The Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Orioles in the opening game of the ALDS took a team effort on offense. Every member of the starting lineup reached base at least once, and all but two players recorded a hit. Unfortunately for Alex Rodriguez, he happened to be one of them.
There were many positives about yesterday’s offensive display, not the least of which were the performances of Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher, who have both struggled in the postseason during their time in pinstripes. However, instead of focusing on those players’ positive contributions, more attention has been given to Arod’s 0-4, which included three strikes and four men left on base.
Arod can’t sneeze in October without there being a massive (over)reaction, but, at some point, there needs to be a little context. Sure, Arod was held hitless and came up empty in his final two at bats with runners in scoring position. However, all five of his plate appearances came against tough right handed pitchers, making him the only hitter in the lineup who did not have the advantage of facing a pitcher throwing from the other side.
In his first three plate appearances against starter Jason Hammel, who has held righties to rates of .266/.328/.364 (good for an sOPS+ a notch better than average in the split), Arod managed a walk and a run scored in between striking out and grounding out to short stop. Then, in his final two times to the plate, Arod struck out swinging against righty specialist Darren O’Day and Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, who have allowed an OPS against right handed hitters of .584 and .526, respectively (both well below the league average). Does that mean Rodriguez shouldn’t be expected to produce? Of course not, but overreacting to one game in which Rodriguez still managed a small contribution despite having relatively difficult match-ups is taking matters to the other extreme.
Tonight, the Yankees face Wei-Yin Chen, a lefty, so maybe Alex Rodriguez’ critics can cut him some slack and hold off their barrage for one more day? If he doesn’t go 4-4 with three homers, all of which either tie the game or put the Yankees ahead (no stat padding), then the discussion about moving him down in the lineup can begin.