other day - in the following manner:

I took the players who amassed a minimum of 500 PAs with 2 outs and runners in scoring position since the beginning of the 2000 season (44 names), and compared their average to all other situations. I expressed the difference between the two averages not in terms of raw b.a. difference (.300 - .250 = .050), but in terms of one's percentage of the others (.300/.250 = +20%). This allows for a fairer baseline comparison of who boosts their individual baseline performance in clutch situations.

Of course, the only problem with this approach is that it ignores the score of the game when the player is batting with 2 outs and runners in scoring position. The score could be 1-0 or 22-0 and this type of look treats those situations as being the same.

Over at Baseball-Reference.com, they now show a batter's performance in "Late & Close" situations - meaning PA in the 7th or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run at least on deck.

If you look at the stats for A-Rod last year, you'll see that he batted .312/.495/.475 (in 109 PA) during 2006 with "2 outs, RISP" - however, in "Late & Close" situations he batted .237/.326/.368 (in 89 PA). Note the huge drop in production for Alex when batting with the game on the line (last year).

It's significant to note that, in 2005, A-Rod's numbers in "2 outs, RISP" and "Late & Close" were near copies of each other - with great marks in each category. And, in 2004, it was the opposite of 2006 - with Alex doing OK in "Late & Close" but batting nearly .200 in "2 outs, RISP" situations.

How about 2003? A-Rod was very good in both spots. And 2002? Again, if you use OPS and ignore BA, he was very good in both spots. Ditto 2001 as well.

I would be more than willing to throw out the numbers for "2 outs, RISP" in 2004 here - as it really was a low number of PA in that situation for Alex. And, besides, "2 outs, RISP" tells us nothing about being "clutch."

And, in summary, I would offer that Alex Rodriguez' "clutchness" has been fine since 2001 based on "Late & Close" stats - with the lone exception of 2006 (where it was extremely poor).

Were the 2006 "Late & Close" stats for A-Rod just a blip on the radar? Or, was it something more serious? This is where the scouts and stats start to bang heads.

The stats-crowd will tell you that it's just a blip - when you see something good for five years in a row and then it dips all of a sudden in the sixth year. It's a fluke.

The scouts will tell you that A-Rod started pressing this season - for perhaps the first time in his career - when the Yankees lost Matsui and Sheffield and then it all snow-balled downhill for him from there. And, if he pressed once, he could press again.

Here's the good news for Yankees fans: A-Rod will have great hitters in front of, and behind, him this season - so, there should be no need to press. And, if you're more into the stats than the scouts approach, the probability for a rebound here is good - based on the trend line.

So, no matter what you value, there's good reason to expect A-Rod to be "clutch" in 2007. Of course, now, he just has to go do it.

Personally, I think he'll be much better in "Late & Close" stats this season. Shoot, it's going to be very hard to be worse, right?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at February 12, 2007 10:51 PM

Comments

Just for those keeping score at home....

"This" plus
http://www.waswatching.com/archives/2007/01/last_3_post-sea.html

is two entries in the last 3 weeks that have been "Get off A-Rod's case" items penned by me.

Just make sure I get credit for these, huh?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 12, 2007 11:43 PM

Now for something completely off topic, have you heard Mariano Rivera making like Gary Sheffield?

"I definitely want to finish my career here," Rivera told reporters at the Yankees' minor league facility. "But if they don't give me the respect I deserve, I'll have to move on."

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 07:59 AM

Mo's not going anywhere. The Yankees know what the fan reaction would be if they allowed that to happen.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 09:59 AM

Thanks for the mention of my (admittedly) quick and dirty analysis.

Glad it could provide a springboard for further analysis/discussion.

Posted by: dianagram [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 10:35 AM

I don't think he's going anywhere either, I just found his mouthing off odd, and somewhat out of character.

I don't know how fan reaction plays into it, if at all; if that were the case, Rodriguez would've been traded last season.

As for the original topic, I wouldn't sweat it too much; it's a fluke from a stats angle. As for the scouting angle, it implies that he's pressing because he has nobody in the order to protect him. As has been shown before, protection in the batting order is nonexistent.

Besides, looking here
http://tinyurl.com/34o59r

Rodriguez was bookended (is that even a word?) by some combination of Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, or Matsui; quality hitters, IMO. There was no need or reason to press.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 10:46 AM

~~~Thanks for the mention of my (admittedly) quick and dirty analysis. Glad it could provide a springboard for further analysis/discussion.~~~

It was a pleasure. Keep up the good work at your blog!


Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 10:50 AM

~~~Rodriguez was bookended (is that even a word?) by some combination of Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, or Matsui; quality hitters, IMO. There was no need or reason to press.~~~

Funny, I thought Sheff and Matsui missed most of last year.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 10:52 AM

Funny, I thought Sheff and Matsui missed most of last year.
=============
Yeah, they did. But Giambi and Posada didn't.

Regardless, with ML quality hitters surrounding him, there was no need for him to "press." It's not as if it were Rodriguez surrounded by 8 banjo hitters in the lineup.

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 11:13 AM

Anxiety rarely needs a logical cause to happen Raf.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 11:18 AM

Anxiety rarely needs a logical cause to happen Raf.
============
I will admit that I know very little about psychology, but I would think that there would be something that "triggers" these anxious moments.

With regards to Rodriguez, I would also think that this "anxiety" would spill over to other aspects of his life, if not his game.

Having said that, correlation does not imply causation

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2007 11:42 AM

Nice post, Steve. I've always said Alex was having a down year last year -- due partly to pressing & partly to not having enough good bats around him. Those aren't reasons to dog him though, or want to trade him. He'll bounce back and have a good year.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 14, 2007 10:56 AM