The New Mr. October?

October 21

                 It’s a commonly-held notion that Alex Rodriguez is great for regular season stats, but disappears in the post-season.  It’s a commonly-held notion that Reggie Jackson is Mr. October and Derek Jeter, Mr. Yankee, is the new Mr. Clutch.  Me, I like to question commonly-held notions to see if they’re really true.

                To begin with, it’s almost unfair to judge players on their post-season numbers.  We’re talking about an extremely small sample, 100 at-bats if they’re lucky, compared to thousands of at-bats through a career.  Ted Williams got 25 World Series at-bats and five hits. 

               I’m not known for small sample sizes, but for the sake of this argument it’s all we have to work with.  So with a nudge from Orr, the best man at my wedding, I decided to look deeper into the post-season numbers.  Prior to Game 4 of the ALCS, here’s the lifetime spread sheet for A-Rod :

              .288/.378/.535/.913 ops

                This is a bit below his career regular-season numbers:

               .305/.390/.576/.965 ops

                In the ALCS,  his career numbers look ARod-like:

                .303/.397/.636/1.034 ops

                Again, this is prior to Game 4, in which he banged out three hits including a home run, and was intentionally walked with the bases empty.

 

                How about Mr. Yankee, Derek (I hit That) Jeter?  Here are his post-season numbers:

                .309/.378/.482/.860 ops     Important to note:  just 54 RBI in 521 AB’s

                This is very similar to his career numbers:

                .317/.388/.459/.847 ops

                 However, his LCS numbers pale in comparison to ARod:

                 .261/.335/.424/.759 ops

                 His numbers through eight World Series:

                 .302/.375/.434/.809

                 Again, not bad, and I’ll take Jessica Biel over Madonna anyday, but his overall post-season numbers don’t blow ARod out of the water.

 

                 Now, join me in Sherman and Peabody’s Time Machine, and let’s look at Reggie.  “Mr. October’s”  career post-season line:

                .278/.358/.527/.885 ops

                 This is actually a bit better than his career numbers:

                 .262/.356/.490/.846 ops

                 Of course, Reggie made his bacon in five World Series, four of which he won:

                 .357/.457/.755/ a ridiculous 1.212 ops, with 10 home runs in 116 plate appearances.

                 However, forgotten is that Reggie was a career .227 hitter in 11 League Championship Series with 6 home runs and 41 k’s in 163 at-bats.  Someone else had to carry Reggie’s teams to the Fall Classic.

                Jackson and Jeter certainly had enormous moments for the Yankees at the most important times, and Jeter’s the smartest player I’ve ever seen, but ARod’s October stats are beginning to look very respectable compared to those legends and they’re coming close to his truly great regular season numbers.   Sportswriters like to say he’s now earning redemption with a torrid 2009 post-season.   I prefer to look at it as the law of averages catching up for a great hitter.

               I will be the first to say ARod’s game-tying home run in Game 2 Saturday night would probably not be a home run in any other park.  I will be the first to say ARod was a fraud when he was the Rangers, and perhaps his first couple of years with the Yankees.  I will be the first to say A-Rod and his fellow pin-stripers choked, gagged, and weezed against the Red Sox in the ’04 ALCS. 

               I will be the 4,567,459th person to say I can’t stand John Sterling’s “An Aaaaa-Bomb, for Aaaaa-Rod” home run call.   I will be the 10 skrillionth person to say I despise ARod’s phonyness and just about everything Yankee.  I will be the latest to say ARod’s purple lips disturb me.

              Yet these are also true:  Before coming to the Yankees, he batted .409 with two home runs in the 2000 ALCS with the Mariners.   For years, if you asked which player they’d pick first for their team, more people would mention ARod than Jeter.  When Rodriguez got to the Yankees, he had to switch over to third base even though Jeter wasn’t the best shortstop on his own team.  ARod had better range and fielding ability but Jeter had the rings.

              When ARod arrived in New York people expected miracles from a quarter-billion-dollar player.  Under the weight of the contract,  he didn’t measure up in several October flame-outs, a span of about 75 at-bats.  That’s just slightly longer than the average slump for a Major League player. 

               That is changing.  In the past couple of seasons and in this post-season, ARod has come up with the kind of huge hits Jeter and Jackson were known to deliver.  He has come through in the same clutch situations for which he was previously known to fail.  If I can use my favorite phrase again, the more chances he gets, the more he will play to the back of his baseball card.

              Amazingly, Alex Rodriguez has never played in a World Series game.  He’s partly to blame, but that’s about to change as the Yankees are one win away from the ‘Series.  It’s only fair to give ARod much of the credit if that happens.  He and another big money player, C.C. Sabathia, have shined on a loaded team.

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