It’s a refrain we’ve heard over and over again since we saw Alex Rodriguez flail away and make the final out of the 2011 season. It certainly felt that way, other than Robbie Cano’s big 6 RBI showing in game 1 and some late, garbage time tack-on runs in game 4 the Yankee offense just seemed to sputter this year. But is that perception or reality? Let’s take a look:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SB CS Totals 5 173 28 45 8 2 4 26 21 50 .260 .350 .399 .749 2 0
Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ Team Totals 30.6 162 6306 5518 867 1452 267 33 222 836 147 46 627 1138 .263 .343 .444 .788 106
As you see BA and OBP are virtually the same as they were over the full 162 game season. SLG was down some, but that didn’t hinder their ability to score runs in this particular small sample of games. The Yanks scored 28 Runs in the 5 game ALDS, averaging 5.6 runs per game. Over the full season, they averaged 5.35 Runs per game. If anything, the Yankee offense was a bit more efficient at scoring runs than they were in the regular season. Some have argued that the Yanks have a feast or famine offense, and the 9 and 10 run efforts in games 1 and 4 would seem to feed that perception on the surface. These folks argue the Yanks need guys who strike out less and do better with situational hitting. Yet Nick Swisher is viewed as one of the best situational hitters on the team, and he’s had one poor October after another. I think the Yankee offense is just fine, we’re just drawing overly broad conclusions from tiny samples of games.
Take Alex Rodriguez as an example. Mr Unclutch, favorite whipping boy and poster child for every Yankee failure since his arrival in 2004. The way some fans talk about him, you would think he chokes on a regular basis with men on base. His career triple slash line over the course of his HOF 18 year career is .302/.386/.567 (.953 OPS). His career numbers with RISP is……drum roll please…. .300/.401/.542 (.943 OPS). Despite what you’ve heard, despite what your eyes have been telling you, Alex is EXACTLY the same player in clutch situations that he is day in and day out. In the post season his numbers are down some .277/.386/.498 (.884 OPS) but that’s to be expected facing better pitchers more often, as well as likely being due to the small (299 PAs) sample.
There’s a few lessons here. First, how our eyes can deceive us when watching baseball. That’s why we lean on statistical analysis to double check what we think we know. Most of the time it matches up, but sometimes it doesn’t. Next, we focus so intently on every AB in the post season that we often forget some basic facts. That baseball is a game of failure, where even the best hitters make out in 2 out of every 3 ABs. We conveniently forget these things in big situations during (seemingly) important playoff games, but that rule of failure still applies. Experience teaches us patience in watching this game, but in a 5 game series time runs out very quickly. You can’t change the nature of the game just because the calendar turns to the month of October, we can only resolve to put things in perspective.
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