AFraud - The Choking Dog/Why Boo Brett?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alex Rodriguez you may have read somewhere is the 27th greatest regular season performer in the history of major league baseball.

Probably, you've also spent years reading about how he suffered from some fatal spasm of self doubt during pressure situations that made him not as valuable a post season performer as the guy who plays next to him (the guy that carves the gravestones was more right than not - and Larry did kill that swan).

After last night, here is Alex Rodriguez's career postseason batting line: .295/.402/.560. 

Derek Jeter's is .311/.383/.479. 

It's not that he unburdened himself by admitting his steroid use (because, after all, virtually no one thinks he told the entire truth).  And it's not that Kate Hudson has somehow refocused him (if Goldie's girl's ladyparts were magic, wouldn't the Black Crowes have sold a helluva lot more records?)- it's this:

Alex Rodriguez is a better postseason hitter than Derek Jeter.  Not just this second, for the totality of their careers. 

And of course, at .305/.390/.576 to .317/.388/.459 - ARod's a better regular season hitter than Derek Jeter.   

Not to mention that while ARod is still 7 runs above position with the glove for his career, despite giving back value now as a slightly below average third baseman - Jeter is 181 runs below position at shortstop, his lack of range making him an all-time bad glove, costing the Yankees games virtually every season of his career. 

(listen to the guy who carves the gravestones - he is very, very wise).

They're both going to the Hall of Fame and perfectly reasonably so - but this idea, birthed by the mainstream media and embedded in our collective sports consciousness, that Jeter is Captain Clutch while ARod (until the ninth inning last night) somehow got the yips in the big moments, just isn't borne out by the facts. 

Unrelated, save for their iconographic status, the Favre booing was interesting to me yesterday.  I had an inexact, but reasonably close parallel in my own sports fandom - my quarterback was Joe Montana, and after a very public squabble with the 49ers, despite his past heroics he was pushed aside for a younger model.  I very distinctly recall my reaction when the Niners - the team of my boyhood, who remain, along with the baseball Giants, the biggest allegiances to any institution I have in my life (no school, church, country or employer is even in the same conversation) went to Kansas City in 1994 to play Joe's Chiefs. 

I rooted for Joe. 

And it wasn't that hard; Joe was my guy; he had won me 4 Super Bowls.  There would be a whole lifetime left of Niner football (unless we move to LA; I've been saying this all decade, until there is a new stadium built you really can't feel confident that team isn't going to skip town) but Joe Montana had a very specific expiration date.  And I didn't make a utilitarian calculation - I did what sports fans do and I operated from my gut (which is why you think Jeter's clutch and ARod chokes; why you think Jeter's a good fielder - it just feels that way to you - but you're wrong) I wanted Joe to win.  And I was mad at my team for sending him away.

Over the years, some of that feeling (most of it) has softened - at the time, I thought the organization was making a mistake - Steve Young ran too much, not waiting for plays to develop - and the team didn't have confidence in him and, even in his state of decline, Joe was still more likely to win us titles. 

Yeah, that was wrong.  Steve Young's the 7th greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history; and no, he wasn't Montana - but in 1994, he was the better player.  Young wasn't the bad guy; the organization wasn't the bad guy; there was no bad guy - two objects can't be in the same place at the same time; and the 49ers had two Hall of Famers at quarterback, one of them had to leave.

But 15 years later, despite that, I'm still glad Joe won that game, and still glad I was on the right side that day.

Sure, the Chiefs aren't the Vikings - had Joe gone to Dallas, perhaps to replace an injured Troy Aikman - it would have been incredibly painful; and I get that Favre's "will he or won't he" shtick may have worn some Packer faithful down (I wrote this in the summer of 2008). 

But the booing...I am unsure I get that.  I get not making my choice and instead rooting for your team over your guy.  I do.  Reasonable minds can differ.  I get feeling a little betrayed.  I get wishing he would just go away and certainly get hoping he doesn't win a Super Bowl in a uniform that isn't yours.

But I have to say, I legitimately do not get the booing.


Blog said...

I don't understand how you make the argument that "ARod somehow got the yips in the big moments, just isn't borne out by the facts." by taking the average of his entire postseason batting line.

Big moments are specific, single at-bats that mean something. A guy could be batting .500 in the post-season, but if he's also batting .000 in several attempts with the bases loaded, I would still call him a choke artist.

Doesn't mean that you're not right, but your argument that A-Rod doesn't choke in the big at-bats because he has a decent career line is not valid.

John DeWolfe said...

Do you have any evidence that he is doing lousy in those specific situations, though? (It's a thing I want to look into - baseball reference doesn't seem to do splits for postseason stats, but they've got all the boxscores so it wouldn't be hard to generate given a bit of time.) Because in his career, in the regular season, A-Rod's line with the bases loaded is .340/.392/.686. In 191 such at bats he's got 213 RBIs. So in the regular season, at least, he's got the bases loaded thing down. He also, for his career, hits better with men on than the bases empty. (There's a really clear trend, as you move from man on first to second to third, of his power going down and his OBP going way up, so he's being pitched carefully whenever guys are in scoring position. See below.)

A-Rod, regular season career, with men on...

1st .319/.387/.627
2nd .291/.424/.553
3rd .308/.439/.471
2nd and 3rd .327/.473/.487

I'm cherry-picking a bit, but this is all stuff I pulled out of my ass in five minutes in front of a computer. All of it suggests to me that A-Rod is not a choker, and pitchers don't perceive him as such because they pitch him very carefully with men in scoring position, more carefully than they do otherwise. I assume the playoff stats would break about the same way.

Blog said...

"Do you have any evidence that he is doing lousy in those specific situations, though?"

I admit that I do not, which is why I also conceeded that my argument doesn't mean that Jim's premise is not correct. My point was just that the way in which he attempted to prove his point was logically flawed.

Blog said...

Well, A-Rod just struck out with the bases loaded and the chance to put the game away, or at least pad their lead. More fuel for the "myth".

Blog said...

Matsui, on the other hand, is bidding a very fond farewell to Yankee Stadium. Will it now be known as the House that Godzilla Built? (kind of ironic, since Godzilla is known more as a destroyer than a creator...)

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