Oct
06

Time for A-Rod to turn around playoff slump

By

The past three postseasons have been rough on Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees haven’t won a series and Alex, their best hitter, hasn’t contributed much. It’s a recipe for press disaster. Take a player who puts up gaudy numbers, combine it with a little postseason failure, and in just a few short seasons you have a half-baked “he can’t hit in the postseason” narrative. It’s one that will haunt Alex Rodriguez until he earns a ring.

The narrative is, in some ways, helpful. It’s helpful, for instance, to the enraged fan who needs a scapegoat. The Yankees fielded good teams from 2005 through 2007, enough to win the division twice and the Wild Card in the other (a season in which they had the best second-half record in baseball). But when the calendar flipped to October, the Yankees faltered, and A-Rod was at the center of it.

The 2005 season was a strange one. The Yankees had infamously started 11-19, but thanks to a Tino Martinez home run tear and some lucky pitching maneuvers, the Yankees rallied back to win the AL East on the season’s penultimate day. Their first round opponents that year were the Anaheim Angels, the team that knocked them out of the 2002 playoffs in just four games.

Alex strode to the plate 23 times, but collected only two hits, as many as Bubba Crosby. He did draw six walks, but after a first round exit that’s no consolation to the grieving, possibly perturbed, fan. The further we get from the series, the easier it is to reflect and say: You know what? Alex made as many outs that series as Derek Jeter (15). Yes, Jeter hit two homers and recorded seven hits to one walk — he clearly had the better series. The point is that it wasn’t all bad for Alex, though at the time all blame came back to him*.

* And Randy Johnson, and Gary Sheffield or Bubba Crosby…

It didn’t seem possible, but things were actually worse in 2006. The powerhouse Yankees offense, in which Robinson Cano batted ninth, annihilated the Detroit Tigers in Game 1, The slaughter came in the third inning, when the first six Yankees reached safely. Jason Giambi, the fifth, hit a two-run homer to make the score 5-0. Alex followed with a single. It would be his only hit of the series. The only other time he reached was when he was hit by a pitch. The saga ended when Joe Torre penciled him into the eight spot in the lineup, ahead of only Melky Cabrera.

It wasn’t always this way for A-Rod. He started off his postseason career well enough, going 9 for 29 in his first two series (1997 and 2000 ALDS). Then he broke out in the 2000 ALCS against the Yankees. he went 9 for 22 with two homers and two doubles, a standout, along with John Olerud, among a mostly stagnant Mariners offense. Even the great Edgar Martinez was held in check that series. Alex did all he could, but when guys like David Bell (4 for 18) and Mike Cameron (2 for 18) are getting plenty of at bats, it just isn’t enough.

A trip to Texas cost Alex three years of playoff time, but when he returned to October with the Yankees in 2004, it was like he’d been practicing for that moment since 2000. He led the team with eight hits and three doubles, and struck out only once. Through the first three games of the 2004 ALCS he was 6 for 14 with two doubles and a homer. In Game 4 he launched a two-run homer in the third to give the Yanks an early lead. To that point, life as a Yankee in the postseason was going great for Alex Rodriguez.

He wouldn’t hit another homer until Game 4 of the 2007 ALDS, in the bottom of the seventh, with the Yankees already down 6-2 and eight outs from elimination. He hadn’t hit well to that point in the series, picking up just two hits in the first three games. After such a magnificent season, A-Rod had again struggled in the playoffs. Not as badly as in 2006, and not even as badly as in 2005. But the Yankees had lost, and A-Rod was nowhere to be found.

My father thinks that A-Rod’s defining moment as a Yankee came in the eighth inning of Game 5. Two innings prior Derek Jeter had doubled home three runs, giving the Yanks a 4-2 lead. Miguel Cairo led off the top of the eighth with a double, and Derek Jeter bunted him to third. Of all the possible results in that situation, A-Rod got the second worst: he struck out (lining into a double play would obviously be the worst). He didn’t even put the ball in play to give Cairo a chance to score. While I disagree that it was his defining moment, there’s no denying that he’s been in a massive postseason slump ever since.

Will 2009 be the year of A-Rod? Or will he again slump when it counts the most? We won’t know until this thing gets underway. The good news: we know that the people who say “he can’t hit in the playoffs” are wrong. He can, and he has. Lately, he hasn’t. I guess “he hasn’t hit in the playoffs lately” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “he can’t hit in the playoffs.”

Categories : Playoffs
  • ADam

    call me crazy… but I think Alex has a big big series against the tigers/twins…..

    • Free Mike Vick

      i will not call you crazy

    • DreDog

      I think a lot of people think this is his postseason. He’s got tough expectations. As long as the Yankees win it all, I’ll take any kind of outcome for A-Rod. Now if he had a .380/.460/.650, I would be ecstatic….as long as we win.

  • Salty Buggah

    A-rod line in the 2009 Postseason:

    .327/.450/.570 6 HRs, 7 2B, 19 RBIs, 16 Runs Scored, and 6/15 K/BB

    Hopefully

    • http://twitter.com/JamalG_BB Jamal G.

      This is just creepy.

      P.S. Did this remind anyone of the scene in Waterboy where Adam Sandler’s girlfriend predicted the final score to the Bowl Game was absolute certainty?

    • Free Mike Vick

      Great mother of god.

      /johnny chase’d

      but for real 6 HRs would be 2 shy of the record. and i’m pretty sure 19 RBI’s would be the record. Lets not get crazy now.

      • Salty Buggah

        Pfft, these are my lower prediction. If I went crazy, it would be .447/.532/.633 with 11 HRs, 10 2B, 29 RBI, 24 Runs Scored, 3/19 K/BB.

        • Bo

          Why not have him hit 1000 with 15 homers while ur at it?

          • pete

            don’t be ridiculous. nobody could do that

  • huuz

    please send this to steve lombardi…

    • whozat

      He won’t listen. ARod could have a great postseason this year, and he’ll still say “hey, if he’d done that in 2005, they’d have had another ring! The guy’s a choker, and always will be.”

    • Salty Buggah

      For shits and giggles, I wonder what he thought about Mike hyping Montero in the last post.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        I’m just a fanboy, trying to get by.

  • Thomas A. Anderson

    Do I think Alex has it in him to have a great postseason? Sure. Dude is too talented not to go berzerk eventually. Talent shines through if given a requsite number of ABs.

    Will he? I dunno. If I knew that, I’d bet the equivalent of my student loan payments in Vegas.

    It’s fun to speculate, I guess. The real issue is whether the pitching keeps teams in check to give the offense a chance to work. Cause if NY gets a lead, look the hell out.

    All I know is this: I root for Alex because of his intoxicating talent and of how great of a player he is. No matter how flawed of a person as he may have been. Cause in the end, we’re all greatly flawed in some way. I’ve kinda invested my Yankee fanhood in the last decade with him, and I’ll gladly do so no matter what.

    Here’s to hoping he goes berzerk in the playoffs and wins World Series MVP. Then he can ride off into the sunset with Kate Hudson in tow.

    • Salty Buggah

      “Here’s to hoping he goes berzerk in the playoffs and wins World Series MVP. Then he can ride off into the sunset with Kate Hudson in tow.”

      +Twenty-Seven, Veintisiete, Sat??, Suttaaees, Nijunana, Vingt-sept, XXVII, Siebenundzwanzig, Sab’a wa-’ishrun, etc.

      Though, I hope he comes back from that ride to mash again next year.

      • Salty Buggah

        Hmm, thats supposed to be Satai

    • Tom Zig

      Then he can ride off into the sunset with Kate Hudson in
      tow.

      Like Wade Boggs, but instead of a horse you mean…oh you didn’t mean that…never mind

  • Bob Stone

    A player with the talent that ARod possesses will get his share of production with enough plate appearances. Let’s hope that production is something we all get to enjoy this post season.

    The pressure seems to be off him this year. I think he’s going to put up big numbers. I’ll be pulling for him.

  • Dela G

    Man that headline had me fooled. I thought he and Cynthia were trying to become friends again…

    ;)

    • Salty Buggah

      heh

    • Bob Stone

      It is a strange headline.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      Upon further inspection, I’ve decided you’re right. New one’s not good, but less misleading.

      • Salty Buggah

        Not creative at all though

        Make it “Time for A-Rod to PWN in Playoffs again”

        or “Time for A-Rod to go Pussytubing again in the Playoffs”

        • Dela G

          I L-O-V-E LOVE the latter

    • Riddering

      Alright, seeing as I went to bed at a normal hour, someone’s got to tell me what the original title was.

      • andrew

        “A-Rod tries to rekindle old flame”
        or something to that effect

  • jim p

    I’d guess he’s going to do well. He’s seems more mature, his swings don’t look like he’s always trying to hit a homer, and overlooked, imo, his strike out to walk ratio is by far the best of his career–97/80 or 1.21/1 against a previous career of 1.73/1. That says he’s become much more selective about what he’s swinging at.

    He won’t psyche himself out this year, he’ll just try to get on base. And thus, succeed.

  • Frank Spin

    Fangraphs recently did an article talking about Arod in the postseason here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs.....-unclutch/

    They don’t deny the fact that he has been bad in the clutch over the last 4 series but the best part comes at the end when they compare him to Derek Jeter. Not surprising, they are not that different from each other. Jeter, himself, has not been that clutch.

    Listen, I get the fact that the guy is getting paid the most money in the league but you can’t crucify one man on a team of 9 whom collectively played horribly. Look at the stat lines for the whole team the last few years and you’ll find that everyone played below their expectations.

    • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

      Jeter’s played almost a full season in the playoffs, and his post season numbers are almost identical to his regular season numbers. BA, OBP, SLG, HR/AB. He’s no better, and no worse. Same could be said of Pettitte.

      • CountryClub

        Jeter’s greatest strength is that he’s the same player in almost any situation.

        • andrew

          Or. possibly, Jeter’s greatest strength is that as the sample size increases, the law of averages will play out and eliminate outliers and he will look like the same player in any situation because, well, like any other player, he is the same player in any situation.

          • pete

            ietcvvvvm

        • Chris

          That’s the case for almost every baseball player (once you get a large enough sample size).

  • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

    I’ve never had an issue with Alex’s numbers in the post season, because you can be hitting the ball hard and in bad luck, especially over a few games.

    The issue I’ve had with Alex is that his approach at the plate changes. You see he’s trying to do too much, swinging at pitches he shouldn’t swing at and trying to pull balls he should go the other way/stay up the middle with. Kevin Long has been working on this with him for years, but it became especially pronounced in the playoffs since the middle of the 04 Sox series, when the half the lineup was doing the same thing.

    But his approach has been great all year, best I’ve seen him since 07. So I’m expecting good things as long as he just keeps doing what he’s been doing.

    • Bo

      1 RBI in 16 games isn’t bad luck.

  • Ryan

    Funny, because he’s had a rather tumultuous personal life this year, but he seems to be doing a lot better in coming up with hits in clutch situations. But I think he’s got something going this year and will produce in the playoffs. Despite his playoff rep, I’d still rather have him on our team than anyone else’s.

    • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

      Even in the years where people thought he was bad in clutch situations, if you went and looked up the numbers they were usually much better than they seemed. He just drew SO much attention to himself that his failures seemed over sized, along with everything else.

      But Baseball is a game of failure, everyone (not named Mo) fails more than they succeed. So the best thing he’s done this year is keep a low profile. It lets people discover how good he is for themselves.

      • http://Youcan'tincreaseyourrange TLVP

        A-Rod always wanted to be perfect and i think this year he’s come to terms that he will never be perfect.

        I think the ambition to be perfect is what always rubbed people the wrong way. We all knew he had flaws and why wouldn’t he just accept and admit that he wasn’t perfect. I think getting busted for steriods was actually an important step for people to begin to like him.

        I also think that a lot of the Jeter haters out there have a similar problem, though not with Jeter himself but with his fans. So many fans seem to believe that Jeter is perfect and that rubs the rest of the baseball community the wrong way.

        I think A-Rod will be fine this post season, and if he isn’t i think it will be the run of teh luck, not him pressing

  • crapulent aka I said good day sir

    Arod is a changed man this season. I don’t know if it was the chance of not having a season, of putting the divorce behind him, of putting the steroid thing behind him, the influence of a calmer, more fun clubhouse, the influence of the off-season acquisitions (notably Tex and Swish), the comfort of playing for Joe Girardi, the comfort of playing with Kate Hudson. Perhaps all the above.

    For him to admit that he said to Hinske, “I might just get one…” with the bases loaded to reach 100 RBIs is totally un-Arod like. And to admit it and joke about it later…

    I like this version of Arod and wish him well. I think it’s time all the monkeys came off his back.

  • Mike Pop

    As long as he hits a homer right to me tomorrow in right field!

  • The Three Amigos

    I think that if you look at his numbers he has done better each postseason the last 3 times. I think he got the monkey off his back with a Home run in 07 late in the series… his first in a long while, even though we went on to lose.

    I always thought 2008 he would have dominated as his break out, but that got pushed back to this year. Combined with his new swagger and better eye this year I hope this is it for him.

  • http://twitter.com/hopjake Jake H

    I think now Alex can relax. The whole offense isn’t based around him.

  • Bo

    A-Rod will shed the choker label as soon as the starting pitching carries him and they win. He could hit a HR every at bat and it wouldnt matter if they lose.

  • Mike HC

    When ARod gets hot, he gets really hot. Like, “I know I’m watching this, but I’m still not sure I believe it, hot.” If he goes on one of those tears in the postseason this year, his overall numbers will even out, which will inevitably happen if he plays enough postseason games. I’m looking forward to the correction.

  • Guest

    Great article by Joel Sherman in the Post today about this (I can’t believe I just wrote that). Essentially, Sherman’s point is we as fans and Alex as a player need to start looking to his teammates.

    On the fan point: if we lose and Alex plays poorly, we need to acknowledge the fact that the other Yankees (who have an aggregate salary of 170 million dollars) didn’t get the job done either.

    On Alex: if he can continue trusting the guys who hit behind him like he did all year, he is much more likely to succeed. Many of those failed post season at-bats included doomed to fail hacks at sliders that ended up in the left handed hitters box. If he makes the pitchers come to him (and takes his walks if they don’t) he will likely mash.

    • Mike HC

      Give me a break. Deflecting blame on to the other players is an empty excuse. You can say that Alex has really not performed that badly in the postseason as is perceived, or that he just has not been clutch, or that it he has just been unlucky and due for a correction, but not that it is the other Yankees fault.

      • andrew

        He didn’t say it was anyone else’s fault that A-Rod was failing. What he did say was, when he does inevitably fail, the fans must not portray him as the scapegoat because in reality, he was probably one of 7 or 8 guys that failed that night.

        • Mike HC

          Ok. Those other 7 ot 8 guys that failed should each be blamed as well, and if the blame came to their doorstep, they should not turn around and blame ARod. If ARod again plays poorly, which I am not expecting him too, then he deserves all the criticism he gets for baseball performance criticism (obviously, if they start criticizing his personal life, or psyche, it will have gone too far). If your highest paid player can’t take the heat for poor performance, who can?

        • Mike HC

          And he did say it was other people’s fault that ARod was failing. He said he was chasing bad pitches he would have otherwise stayed away from because he didn’t trust the hitters behind him. In other words, if the other players hit better, ARod would not have chased pitches, therefore ARod would have performed better

          • Guest

            No, I most certainly was not saying that. I was saying that A-Rod needs to trust his teammates and not swing at stupid pitches. Note I did not say that A-Rod’s teammates (both this year and in the past) were untrustworthy. It was A-Rod’s fault for swinging at bad pitches when guys like Giambi, Sheffield, Posada, and a younger and healthier Matsui were hitting around him. This has nothing to do with how those guys. It has everything to do with A-Rod wrongly trying to hit a homerun on every pitch rather than taking bad pitches.

      • The Three Amigos

        So your argument is that Arod is the only reason we have lost in the playoffs the last 3 times?

        Guest is simply making the point that it is not only Arod who is faltering and it was a team effort. Arod has not helped, but last postseason Jeter was particularly awful as well.

        • Mike HC

          No, my argument is that ARod deserves blame if he plays poorly, and the fact that the other players also played poorly should not deflect blame away from ARod. Just like the fact that ARod played poorly should not deflect blame off the other players

        • Mike HC

          Guest also pointed out this: (see above)

          And he did say it was other people’s fault that ARod was failing. He said he was chasing bad pitches he would have otherwise stayed away from because he didn’t trust the hitters behind him. In other words, if the other players hit better, ARod would not have chased pitches, therefore ARod would have performed better

          • Guest

            Please see above response to this comment.

  • http://forums.projectcovo.com/images/smilies/e6omir.gif OmgZombies!

    Arod is a snake in the grass waiting for the right opportunity

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....re=popular

  • Riddering

    I have a good feeling for Alex this postseason. I think he’s been so consistent and successful in the past two months along with a lineup that can make the pitcher pay for not pitching to him that it’s bound to carryover into success.

    If not, I’m blaming Cody Ransom.

  • ‘nother Guest

    All this chatter about how the Yanks will never win with A-Rod misses overarching cosmic reason for why the Yanks win/lose championships.

    Like the NFL rule that seemingly predicts a down year for the stock market if an original AFL team wins the superbowl, I posit that the chances for the Yankees to win a world series ring is closely linked to which party occupies the White House. Let us look at their record since 1923 – i.e. when they finally moved out of the Polo grounds into the own stadium and could be called a proper team in their own right:

    Consider the following data on presidential terms:

    Bush 43 (GOP) – No WS wins, two losses
    Clinton (Dem) – Four WS wins, no losses
    Bush 41 (GOP) – No WS appearances
    Reagan (GOP) – No WS wins, one loss
    Carter (Dem) – Two WS wins, no losses
    Ford (GOP) – No WS appearances
    Nixon (GOP) – No WS appearances
    LBJ (Dem) – No WS wins, one loss
    Kennedy (Dem) – Two WS wins, one loss
    Ike (GOP) – Three WS wins, three losses (we do like Ike)
    Truman (Dem) – Five WS wins, no losses
    FDR (Dem) – Six WS wins, no losses
    Hoover (GOP) – One WS win, no losses
    Coolidge (GOP) – Two WS wins, one loss

    In fact the Yanks made it to the WS in every Democratic administration since 1923, winning during every one except under LBJ who seems to have gummed up the works somewhat.
    So in the 46 years of GOP administration since 1923, the Yanks have won 7 and lost 8 WS (15% and 17%). But in the 40 years of Dem presidencies, they have won 19 and lost three (or rates of 48% and 8%). So any given year with a Dem president, there is almost a 50% chance of winning the WS (Yay for this year!!!) – three times as better as under a GOP prez.
    The question for the statistically minded sabermetricians out there is after 86 datapoints, does this become a statistically significant model or is just a coincidence carried too too far?

    Either way, looks like we can hope for at least two rings in the next four years and maybe two more if the folks put BHO back on the saddle in 2012.

    • pete

      if the yankees win the next four world series, i will personally execute anybody who doesn’t vote for obama next time

  • anthony

    A-Rod will have a great postseason in 2009 the yanks are a much better team and have a much better lineup then in recent seasons