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Archive for the ‘Alex Rodriguez’ Category

Most Yankees’ fans have probably been looking forward to 2012 since Alex Rodriguez swung and missed at the last pitch of the 2011 ALDS, but with a New Year fast upon us, what better time to take one last look back at the 2011 season? Instead of getting bogged with subjective recollections of the year’s most significant moments, it’s much simpler to let Win Probability Added (WPA) do all the heavy lifting. After all, with over 6,300 plate appearances to recall, more than a few high highlights, and low lights, might be dimmed by the shortcomings of memory.

Yankees’ 2011 WPA Distribution

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Looking at the graph above, it’s easy to see why so much of a baseball season can seem like a blur. Over 57% of Yankees’ plate appearances registered a WPA of 2% or less, while 84% of trips to the plate moved the needle by 5% or less. Of course, without all of these seemingly inconsequential moments, the dramatic events that exist as outliers wouldn’t be possible. Listed below are those highlights and lowlights, both ranked by WPA.

10 Best Plate Appearances, Ranked by WPA

Source: Baseball-reference.com

10 Worst Plate Appearances, Ranked by WPA

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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Albert Pujols was supposed to be a Cardinal for life.

Albert Pujols’ decision to take his talents to Southern California has inspired great joy among Angels’ fans and, not surprisingly, a considerable amount of vitriol from those who root for the Cardinals. Phony, trader, liar, mercenary, and fraud have all been used on twitter and talk radio to describe Pujols because he opted for a mega 10-year deal worth $254 million (with $30 million in extra incentives) over a hometown discount. Apparently, charity begins in St. Louis.

Although it’s understandable why Cardinals’ fans might feel betrayed, such sentiment is both incredibly naïve and logically absurd. According to fangraphs.com, Pujols has provided $194 million worth of performance in excess of the $104 million the Cardinals have paid him since 2002 (if 2001 was included, that figure would be even higher). In other words, the Cardinals already got their discount. What’s more, not one, but reportedly three different teams offered Pujols a better deal than the Cardinals, so it sure seems as if it was the team, and not the player, that had an unfair sense of his worth.

Albert Pujols’ Salary vs. Value, 2002-2011
 
Source: fangraphs (value) and baseball-reference.com (salary)

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Nakajima lines a run-scoring single during the final game of the 2009 WBC, which was won by Japan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Considered along side the other big headlines being made at the Winter Meetings, the Yankees winning bid for the rights to Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, it could signal the beginning of a new strategy designed to circumvent some of the onerous restrictions triggered by the new CBA as well as mitigate some of the difficulty in building a bench behind a strong starting lineup.

In 10 seasons with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League, Nakajima posted a line of .302/.369/.475 in over 4,500 plate appearances. According to Patrick Newman, who hosts a website dedicated to Japanese baseball, he is a plus defender with a strong enough arm to play all three infield positions. Although statistics and scouting reports about Japanese players should be taken with a grain of salt, all signs seem to suggest he has the potential to be a solid utility infielder.

Hiroyuki Nakajima’s Career Statistics

Source: Nippon Professional Baseball League Official Website

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For the last nine seasons, David Ortiz has been one of the most prolific hitters in baseball and the rock of the Boston Red Sox’ lineup. However, there hasn’t been much love for Big Papi on the free agent market. According to recent reports, the DH’s options seem limited to accepting arbitration or signing a discounted two-year deal with the Red Sox. If that really is the case, the Yankees should make him an offer he can’t refuse.

Brian Cashman has correctly identified pitching as the Yankees’ top priority. However, in the absence of attractive starting pitching on the market (at least not at a reasonable price), maybe that isn’t the best approach? After all, an alternative to preventing runs is scoring them, and adding Ortiz would certainly help the Yankees do just that.

With the exception of Don Baylor from 1983 to 1986, the Yankees have rarely had a full-time DH. Jorge Posada’s 90 games as a DH last year is surpassed by only seven other Yankees and ranks as the third highest total since 1991. So, if the team signed Ortiz, it would represent a philosophical reversal, especially for Joe Girardi, who has grown fond of using the DH as a “half day off” for his aging veterans.

Ironically, the man most likely to fill the DH slot for the Yankees in 2012 is 22-year old Jesus Montero. The most sensible objection to signing Ortiz is the negative impact it would have Montero’s playing time, but even that could be spun into a positive. Instead of settling on the rookie as a DH, the presence of Ortiz could force the Yankees to develop him more as a catcher, which, in the long run, would pay greater dividends.

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CC Sabathia surprised all of baseball by doing exactly what everyone suspected he would: sign an extension to remain with the New York Yankees.

Sabathia will be roaring in pinstripes for at least five more years. (Photo: Getty Images)

Although there was little doubt Sabathia would remain in pinstripes, conventional wisdom suggested the big left hander would first opt out of his current deal before returning to the Bronx. Instead of allowing it to get that far, however, GM Brian Cashman set about hammering out a contract extension that could add as many as two more years to the four remaining on Sabathia’s existing deal.

In some ways, the Yankees’ preemptive strike is both a validation and repudiation of arguments advanced on both sides of the Sabathia opt out debate. While some will portray the left hander’s decision as proof of his often-stated desire to end his career in pinstripes, others will likely treat the extension as a de facto opt out. When you really think about it, both interpretations have merit. Because Sabathia decided to eschew free agency, it seems as if his preference was for pitching in New York. However, his loyalty did come at a price, which isn’t to suggest dishonesty of any sort. Rather, Sabathia leveraged both his contractual rights and superior performance over the last three years into a well deserved extension.

Would Sabathia have opted out without an extension? And, if so, what kind of offers would he have received on the open market? It would have been interesting to find out the answers to those questions, but both he and the Yankees did well to leave them unaddressed.

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Ron Washington’s decision to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera with the bases empty in the bottom of the eighth was the kind of move that could have become infamous in postseason lore, especially after Victor Martinez singled him to third base with only one out. At the time, the move was roundly criticized, including by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on the Fox broadcast, but because Cabrera was eventually thrown out at the plate, it will likely become nothing more than a footnote.

Ron Washington's decision to walk Miguel Cabrera with no men on in the 8th was a pivotal point in the game (Photo: AP).

Just because Cabrera didn’t score doesn’t mean Washington’s decision was sound. By the same logic, however, Martinez’ subsequent single doesn’t mean it was a foolish choice. Instead, the soundness of the move should be based solely on the context before the decision was made. So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what went into Washington’s unorthodox ploy.

Before his at bat in the eighth inning, Cabrera was batting .385/.529/.846, while Martinez was struggling at .083/.267/.333. Even though both lines were compiled in very small samples, it’s easy to see why the Rangers would want to be cautious with Cabrera, who has gained the reputation as one of the best hitters in the game. When you also consider Victor Martinez’ strained oblique as well as reliever Mike Adams’ success against left handed hitters, the case for walking Cabrera appears even stronger. Finally, when you factor in the lack of speed by both players as well as the presence of Delmon Young, another injured batter, behind Martinez, the idea of not letting Cabrera beat you under any circumstance seems like a wise policy.

When Martinez’ bouncer over first baseman Michael Young’s head sent Cabrera to third base with one out, McCarver and Buck framed the inning along the lines of the Rangers regretting the decision to walk Cabrera. Had the go ahead run scored, however, the real regrettable decision would have been holding Cabrera on because, otherwise, Martinez’ ball would have been a tailor-made double play. Of course, that assumes a pre-determined outcome, which isn’t necessary in this case. As mentioned previously, the case for walking Cabrera was compelling even before considering a subsequent outcome.

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As Alex Rodriguez’ walked back to the dugout after striking out to end the 2011 ALDS, you could practically see the headlines writing themselves. Not surprisingly, the New York tabloids didn’t disappoint when it came to assigning a disproportionate amount of blame to Rodriguez, but unfortunately, the “you just knew it had to be Arod” sentiment has also proven to be quite popular with Yankees’ fans.

It had to be Arod? Alex Rodriguez walks away dejectedly after making the last out in the 2011 ALDS (Photo: AP).

At this point, it makes little sense to defend Arod’s performance in the clutch. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, those pre-disposed to dislike Rodriquez will dismiss it just because. Similarly, it seems futile to point out that Curtis Granderson’s and Robinson Cano’s outs, which preceded Arod’s, actually had a bigger impact on the Yankees’ chances of winning game five. Even though the first two outs didn’t offer the lasting impression of a sullen, $30 million man walking slowly from the plate as the Tigers charged the field, the fact remains that three Yankees, not one, went down in the final frame.

Based on the comments, conversation, and articles that have followed Rodriguez’ final out, one might get the impression that Arod is the only Yankees’ player to ever make the last out of a postseason series. Apparently, before being saddled with the baggage of a three-time MVP, the Yankees always won in October? In order to dispel that myth, listed below is the last out of every Yankees’ postseason series defeat.

Final Batted Outs in Yankees’ Postseason History (click to enlarge)

Note: Yankees suffered walk-offs in 1960, 1995 and 2001. Babe Ruth was caught stealing to end the 1926 World Series.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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