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April 11, 2007

A-Rod's Abreu Myth

From Peter Abraham -

Over the course of his five plate appearances against the Minnesota Twins on Monday night, Bobby Abreu saw 24 pitches.

Standing a few yards away in the on-deck circle, Alex Rodriguez watched every one intently.

"You get to see 30 pitches a night before you get to hit. There's a great residual there that's incredible," Rodriguez said. "It's like having an at-bat before your at-bat."

The third baseman was hitting .280 with a .499 slugging percentage last season before Abreu was inserted into the lineup. In his 218 at-bats since, Rodriguez is hitting .317 with a .628 slugging percentage.

Abreu has a .422 on-base percentage since he joined the Yankees and has drawn 37 walks in 64 games. Having an ultra-patient hitter ahead of him has helped Rodriguez get better pitches.

"Oh, yeah. One hundred percent," he said on Monday night. "Him being lefty and me being a righty, it's a great combination."

Nice story. But, it's not true. See the following:

PPABeforeARod.JPG

Alex saw more pitches in the on-deck circle last year when he batted behind Giambi. And, Alex saw more pitches in the on-deck circle when he batted behind Sheffield in 2005. (Also, Rodriguez saw just about as many when he hit behind Jeter or Matsui in 2005.) Lastly, in 2004, A-Rod saw the guy in front of him use about just as many P/PA as Abreu is doing now.

I'm happy that A-Rod is doing so well. And, I'm happy that Bobby Abreu is playing on the Yankees this season. But, to say that Abreu is the reason for A-Rod doing well, because of all the pitches that he uses per Plate Appearance, makes no sense - based on the numbers shown here.

Maybe there's another reason why Alex is doing so well, so far, this season?

Posted by Steve Lombardi at April 11, 2007 03:33 PM

Comments

Nice story. But, it's not true.
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Usually the case with things like these...

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 03:57 PM

It's really hard to believe you like and root for A-Rod when you're basically insinuating that he wasn't trying in prior years.

Posted by: JJay [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 03:57 PM

This is where you ruin it for me, I like the nice colorful chart, you make your point and then you have to throw in the last line.

~~~Maybe there's another reason why Alex is doing so well, so far, this season?~~~

Implying he's doing this only for the money he could potentially see if he opts out. When is enough finally enough already?

We all get on ARod for being too analytical and scripting so much of what he says, we constantly try and think there's a double meaning to everything he does. Why is that? Is he that evil a person that there's always a hidden agenda with the guy?

If yes, then why even root for him?

If the Yanks win the world series and he opts out because all he ever cared about was getting more money, then I could care less. It is a business first, a game second.

Posted by: Garcia [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 04:25 PM

Steve, nice work on the chart. Great points. You used logic and statistics to prove your case. And you ruin it all with yet another petty, cheap shot at Alex Rodriguez. Can you give it a rest already? I agree with JJay that "It's really hard to believe you like and root for A-Rod when you're basically insinuating that he wasn't trying in prior years."

Posted by: nokidding [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 04:27 PM

Hey, forgive me for being the first guy to suggest "contract drive" for A-Rod if he hits 50+ HRs this season. But, trust me, I won't be the last, if he does end up having a monster season.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 04:49 PM

(long time reader, first time commenter...I hate commenting on blogs, but my curiosity compelled this lone comment)

Is there any way to tell how many times a pitcher was changed after facing Giambi but before A-Rod last year? I feel as if Giambi faced many lefty specialists last year who were taken out prior to facing A-Rod, while Abreu has not seen much so far this year. A discrepenancy of this sort could amount to better a "seeing" of a pitcher right now than last year.

re situations where there is no pitcher change: in light of Giambi's penchant to hitting to the right side and the general defenseive right-side shift that is put on him, could this qualitatively create a difference in the types and location of pitches Giambi faces from Pitcher X than A-Rod receives from Pitcher X? Perhaps Abreu and A-Rod are more similar in their batting disposition than Giambi and A-Rod...

Sorry for the stream of consciousness.

Posted by: sanair [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 04:51 PM

"Hey, forgive me for being the first guy to suggest "contract drive" for A-Rod if he hits 50+ HRs this season. But, trust me, I won't be the last, if he does end up having a monster season."

Do you think if he hits 50+ homers (I personally don't think he'll hit that many) it's only because of a contract drive?

If he doesn't hit 50 homers what would be the reason he failed to reach that number?

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 05:28 PM

Seriously, I thought the main criticism of A-Rod about his play was that he was overly analytical and worked too hard at being perfect on the field. He's been accused of being mentally weak, but no one until today has questioned his work ethic. I guess Baseball Prospectus did a study that proved the contract year push exists, but, in this case, it seems pretty misguided to generally apply the idea.

Posted by: Nick from Washington Heights [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 06:23 PM

And remember, this is 10 days. 10 VERY HOT days, but 10 days that happen to come at a very visible part of the season.

If this streak happened mid-July the focus wouldn't be as glaring and even the press and bloggers wouldn't be looking deeply for Arod's "meaning of life and why the Universe works this way". Sometimes a hot streak is just a hot streak.

Posted by: RICH [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 08:06 PM

Yup, that must be it Steve. He basically just decided to take last year off despite all the crap he took. I gues that's the reason he took '04 off too -- oh, wait he won the MVP that year. Alex doesn't have any pride or hard work ethic at all. He could not just have had a bad three month stretch and pressed too hard because of injuries to Sheff & Matsui.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 08:19 PM

Did he take off last year? Did I say that?

Actually, I'm starting to think that, coming off a great 2005, he allowed his conditioning to slide a bit in 2006. Maybe that was it? Maybe? Hey, he DID feel the need to lose 12 pounds coming into this year. Coincidence that he decided to get lean and quicker in a walk year? Sure, that's possible, right? But, it's also possible that it's not.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2007 11:20 PM

If I remember correctly, he "bulked up" last offseason and put on a lot of muscle, which in my opinion handcuffed his swing to an extent. This off-season he rectified that and slimmed down.

I think it's a tad ridiculous to simplify a guy's performance (so far) as being in large part a contract drive. 99% of the reason these guys make it as far as they do is because of their drive and the effort they put in, along with the natural talent, and I suppose there comes a time when you might slack a bit and an expiring contract will wake you up. But overall I think it has very little to do with anything. More likely, A-Rod knew he had somewhat of a down year and wants to rectify it, and he wants that Series ring to boot.

Posted by: JeremyM [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 12:00 AM

Jeremy's right. He bulked up because he thought he could (or should?) be a bit bigger playing a corner infield position. It was mostly muscle, but it limited his mobility both at the plate and on the field. I highly doubt that he lost weight so he could get a better date to the prom next year.

Posted by: Jen [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 12:30 AM

Steve, you are definitely implying that he's playing harder --giving 100%-- this year (to get more money) which is the flip side of saying he didn't last year -- only giving 90%.

Or are you just looking to have more comment?

JeremyM has it right.

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 08:36 AM

A-Rod bulked up because he felt like he needed more muscle? Huh? The guy hit 48 HRs playing 1/2 his games in the grand canyon in 2005. Why would he feel like he needed more muscle the next year? That makes no sense.

~~Steve, you are definitely implying that he's playing harder --giving 100%-- this year (to get more money) which is the flip side of saying he didn't last year -- only giving 90%.~~~

Maybe it was 95% last year and 110% this year. Would that be possible?

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 09:53 AM

First off, it is impossible to give 110%, I hate that cliche. And I did not see A-Rod slack off at all last year -- did he not run out pop flies, were there reports of him shirking workouts, did he not get to balls hit to him, did it look like he just went up to the plate and waived his bat three times just so he could go back and sit down? Don't other great players also have slumps and off years?

Seriously, what do you have against A-Rod?

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 10:05 AM

A-Rod bulked up because he felt like he needed more muscle? Huh? The guy hit 48 HRs playing 1/2 his games in the grand canyon in 2005. Why would he feel like he needed more muscle the next year? That makes no sense.
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Of course it makes sense. If he "hit 48 HRs playing 1/2 his games in the grand canyon in 2005" imagine how much more HRs he would've hit if he "added muscle"

Granted, it's a logical fallacy (correlation does not equal causation), but it's the way people think. You see it in Abraham's article :)

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 10:12 AM

Steve, you are exasperating. You are suggesting that A-Rod has been slacking in the past and is trying especially hard this year because he's in his option year.

1) He won the MVP 2 years ago and had a mediocre by his insane standards year last year. It's not like he pulled an Adrian Beltre.

2) It's funny because a lot of armchair shrinks have suggested the reason he struggled last year was because he was TRYING TOO HARD.

So basically, you don't like A-Rod, just come clean about it. At least Abraham admits he doesn't like the dude. It's still infantile but at least it's above-board.

Posted by: SteveB [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 11:02 AM

~~~Steve, you are exasperating. You are suggesting that A-Rod has been slacking in the past and is trying especially hard this year because he's in his option year. ~~~

Did I say he slacked in the past? Really? What I am saying is that, *maybe* he's trying *more* this season - see the weight loss - because of his option. That does *not* imply that he slacked in the past. It just means that *maybe* he's trying *harder* this season because it's a leverage point for him. Studies have proven that guys have turned it on in a walk year, FWIW.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 11:54 AM

But Steve- isn't the whole "contract year surge" story the same thing? Nice story, but.... the evidence is inconclusive at best. Players do not play better in their contract years. To insinuate that a player is performing better because his effort is greater suggests that willpower alone makes baseballs fly over fences. Why wouldn't he "try" last season, when his elite numbers were somewhat depressed in "close and late" situations? Did he want the Yankees to lose?

A much more rational explanation for Rodriguez's hot start is the fact that the homers he's hitting came from the hands of Juan Silas (career ERA: 6.80), Steve Traschel, Chris Ray, Erick Bedard, Boof Bonser, and Sydney freaking Ponson.

Posted by: mehmattski [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 03:31 PM

~~~Players do not play better in their contract years.~~~

See: http://www.netshrine.com/baseball_between_numbers_prospectus.html

and

http://www.rotoauthority.com/2007/03/contract_year_p.html

they do play better.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 04:32 PM

here's more:

http://fantasybaseball.usatoday.com/content/column.asp?sport=MLB&column=92&articleid=27806

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 04:34 PM

~~~A much more rational explanation for Rodriguez's hot start is the fact that the homers he's hitting came from the hands of Juan Silas (career ERA: 6.80), Steve Traschel, Chris Ray, Erick Bedard, Boof Bonser, and Sydney freaking Ponson. ~~~

FWIW, I could buy that too.

Posted by: Steve Lombardi [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2007 04:36 PM

Thanks for the links, Steve

Posted by: Raf [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2007 10:27 AM