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Is Alex Rodriguez Too Harshly Criticized for His Playoff Performances?: Fan’s Opinion
One of the most criticized players in all of Major League Baseball is Alex Rodriguez. When fans want to criticize A-Rod there are usually three points they go after. 1) Steroids 2) His desire to be Derek Jeter or 3) His poor playoff performance. Now I can't help Mr. Rod on the first two points but his poor playoff history is very overrated.
Before we delve into Rodriguez's playoff history-and some comparisons to other players-let's remember a few things about playoff performances.
1) One playoff series is, at most, seven games and can be as few as three games. This is about as small a sample size as you'll get in baseball and the statisticians love to complain about small sample sizes. With a small sample size stats that are based on percentages are going to be lower most of the time.
2) It's the playoffs. It's more difficult to hit because the pitcher is geeked up unlike any other time of the year.
3) Alex Rodriguez has always been the best player on his team in the regular season. Which means pitchers, managers, coaches, game plans are all going to be focused around getting him out more than any other player.
4) It's not fair to compare Rodriguez to Derek Jeter. Yes, Rodriguez isn't Jeter in the playoffs. Who is Jeter in the playoffs? He's one of the best all-time. Telling Rodriguez he's not a good playoff baseball player until he's as good as Jeter in the playoffs would be like my nephew drawing a picture for me and telling him to get back to me when he draws as good as Picasso. When Ichiro, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, or any other random MLB star doesn't perform in the playoffs nobody would say, "well, he's no Jeter!' So A-Rod should not get the same treatment either.
All of that is to say that expecting the star player-that an opposing team is focusing on-to have incredible numbers in a small sample size is being unrealistic. Rodriguez is a career .302 hitter with an OPS of .953. During the playoffs those numbers only dip to .277 and .884. Would you like for your best hitter to hit the same in the playoffs as in the regular season or even better? Of course you would. But that also isn't a significant drop. Rodriguez's naysayers act likes he's a .200 hitter in the playoffs.
Sans two at-bats in the 1995, Rodriguez's first experience in the MLB playoffs was in 1997. At the ripe age of 21-years old. Rodriguez's only scoring contribution was a solo home run but for the series he batted .313 with an OPS of .875. The next season A-Rod played two playoff series with the Mariners. In the first series against the White Sox he had a similar performance to the previous series. He didn't contribute much to the scoring-2 RBI and 0 runs-but he wasn't a detriment with his .308 average either.
In the next round the Mariners played the mighty New York Yankees. Rodriguez is a 24-year old kid on the biggest stage of them all against the Yankees in the playoffs. Rodriguez proceeds to bat .409 with a 1.253 OPS, blasts two home runs, knocks in five runs and scores four more runs. Funny how Yankees fans remember a few poor performances by A-Rod but they forgot the year that the 24-year old got the best of them.
Rodriguez never made the playoffs with the Rangers so his next playoff performance was as a New York Yankee. His first series went smashingly. Rodriguez batted .421 with a 1.213 OPS against the Minnesota Twins. The next series was the infamous Boston Red Sox championship run. The Yankees went up 3-0 in the ALCS and I think the Yankees fans forget that Rodriguez had some huge hits in those games. Rodriguez ended up with a mediocre line after the last four games, but what Yankees player didn't come out of that series looking bad?
I think the main reason A-Rod gets so much hate is because after the Red Sox won the World Series the heat was on and it was the following two postseasons that Rodriguez had his worst playoff performance. In 2005 Rodriguez batted a lowly .133 against the Los Angeles Angels and the following season it got worse when he hit .071 against the Detroit Tigers the next season.
The following season was mediocre—.267 BA, .820 OPS, one home run, one RBI-but Rodriguez bounced back in 2009 with a .455 BA and 1.500 OPS in the ALDS and a .429 BA and 1.519 OPS in the ALCS. The batting average dipped to .250 in the World Series but in the end A-Rod hit six home runs and 18 RBI in one postseason.
The 2010 season saw a good ALDS followed by a bad ALCS and the 2011 Rodriguez batted just .111. However, everyone focuses on the bad when it comes to Rodriguez. Overall Rodriguez had six really good to great playoff series, four average playoff series and four bad playoff series. In fourteen playoff series he was bad in four of them. That's all. But many people would have you believe he was bad in most of them or at least half of them.
Let's also consider this. How often is playoff performance discussed when it comes to the greatest baseball players of all-time? Perhaps if a player does really well in postseason-Reggie Jackson comes to mind-then it will be a bonus for them but not many all-time greats are penalized for being bad in the posteason.
Rodriguez is one of the greatest third baseman to ever play Major League Baseball. Another great player at that position was Mike Schmidt, a player that Rodriguez has easily bested in playoff performance. Schmidt was just a .236 hitter in the postseason with a .690 OPS. Schmidt did knock in seven runs in the 1980 World Series but never had more than two RBI in any other playoff series.
Frank Robinson is one of the most admired players in baseball history and has his number retired from the entire league. Robinson only batted .238 in the postseason and only batted over .300 in a series once. Stan Musial is one of the greatest pure hitters in baseball history but only batted .222 in the playoffs. Unfortunately Ted Williams only played in one postseason but he didn't rise to the occasion, batting .200 with just one RBI. Everybody is familiar with "The Catch" made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series but he only batted .247 with a .660 OPS in the postseason.
Nobody ever says, "Man, Willie Mays was great but he didn't do very well in the postseason." You know who else nobody says that about? Mickey Mantle. Mantle is one of the most beloved Yankees of all-time and nobody ever criticizes his playoff performance when the truth is Mantle and Rodriguez have almost identical postseason stats:
Mantle 65 G .257 BA .908 OPS 18 HR 40 RBI 3 SB 43 BB 54 K 42 R
Rodriguez 68 G .277 BA .884 OPS 13 HR 41 RBI 8 SB 37 BB 63 K 42 R
Jn fact, even though Mantle's overall numbers are similar, he actually had fewer good series. The only series that Mantle hit really well were the 1952 World Series and the 1960 World Series. Mantle posted batting averages of .208 or lower in the 1951 World Series, 1953 World Series, 1955 World Series, 1961 World Series and 1963 World Series. I hate to break it to the baseball world-especially the Yankees fans-but if Rodriguez sucks in the playoffs then so does Mantle.
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All stats were found at Baseball-Reference.com
The last several generations of Lee Andrew Henderson's family were Pittsburgh born and even though he was born in Alabama he has been a long time fan of the Pirates, Steelers and Panthers. Lee Andrew Henderson can be found on Twitter at @LeeAHenderson
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