A-Rod Is Not Clutch And Never Will Be

"The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who adjudicate, is what we mean by the law." — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Steve Lombardi at WasWatching has a piece up about A-Rod’s performance in the clutch. It’s a response to two separate posts at Lohud Yanks and No Maas that present statistics that support the idea that Rodriguez has actually been clutch this season. Peter Abraham at Lohud cites a stat that shows that A-Rod has four hits this season that have put the Yanks ahead after the 7th inning. "In all of baseball, only Minnesota’s Justin Morneau and Michael Young of Texas have more with five each…Not Derek Jeter. Not Big Papi Ortiz. Nobody else." The fellas at No Maas list A-Rod’s impressive numbers with runners on base, with runners in scoring position, and with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Steve looks at other numbers to counter their claims. He provides a set of stats that show how A-Rod has done depending on the run differential (factoring in whether the Yanks have been ahead or behind) of the game, and comes to the conclusion that, while he’s hit quite well when tied, ahead or trailing by three runs or more, he’s been "a no-show" when the Yanks or trailing by 2 runs or less. He also wonders about the validity of the stat mentioned in the Lohud Yankees blog. For instance, how many opportunities has A-Rod had to knock in go-ahead runs after the seventh? If he’s had a bunch of chances, then 4 hits doesn’t seem quite so impressive. Steve also doesn’t put too much stock in hitting with runners in scoring position as a clutch stat: "Batting with runners on? Or, in scoring position? If a guy gets a hit in those spots and the score is already 15-2 (in favor or against) is he being clutch?"

I think Steve’s argument is more compelling because it’s reliant on more detailed statistics. Yet I’m not quite sure why he chooses to disregard A-Rod’s strong stats with the game tied. Why would that be a less important and less pressure-filled time in the game than any other? Anyway, it almost doesn’t matter to me at this point. What I was trying to get at with this post is that the clutch debate surrounding A-Rod (and almost any player for that matter) has entered the Chewbacca Defense stage for me and that means if I read anything more about the subject my head’s going to explode (ok, ok, I’m writing about the subject,so I’m a big hypocrite). Most people don’t like A-Rod. His poor performance on the big stage (the postseason series against the Sox and Angels. Ignore his outstanding division series against the Twin in 2004 and you’ll feel more certain), his perceived weaknesses in close games, his $25 million contract, his poor relationship with those lovable beat reporters, have all added up to make him a very unpopular player and let’s face it, unclutch player in the minds of most. You can argue about whether he’s, in fact, clutch or not until the Royals win the world series, you can cite statistics about how well A-Rod’s done in front of sell-out crowds on the road, or you can bring up his exceptional performance in bed (with the lights on. There’s always more pressure with the lights on.), and it won’t matter (as by the way, it shouldn’t matter. What I’ve learned from reading On The DL is that there’s very little correlation between a player’s performance in bed and on the field. But I digress…) A-Rod has been declared a player who cracks under pressure by most people, and it’s therefore a fated conclusion: A-Rod is not clutch and never will be. And that’s the idea I’m going with from now on. He stinks in the clutch. You can throw all the stats at me you’d like that show that he’s actually quite good in certain clutch situations. I’ll find another one that says otherwise. Better yet, I won’t even bother looking up the stats, I’ll just read the back pages of the New York tabloids. Anything to keep my head on my shoulders.

48 comments… add one
  • I think I said it in an earlier thread, but the fact that A-Rod is statistically so good, gets so many hits, drives in so many runs, means that he must be clutch. There’s just no way he can’t be. He may not be dramatically, Big Papilly, elegantly clutch, but someone who is as good as he is just isn’t as inept as he’s made out to be. It would be a statistical freak for that to be the case.
    On the other hand, he really doesn’t do much in the clutch, right?

    SF June 20, 2006, 3:01 pm
  • He is not clutch and never will be.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:06 pm
  • I will also say it again…
    Game on the line, down by a run, man on, would you rather have Arod or Papi at the plate?
    That’s my defenition of “clutch” in the emotional sense of the word.

    LocklandSF June 20, 2006, 3:21 pm
  • aggh. To say you’d rather have Ortiz does not make the other player unclutch. Same question, but Manny instead of A-Rod. I’m guessing you’d rather have Ortiz. Does that make Manny (the 2004 world series MVP) unclutch?

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:23 pm
  • Or, stated another way …
    Game on the line, down by a run, man on, would you rather have A-rod or Miguel Cairo at the plate?
    I think most Yankee fans would choose the back-up 2B.

    Dan June 20, 2006, 3:24 pm
  • when i sit down with my kids (when i have them) and tell them about the great players from my era of baseball, the mental pictures of a-rod flipping his hat off as he rounds third for the home plate celebration will be the ones i’ll tell them about….oh wait, that never happened.

    sf rod June 20, 2006, 3:36 pm
  • He’s probably hit walk-off himers before, he did hit a game-winning home-run off of Schilling last year for instance, but sf-rod, you’re right:
    He’s not clutch and never will be.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:39 pm
  • Great post, Nick. Just one question: How do you feel about Jeter’s defense?

    YF June 20, 2006, 3:42 pm
  • great fielder. He’s magical out there.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:44 pm
  • What happened to all those “Leche!!” posts? Did something happen to the kid? Was he kidnapped? Sent down? What’s going on here?

    SF June 20, 2006, 3:46 pm
  • come on nick. it’s no fun unless you play along.

    sf rod June 20, 2006, 3:47 pm
  • Ahh, Leche. Those were the days.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:47 pm
  • I wonder if the guy who runs “No Maas” will eventually change the name of the blog to “No Melky”.

    SF June 20, 2006, 3:48 pm
  • Meanwhile, my attempts to rile up Sox fans with a post that is reasonably flattering to Rudy Seanez goes just about nowhere. Who would have guessed?!

    SF June 20, 2006, 3:49 pm
  • SF is feeling emboldened!
    Melky is still playing a killer left field. Just slumping at the bat is all.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:50 pm
  • SF– it’s alot like YFans’ relationship with Farnsworth or Proctor…sort of a “well, let’s just get thru this and hope we find someone better on the other side.”

    walein June 20, 2006, 3:51 pm
  • and that someone is:
    Octavio Dotel!!!!

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 3:51 pm
  • Dotel had to shut down with elbow pain yesterday, by the way. It was an item buried in today’s Times.

    SF June 20, 2006, 3:56 pm
  • I’ve posted in another thread stats that compare A-Rod’s clutchness to Papi’s. When looked at over the course of their entire careers as opposed to the what-have-you-done-lately range, Arod has a better RISP average (.303 vs .292) and a better men on w/2 outs average (.281 vs. .269). In fact, almost across the board Arod beats Papi’s projected stats. But somhow in SF’s mind (and scores of others) Papi is “elegantly clutch”.
    If you want to say A-Rod isn’t clutch, then you have to say the same about Ortiz. But of course that isn’t going to happen because Ortiz doesn’t have a $200 million contract.
    “Clutch” is about perception and bias. Derek Jeter skates by on the same principle. Anyone who states “You can throw all the stats at me you’d like…” proves my point, Yankee fan or not. If there is conflicting data, that means it’s DEBATABLE!
    Also, close and late has to be the biggest BS stat there is. There is no clock in baseball so the implications of “late” aren’t there.
    In a 1-0 final score game where the only run was in the 1st inning, where’s your close and late? What’s the cutoff for late? A game winner in the 5th isn’t as clutch as one in the 6th? Please.
    Lastly, the notion that a baseball player can raise his game at will (ie in a close and late situation or contract year) like a basketball or football player has been debunked by Bill James and others.

    lp June 20, 2006, 3:56 pm
  • Yeah, Dotel is sidelined with tendonitis, although neither the team or Dr. Andrews seems especially concerned.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 4:01 pm
  • But somhow in SF’s mind (and scores of others) Papi is “elegantly clutch”.
    Dude, come on. Read the post that quote is ripped from. It’s unfair to use it the way you do. I was basically saying that we’re jaded by the way Ortiz gets his headlines, he does it dramatically and with a different style than A-Rod. Nowhere did I say he does it more than Papi. Seriously, read it again.
    And the contract has nothing to do with it. I am getting tired of everyone using that as a crutch for why someone might not like A-Rod. It’s BS – he’d be unlikeable if he were making Jeter money.

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:02 pm
  • lp, I once was like you and then I realized that it was useless. You might as well go with the flow, let the headlines do the thinking.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 4:03 pm
  • SF, really??!! You think the fact that he makes the most money in baseball, that it’s constantly brought up by his critics, doesn’t play a role in the way he’s perceived?

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 4:05 pm
  • Can anyone answer how many walkoff homers Ortiz has hit since becoming a Red Sox? How many A-Rod has hit since becoming a Yank?
    Just looking for numbers, and numbers only, not commentary. Anyone got a source for this info, can it be had without 2 hours of Googling?

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:07 pm
  • Uh….”Jeter money” is around 20 mil, I believe. Hardly pocket change, though I don’t know your budget, SF ;-)

    yankeemonkey June 20, 2006, 4:08 pm
  • SF, really??!! You think the fact that he makes the most money in baseball, that it’s constantly brought up by his critics, doesn’t play a role in the way he’s perceived?
    I think it would be silly to say it has zero influence. But I think it’s overstated, a crutch and an excuse as to why A-Rod isn’t a “hero” like some other players. Certainly he’s a great ballplayer, and he seems like a decent guy too (unlike, say, Barry). Maybe it impacts him more than it does the fans.
    Personally, I don’t really “like” A-Rod (though I do think he’s about the best player I have ever seen), and it has nothing to do with the contract, it has to do with his personality, the lame-ass slapping incident (truly deserving of the term “lame”, no matter who he was playing for) and, most of all, his current uniform. Regarding the contract thing, I figure once a guy is getting paid a few million to wing a ball around while wearing goofy sock we’re already in the territory of “can’t relate”. So the whole “big contract” thing could be applied to just about everyone playing major league baseball, for me at least.

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:14 pm
  • The “Jeter Money” line was a joke.

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:14 pm
  • SF pretends that we don’t get 7 figure salaries at YFSF.
    I understand your point about how every player is basically in an income bracket that doesn’t endear them to us, but I still think that A-Rod’s contract is different. The way it is/was represented in the media has certainly hurt his popularity among fans. I mean my mom who doesn’t know a thing about baseball still knows that A-Rod is the guy who makes $250 million. She doesn’t know any other sports contract, but she knows A-Rod’s ridiculous contract.

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 4:21 pm
  • Yeah, I understand your point, Nick, for sure.
    The thing is he has won the MVP twice since he signed the contract, and probably should have three of them. So he’s been as good as his contract, conceptually: he’s paid to be the best, he has played the best. So is it the contract? Or is it the guy? Or a combination of the guy, the press, the fans, etc. I lean towards the latter, big time – it’s never one thing.
    And this year, Yankees fans and the press in particular have been as bad to A-Rod as anyone, not Sox fans, not the notoriously assholish Boston media, nobody. The booing, the catcalls, the ridiculous expectations of heroism, it’s been mostly YFs and the local scribes (I live in NY, so see every day how he’s treated by both the fans at the games and in the press, I feel at least somewhat more qualified to say this than if I lived in Boston insulated from all of it).

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:29 pm
  • Steve “chooses to disregard A-Rod’s strong stats with the game tied. Why would that be a less important and less pressure-filled time in the game than any other?”
    Nick, FYI, Personally, I believe that batting when the game is tied bears no pressure – because there’s a safety-net effect in play. Where there’s no stress, how can it be clutch?

    Steve Lombardi June 20, 2006, 4:36 pm
  • i’ve always thought the debate would be better served a-rod vs. manny. they were the last of the “big money” (agreed SF, i have no ability to grasp) contracts. where teams threw cash around like al qaeda didn’t exist. long term albatrosses with tremendous upside at a price. i’m not even sure who i’d pick, cause i’ve never had to think about it.
    as for walkoffs, i believe, since 2003 papi has 7 walkoffs while a-rod has 4. these numbers do not include postseason, which i believe to be the crux of the debate.

    sf rod June 20, 2006, 4:44 pm
  • Steve, I understand where you are coming from with the “safety net”. But who says there’s “no stress”? I think it can vary by situation, of course. I can think of all sorts of scenarios where a tie game might cause a batter great stress. What about if the #8 hitter comes up with two men on and one or two outs, knowing that if he doesn’t drive the run home then the chances drop even further? What about in the NL (I know, a non-sequitir w/r/t A-Rod), where the pitcher bats? What about a scenario where the team is thin on relief pitchers, and ending the game immediately is important? Those are just a few that come to mind.

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:45 pm
  • Steve, thanks for clarifying and I get that distinction now. As I said in my post, I found your argument compelling, although I was a bit miffed by the tied game issue. To me, say it’s a tied game with runners on base and 2 outs. If he doesn’t drive in a runner then, we’ve lost a golden opportunity which fans and the media will be lamenting later. I think there’s inherent pressure in that situation. At bats during close games can be huge lost opportunities.
    If we want to get into the issue of performing under pressure, who doesn’t day in and day out play under more pressure than A-Rod? Who, in baseball, has to deal with more media scrutiny, higher expectations than A-Rod. Last year, after the debacle of the 2004 postseason) he hit 48 homers and had one of the best seasons by a righty at Yankees Stadium ever. Did he not perform well under pressure then?

    Nick-YF June 20, 2006, 4:47 pm
  • SF,
    Apologies for the (mis)use of ‘you’ in the paragraph after I quoted you. It was directed not at you specifically but those who hold the misperception that Ortiz is more clutch than A-Rod. That notion is highly debatable – except in the minds of just about every Red Sox fan and a handful of doom-and-gloom Yankee fans.
    Although I must say, in reading your request for walk-off numbers, I see that you are attempting to inject some extremely biased and flawed numbers into this discussion. Ortiz clearly has more at-bats with the Red Sox than A-Rod does with the Yankees. Therefore the mere opportunities for walk-offs or any other cumulative stat lack balance. Any conclusion you draw from that is bogus. It’s amazing that Ortiz fans think that his career began with the Sox and shamelessly cherry-pick his stats. Career numbers define a player, not just the stats he racked up on your favorite team. Sorry for the commentary, but numbers don’t speak for themselves – even though in previous posts I may have claimed the contrary.
    Also, A-Rod’s contract, unlike most players, is newsworthy in and of itself. It just happens to be the difference between A-Rod being in Boston or New York – and the difference between him being “clutch” in the minds of Red Sox Nation.
    And Nick, I really really try to just lie back and enjoy it. But the last time I just went with the headlines, we all woke up in Baghdad. I just can’t let that happen again. Nothing short of the entire free world is at stake!

    lp June 20, 2006, 4:48 pm
  • Although I must say, in reading your request for walk-off numbers, I see that you are attempting to inject some extremely biased and flawed numbers into this discussion
    No, that’s wrong, I am not trying to do that. I want to know this stat because I want to know WHY there’s such a gap in perception between Ortiz and A-Rod, not to SHOW that there’s a gap. My thought is that this gap comes from the drama of Papi’s performances, not the cumulative statistical clutch superiority. Not that isn’t worth something, but it’s certainly not everything.

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:51 pm
  • Who, in baseball, has to deal with more media scrutiny, higher expectations than A-Rod
    Again, I understand what you are saying. But boo-f**king-hoo, frankly. He’s under pressure: what high-profile player in New York or Boston isn’t? He deferred money to come to New York, so he actively participated in the move to this kind of playing atmosphere. Though that doesn’t justify how he’s been treated lately (which I think to be unfair and unjustified, for the most part, from the locals in particular), it’s certainly part of the deal here. But here’s the kicker, which to me makes all of this kind of silly: he has the MOST TALENT OF ANYONE IN THE WORLD AT PLAYING BASEBALL. That kind of explains the expectations, right?

    SF June 20, 2006, 4:56 pm
  • “Game on the line, down by a run, man on, would you rather have Arod or Papi at the plate?”
    Wouldn’t that depend more on if it’s a lefty or a righty on the hill as opposed to your perceptions of “clutch”?

    lp June 20, 2006, 5:00 pm
  • lp, your stats ignore the players’ averages. ARod’s BA in those two situations is well, well below his overall average. Papi’s is about the same as his overall average.
    Likewise, lp, I disagree with your questions about close-and-late. A game-winning hit in the fifth is clutch. But a game-winning hit in the 8th, where the pressure’s on because you only have 4 or 5 more outs left in the game, is more clutch. Baseball might not have a clock, but it does have a countdown, and every player’s aware of it the closer you get to 0 from 27.
    This really all goes back to whether “clutch” exists at all. If you’re good enough, the chances are you’re going to get enough big hits — just because of the law of averages — to be considered “clutch.” ARod’s got a lot of other stuff working against him though, and Papi seems to have a knack for the walk-off home run, moreso than his averages predict. That’s why Papi is so universally considered clutch.

    Paul SF June 20, 2006, 5:05 pm
  • To settle the debate:
    “Clutch”–
    Is the pedal that operates the ‘clutch’ of a car.
    Also, a brood of chickens.
    By this definition I don’t think either A Rod or D Ortiz are very clutch.

    Anonymous June 20, 2006, 5:43 pm
  • That was me by the way. Adding my two cheap metal cents.

    walein June 20, 2006, 5:45 pm
  • Hmmmm…I’ll disagree with the title of this post. It’d be something more like “A-Rod Is Not Clutch and, Unless He Does Something Great in the Postseason, He Never Will Be”.
    I also think the clutch stuff is overstated. I’m waiting for the moment, and know it’s most likely coming, where he drills a really “meaningful” hit (home run or not) to walk off in the playoffs. The headlines will be painful to behold.
    My attitude on A-Rod is one more of pity than anything else (the dislike comes almost–ALMOST–solely from the uniform he’s wearing, along with a perceived kinda-whiny attitude that may or may not be real). If he were on any other team, and the Sox weren’t in the way, I’d wish him success and the casting off of his critics’ attacks.
    But he isn’t on any other team.

    Devine June 20, 2006, 5:53 pm
  • Well said.
    Play-off walk off series win headline for the post:
    “Finale–ly”

    walein June 20, 2006, 6:21 pm
  • Well, I think that, as long as the Yanks manage to stay competitive for the next 3-6 years, A-Rod will get his opportunity to have a big playoff moment, and his stats say he will grasp that opportunity. Then all will be forgiven and forgotten. Such is life in NYC. I saw a stat recently, and I can’t remember the exact numbers, but it’s something along the lines of Posada and Bernie having far better career numbers in terms of 7th, 8th and 9th inning go-ahead ribbies than DJ. And yet Jeter is the one who’s considered the big-time hero, the one you turn to in a crisis.
    What bothers me the most about all this is what SF mentioned: most of the crap that is being thrown in A-Rod’s direction this year by YFs and the NY media. Aside from the horrible what-have-you-done-for-me lately attitude this betrays (we’re talking about the reigning MVP, people!) it also seems somewhat self-defeating. If you’re berating a guy for not handling pressure then surely the worst thing to do is compound that pressure? Maybe, as a YF, you should be trying to create conditions that will relax the guy and help him hit? Bernie Williams still gets curtain calls and a hero’s welcome even if he’s hitting .230. Come on, people!

    Sam June 20, 2006, 7:10 pm
  • The idea that a tie game is not a clutch situation is so stupid as to pretty much make any argument coming from someone who believes it per se irrelevant.
    On the other hand, the fact that a bottom-of-the-9th or extra-innings, tie-breaking, game-winning hit is aparently not “clutch” drastically decreases David Ortiz’s clutchness.
    Please. Pardon my French, but that’s the stupidest f—ing thing I’ve heard in months.

    Um June 20, 2006, 9:29 pm
  • Oh and by the way — I’m a big believer in the “A-Rod presses and could be more clutch but he’s better in pressure situations than people give him credit for” theory…. but NoMaas’s stats are misleading in what they ignore: Close and Late.
    I mean, it’s nice to remind people that A-Rod hits well with dudes on base, but hey, the first thing people think of when they think about whether a guy is “clutch” is how well he does late in a close game. And A-Rod has been pretty horrid in those situations this year.

    um June 20, 2006, 9:33 pm
  • Hey gayzorz, who just jacked a 2-run walk-off homer out of the yard against the Braves for the 5th time in his career and the 2nd time as a Yankee? AROD! Ortiz had none as a Twin and has like 7 or 8 in his entire career. Not much of a difference there, check urselves be4 u wreck urselves. oh yeah, and who predicted this HR right before the game? Me.
    -Sam’s Mom

    Somebody's Mom June 28, 2006, 9:06 pm
  • that article on a-rod sucks arod is clutch at times, and your article does nothing to prove him wrong and what im saying makes no sense cause im a drunk but a-rod is the best player in baseball

    hi July 3, 2006, 4:55 pm
  • There is no such thing as clutch hitting. Anyone who follows the statistics closely will agree. Countless mathematical analyses have been done to prove this, just quickly google “does clutch hitting exist” and read for yourself. Billy Beane explains it very explicitly in Money Ball. I guarantee that Theo does not believe in clutch hitting despite the silly plaque he gave to Ortiz.

    Anonymous July 6, 2006, 2:49 pm

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