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Or have they?
It’s one thing to take a look at his career post-season totals and see that A-Rod was a lifetime .305 hitter in October prior to this postseason’s dreadful 1-for-14 showing against the Tigers. I mean, sure he had slugged .534 in the postseason before slugging just .071 this year in the meltdown, but still the reputation persisted. Why? Why do people insist on calling A-Rod a choker when he clearly hits so well in the playoffs? Why blame him for the lack of World Series appearances since his heralded arrival?
Perhaps the answer lies a little deeper within the numbers
than Asher and Brad bothered to look at.
Intrigued, I took it upon myself to do some research and I think I’ve
spotted the answer. In the playoffs, you
see, Alex tends to pad his numbers when it matters the least. Prior to this season’s series against
Well, from the 7th inning on in his postseason
career, Alex was batting just .250 with 2 HR and 4 RBI even before going
0-for-4 this season in the late innings.
That mark is now down to just .229 (with a .417 slugging
percentage). Of course, in the Yankees 2004
But he does have those two late inning home runs right? Well…
In game one of the Mariners ’97 LDS loss to Baltimore, Rodriguez hit a 9th inning solo home run that cut the M’s deficit in that game to just 9-3. That would be the final score. Then in the Yankees’ series clinching victory over Seattle in game six of the 2000 LCS (ironically the last year the Yankees won the World Series), Rodriguez hit a leadoff home run in the 8th inning for Seattle that made the score 9-5 (they would score two more that inning and lose 9-7). Not exactly what I’d call clutch.
And what about getting his team off to a good start? Before being dropped to 6th and even 8th in the lineup in most of the games against the Tigers this postseason, A-Rod often batted 2nd or 3rd in the lineup and thus often came to bat in the first inning. Prior to this season, Rodriguez had batted .273 and slugged .409 in the first inning (6-for-22, 0 HR). After going 0-for-2 against the Tigers, he is now batting just .250 and slugging .375 in the game’s opening frame. Not exactly what you’d call a sparkplug is he?
Well, how about when runners are in scoring position? Surely if he is not a choker, then he must be
doing well when it really counts, right?
Wrong. Even prior to going
0-for-2 w/RISP against
But again, we look to the
What about with runners on base regardless of where they
stand? Coming into the series against
His career post-season batting average with the bases empty – before this season – was .366 and he was slugging .648 when the bags were unoccupied. Predictably, his only hit in the Detroit series came with no one on base, but his 1-for-7 in the series with the bases empty left his career mark at .346 (.603 slugging). Are we beginning to get the picture here?
A-Rod’s post-season numbers when taken as a whole (even after this year’s miserable performance) are not that bad - a .280 batting average and a .485 slugging percentage with home run and RBI totals that would project out to 27 and 74 over the course of 162 games. There is the matter of the unsightly 143 strikeouts he’d be projected to have, but I suppose that could be overlooked. However, when you look deeper at the numbers, it’s really not hard to see why he has the reputation of being a choker in the postseason.
Sure, Rodriguez is one hell of a ballplayer. He’d likely be a benefit to 28 other teams in
baseball. After all, they say if you can
make it there, you can make it anywhere (he has averaged .299 with nearly 40 HR
per season in NY). I’m sure he’d do just
fine for nearly any other major league team.
Clearly, however, Rodriguez has joined the ranks of guys like Danny Tartabull, Chuck Knoblauch and
Eddie Whitson; talented (and expensive) players who just simply ought not to be
Alex Rodriguez batted .305 with 52 HR per year in his three
Alex Rodriguez long ago proved himself as one of the greatest ballplayers on the planet. Until he starts to do it when it really matters the most, however, Alex Rodriguez will also be known as a choker.
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard lives in San Francisco and can be reached at email@example.com.