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Archive for May 18th, 2010

Before having a monster 2009 post season, Alex Rodriguez had been much maligned for not being a clutch player. Even before this past post season, however, such assertions were downright silly. After all, since joining the Yankees in 2004, only four other players have compiled a higher WPA (Win Probability Added) than Arod (also, among players with at least 1,250 PAs during that time span, Arod ranks 12th in terms of WPA/PA).

Top-10 WPA Totals, Yankees from 2004 to Present

Player WPA PA WPA/PA (*100)
Alex Rodriguez 22.755 4083 0.557
Derek Jeter 14.747 4457 0.331
Jason Giambi 10.436 2314 0.451
Hideki Matsui 9.993 3121 0.320
Gary Sheffield 9.105 1525 0.597
Johnny Damon 7.176 2525 0.284
Jorge Posada 7.057 2961 0.238
Bobby Abreu 4.571 1631 0.280
Mark Teixeira 3.585 876 0.409
Nick Swisher 2.382 748 0.318

Top-10 WPA Totals, MLB from 2004 to Present

Player WPA PA WPA/PA (*100)
Albert Pujols 39.996 4213 0.949
Lance Berkman 27.371 3889 0.704
David Ortiz 24.813 3962 0.626
Miguel Cabrera 22.984 4262 0.539
Alex Rodriguez 22.755 4083 0.557
Barry Bonds 22.291 1639 1.360
Manny Ramirez 22.111 3607 0.613
Ryan Howard 21.928 3308 0.663
Carlos Beltran 20.574 3674 0.560
Mark Teixeira 20.198 4218 0.479

By just about any measure, Arod has been very productive in so-called clutch situations. However, signature moments often overshadow compiled stats when the game is on the line (i.e., everyone remembers the game winning single, but not the two out double that preceded it). Even by this lofty standard, Arod still stands head and shoulders above not only his Yankees teammates, but most players in the game.

From 2004 up until last night’s comeback victory over the Red Sox, the Yankees have hit 41 homeruns in the ninth inning or later that either tied the game or gave the Yankees a lead/walk off. Of that total, Arod has accounted for 13, or nearly one-third. What’s more, the Yankees have hit 20 such home runs in their post season history and Arod has two of them. In other words, Arod has not lacked for signature moments during his Yankees career. Listed below is a detailed account of each clutch moment (as defined above), courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

 Arod’s Late Inning Heroics As A Yankee

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In the early going, it looked as if the Yankees were on their way to an easy victory, but as if often the case in this rivalry, nothing is ever that simple. After the Yankees jumped on Daisuke Matsuzaka for five runs in the first inning, the thought of Jonathan Papelbon toeing the rubber in the ninth probably seemed far fetched to even the most ardent Red Sox fan. However, there he was, warming up with a two run lead and the Red Sox on the verge of finishing off an incredible comeback. A pair of two run homeruns later, Papelbon had in deed thrown the last pitch in an amazing reversal of fortune, but it was the Yankees who were celebrating instead.

The Yankees celebrate their first walk off win of the season (Photo: AP).

Entering the game, the scouting reports suggested that Matsuzaka was throwing more fastballs, which would be a change from the breaking ball approach he has used in his major league career. And, in fact, that’s exactly what he did in the first inning. The only problem was the fastballs were flat and poorly located. By the time the first batter was retired, the Yankees had five runs and Matsuzaka was forced to revert back to his tentative approach of pitching around the strike zone.

Meanwhile, Phil Hughes seemed to possess the same dominant stuff as he has all season, but without pinpoint command. Even in innings when the side was retired in order, several long at bats by Red Sox hitters made Hughes work very hard. Eventually, his elevated pitch count came to a head in the fifth inning, when after retiring the first two batters on three pitches, Hughes couldn’t slam the door on the inning. Marco Scutaro extended the inning with a single on the seventh pitch of his at bat before Dustin Pedroia doubled down the leftfield line on the tenth offering he saw. Then, with runners at second and third, J.D. Drew drilled a 1-2 cutter into the right field stands to bring the Red Sox to within 6-5. Hughes wound up throwing 28 pitches to get out of the fifth inning. The protracted inning raised his pitch total to 104 and sent him to an early shower.

Matsuzaka wasn’t even able to make it through five innings. The enigmatic righty wound up departing the game after only 4 2/3 innings, setting up a battle of the bullpens in the second part of the game. Unfortunately for the Yankees, both Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson were unavailable, meaning Girardi had to rely on the backend of the staff to get the ball to Mariano. After Boone Logan surrendered a Victor Martinez home run in the sixth, Girardi called upon Chan Ho Park to not only get through the seventh, but the eighth as well. Park, who had been on the DL since April 13, seemed to run out of gas in his second inning of work, and wound up giving up back-to-back homeruns to Kevin Youkilis and Martinez before being relieved by Damaso Marte. (more…)

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