Tuesday, October 9, 2012

As The A-Rod Turns (And Walks Back To The Dugout Frowning After Striking Out)

(#Failboat.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

I ended my last A-Rod post with the following statement:

“Maybe the best move to start is to see how the opposing team approaches A-Rod and hope that he finds his power swing. If he doesn’t, though, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and bump him down.”

4 days and 2 ALDS games have passed since then, and in case you hadn’t noticed, Alex Rodriguez is still swinging a limp, lifeless bat. It’s not quite “dogs and cats living together” levels of hysteria in Yankeeland over this situation, but the overwhelming majority of people out there think it’s time for A-Rod to be removed from the 3rd spot in the batting order, and I’m becoming more and more inclined to agree with them. As Mike Eder pointed out earlier today, playoff performance and statistics always need to be looked at in the proper context, that context being one of constant small sample size and lack of reasonable conclusions that can be drawn for them.

Keeping that in mind, it’s certainly overkill to say that A-Rod sucks based solely on his production in the first 2 games of this series. But expanding that sample size scope beyond just the ALDS, it’s clear that those numbers have not just been an isolated SSS fluke, but rather a continuation of a trend that started the day Rodriguez came off the DL.

Let me put it this way. If you didn’t know the name of the player attached to the following statistics:

  • 1-9 w/ 5 K and LOB in his last 2 games
  • 8-38 w/ 12 K in his last 10 games
  • Just 2 XBH, 9 RBI (only 1 since 9/19), and 26 K in his last 20 games
  • Just a .261/.341/.369 tripleslash in 129 PA since 9/3 (first day off the DL)

Would you want that player hitting 3rd for your team in a playoff series?  If you answered yes to that, then you’re probably a fan of the Houston Astros.  Anyway you cut it, that is lackluster offensive production and it’s the production of Alex Rodriguez over the last month plus.

Beyond just the big picture numbers, the eye test in the division series so far isn’t doing A-Rod any favors either. He has hit just 1 legitimate ball out of the infield in the first 2 games of this series, not counting his GB single through the left side in Game 2 because I don’t count GB singles. He has swung and missed at 10 strikes, 6 of them fastballs. In his 9th-inning at-bat against Jim Johnson on Monday night, Johnson threw Rodriguez 7 straight fastballs and of the 4 Rodriguez swung at he only made contact with 1. Now to be fair, that’s Jim Johnson’s game and he’s been damn good at it all season, but it still doesn’t change the fact that these types of results from A-Rod in the 3-spot are not contributing to positive offensive output in any way and are not just isolated 1-AB, 1-game, or even 1-week incidents.

The plain truth is that Alex Rodriguez is an anchor on the offense right now. Jeter and Ichiro are doing some things ahead of him and creating scoring opportunities and he’s doing nothing to help advance those opportunities or cash in on them. Even the one ball that was well struck off his bat in Game 2 turned into a rally-killing double play and completely changed the way Chen went about pitching to Robinson Cano. Whether it’s because he’s hurt, old, tired, unlucky, or out of sync mechanically doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that Rodriguez still isn’t bringing anything to the table offensively despite the litany of chances being granted to him by hitting behind 2 productive on-base guys and ahead of the most dangerous hitter in the series. Opposing pitchers aren’t afraid of him, they’re going right at him, and they’re getting him out with ease.

Mike E. cautioned against jumping on the “A-Rod sucks” bandwagon after just 2 games, and reminded all of us that A-Rod’s career postseason numbers are in direct contrast with that sentiment, and that’s all well and good. But looking at his recent numbers, it’s clear that resting on his history is a risky approach to take as well. In fairness again, there are other guys in the lineup who haven’t done anything through the first 2 games either, but the situation is becoming increasingly dire for Rodriguez and the Yankees with each passing game. We’re still waiting, we’re still seeing, and we’re still hoping for something good from A-Rod, and Joe clearly is as well. But the time for Joe to stop doing all of those things and act is drawing closer.

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