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A-Rod, The Chicken, The Egg & The Fence

Posted by Steve Lombardi on September 26, 2009

For me, when a batter reaches base in a game three or more times, and he also scores two or more runs and drives in two or more runs in the contest, he's had a big day at the plate. Alex Rodriguez had such a "big day" in yesterday's Yankees game.

Just for the heck of it, I decided to use Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index Batting Game Finder to see how many times "A-Rod" has post a game like last night this season - and break it down by games the Yankees have won and lost.

First, here's when Alex has posted such an effort in Yankees wins this year:

Alex Rodriguez: For 2009, Team Won, (requiring TOB>=3, R>=2 and RBI>=2), sorted by most recent date in a game

  Cnt Date       Tm   Opp GmReslt PA AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB TOB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BOr Positions
+----+-------------+---+----+-------+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+---+--+---+---+--+---+--+--+---+---+--+--+---+---------+
    1 2009-09-25 NYY  BOS W  9-5   5  3  3  3  1  0  1   4  2   5   0  0   0  0  0   0   0  3  0 4th 3B
    2 2009-09-03 NYY @TOR W 10-5   5  4  2  2  0  0  1   2  1   3   0  2   0  0  0   0   0  0  0 4th 3B
    3 2009-06-25 NYY @ATL W 11-7   6  5  2  3  0  0  1   4  1   5   0  1   0  0  0   1   0  0  0 4th 3B
    4 2009-05-25 NYY @TEX W 11-1   5  5  2  5  2  0  0   4  0   5   0  0   0  0  0   0   0  0  0 4th 3B
   
Games found: 4.

And, next, here are A-Rod's big days with the bat in games that the Yankees have lost this season:

Alex Rodriguez: For 2009, Team Lost, (requiring TOB>=3, R>=2 and RBI>=2), sorted by most recent date in a game

  Cnt Date       Tm   Opp GmReslt PA AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB TOB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BOr Positions
+----+-------------+---+----+-------+--+--+--+--+--+--+--+---+--+---+---+--+---+--+--+---+---+--+--+---+---------+
    1 2009-07-11 NYY @LAA L  8-14  4  3  3  2  0  0  2   3  1   3   0  1   0  0  0   0   0  0  0 4th 3B
    2 2009-07-10 NYY @LAA L  6-10  5  5  2  3  1  0  1   2  0   3   0  2   0  0  0   0   0  0  0 4th 3B
   
Games found: 2.

O.K., so, we're talking about 6 games here...not a huge sample size. So, what if we expand this from "just 2009 to date" to "Since 2004 to 2009 to date"?

This tells us that there have been 54 games since 2004 where Alex Rodriguez has had a "big day" with the bat for the Yankees were the team won.  And, there have been just 10 games since 2004 where Alex Rodriguez had a "big day" and the Yankees lost.

Therefore, since A-Rod's been a Yankee, when he has a big day at the plate, the Yankees have won 84% of the time.

Of course, there are many other factors that come into play here - like what the rest of the Yankees team does in these games, especially their pitchers.  But, at the least, if someone want to say that A-Rod only has big days in games that the Yankees lose, well, we know that's not true...based on these stats.

Now, the next question may be the one around "stat padding" - meaning does Alex Rodriguez only have big days with the bat in games where the Yankees are having a "laugher"? Well, if you look at those 54 games where the Yanks won and A-Rod had a big day, and rank them by the amount of runs the Yankees won by that day, you'd get this list:

Date		Tm	 Opp	 Gm	RS	RA	Diff
07/22/07	NYY	 TBD	 W	21	4	17
04/03/06	NYY	@OAK	 W	15	2	13
06/15/08	NYY	@HOU	 W	13	0	13
07/21/07	NYY	 TBD	 W	17	5	12
05/27/06	NYY	 KCR	 W	15	4	11
07/02/08	NYY	 TEX	 W	18	7	11
04/18/05	NYY	 TBD	 W	19	8	11
09/18/04	NYY	 BOS	 W	14	4	10
05/25/09	NYY	@TEX	 W	11	1	10
09/19/04	NYY	 BOS	 W	11	1	10
09/03/06	NYY	 MIN	 W	10	1	9
06/08/05	NYY	@MIL	 W	12	3	9
05/14/05	NYY	@OAK	 W	15	6	9
04/20/05	NYY	@TOR	 W	11	2	9
08/17/08	NYY	 KCR	 W	15	6	9
05/24/05	NYY	 DET	 W	12	3	9
07/02/06	NYY	 NYM	 W	16	7	9
07/21/08	NYY	 MIN	 W	12	4	8
04/26/05	NYY	 LAA	 W	12	4	8
09/05/07	NYY	 SEA	 W	10	2	8
05/21/08	NYY	 BAL	 W	8	0	8
08/19/06	NYY	@BOS	 W	13	5	8
08/04/07	NYY	 KCR	 W	16	8	8
09/01/06	NYY	 MIN	 W	8	1	7
06/10/07	NYY	 PIT	 W	13	6	7
08/14/05	NYY	 TEX	 W	10	3	7
06/22/04	NYY	@BAL	 W	10	4	6
04/16/06	NYY	@MIN	 W	9	3	6
06/14/07	NYY	 ARI	 W	7	1	6
06/17/07	NYY	 NYM	 W	8	2	6
09/08/07	NYY	@KCR	 W	11	5	6
07/18/08	NYY	 OAK	 W	7	1	6
09/09/08	NYY	@LAA	 W	7	1	6
05/08/07	NYY	 TEX	 W	8	2	6
07/06/07	NYY	 LAA	 W	14	9	5
09/03/09	NYY	@TOR	 W	10	5	5
09/25/09	NYY	 BOS	 W	9	5	4
09/03/08	NYY	@TBR	 W	8	4	4
09/01/08	NYY	@DET	 W	13	9	4
06/25/09	NYY	@ATL	 W	11	7	4
09/09/05	NYY	 BOS	 W	8	4	4
09/13/06	NYY	 TBD	 W	8	4	4
06/05/07	NYY	@CHW	 W	7	3	4
06/16/07	NYY	 NYM	 W	11	8	3
09/11/06	NYY	@BAL	 W	9	6	3
08/19/04	NYY	@MIN	 W	13	10	3
04/07/07	NYY	 BAL	 W	10	7	3
06/17/05	NYY	 CHC	 W	9	6	3
06/18/08	NYY	 SDP	 W	8	5	3
08/31/06	NYY	 DET	 W	6	4	2
09/16/05	NYY	@TOR	 W	11	10	1
09/22/07	NYY	 TOR	 W	12	11	1
05/26/05	NYY	 DET	 W	4	3	1
06/07/08	NYY	 KCR	 W	12	11	1

Now, this is interesting. In 63% of these games where the Yankees won and Alex Rodriguez had a big day with the stick, the Yankees won the game by 6 runs or more. And, in 43% of these games where the Yankees won and Alex Rodriguez had a big day with the stick, the Yankees won the game by 8 runs or more.

But, this is a chicken and the egg sort of thing - did the Yankees win by a lot of runs in these games because A-Rod was throwing around the lumber, or, did A-Rod "pad" his stats in a game where the Yankees were running away? I suppose the answer depends on which side of the "Alex Rodriguez fan" fence that you choose to sit on...

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 26th, 2009 at 1:55 pm and is filed under Game Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

19 Responses to “A-Rod, The Chicken, The Egg & The Fence”

  1. [...] can read all about it here. So, which side of the fence are you [...]

  2. Wow. Sounds like you really don't like Alex Rodriguez. And I thought he was playing under the radar this year.

    This is 2009. Haven't you heard of WPA? By itself, it's hard to interpret, but its not bad as a sanity check for these types of "stat padding" assertions because WPA for a leadoff walk in a tie game is worth a lot more than the WPA for a grand slam in a blowout.

    This site reports WPA for each plate appearance in its box-scores. I can't find season totals for WPA here, but if I check another website, I see that A-Rod is 3rd in the AL in batting-WPA behind only Jason Bay and Johnny Damon. That refutes the stat padding assertion in my opinion. At least for 2009.

  3. Alternatively, you could repeat the exercise for some other batter - Derek Jeter comes to mind for some reason, but maybe Albert Pujols would have more big days - and see whether the run distribution looks any different. Or you could study all batters, 2004-9, to see whether the run distribution for ARod looks any different than it does in general.

  4. @DavidRF:

    I've heard of WPA. But, according to some, the jury is still out on that one.

    See:

    http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/wpa_is_wpa_is_not/

    and

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-one-about-win-probability/

  5. And the jury isn't out on the stuff you pulled out of thin air above?!?

    I certainly wouldn't use WPA for talent evaluation or projection, either, but one thing for sure we know that it actually does is refute your analysis above. If you claim that a player has good numbers but "only gets hits when it doesn't matter" and is a "stat-padder" than you can use something like WPA double-check your anecdotal memory. And WPA says "not in 2009".

    As Gerry points out, you don't have any control group for your data. You could alternatively run your study on all players to get a baseline so we know what to compare A-Rod to. You'll have to do an analysis of each plate appearance and see how much of a "laugher" the game was at that point and how the player did and what you'll come up with is some sort of leverage-based split which is not unlike WPA.

    Looking again, bb-ref has leverage-splits. I see A-Rod is batting .295/.420/.642 this year in "High Leverage" situations. Maybe I don't like A-Rod either, but that doesn't look like a "stat padder" to me. Any time you decide what you want your answer to be before you start analyzing, you usually don't come up with anything good.

  6. Just to be clear, when I wrote: "I suppose the answer depends on which side of the "Alex Rodriguez fan" fence that you choose to sit on..." I meant it. I don't know the answer. And, I will not pretend to know the answer. More so, my point is that many have their own opinion on the matter and it's difficult to say one camp is correct and the other is not...just based on the data presented, alone.

    FWIW, if you want the data on Albert Pujols, here it is:

    87 wins: http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/A3VdZ
    9 losses: http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/krkQB

  7. I think one of the reasons Alex Rodriguez is such a touchstone for these arguments, besides the obvious ones regarding his personality, gaudy stats and famous failures, is that his clutch stats, however you define them, are maddeningly inconsistent.

    Recently, I read that his overall late and close numbers the last few years are close to his normal ones, but year by year they've gone way up and way down. Every other year he's Babe Ruth in those situations; every other year he's Paul Zuvella. Some guys get the reputation with a few hits or failures, and David Ortiz's performance against the Yankees gave him one of greatness in the clutch. A study a few years ago concluded that it was really not true. But if you look back now at his 2001-2006 late and close figures, he raised his game considerably in those situations...and has really fallen off the table since. 11 HR 29 RBI .314 in 2006, 1 9 and .263 in 2007.

    Or look at Melky Cabrera. Anybody who watches the Yankees knows that last year he couldn't buy a hit in a big spot, and this year he has helped the team walk off the field victors, or set up Rivera to win, over and over. Yet his leverage numbers would indicate the opposite! And his batting average in late and close situations was slightly higher last year--but a heck of a lot fewer RBIs.

    Isn't it just possible that clutch play is mostly, as Bill James argued in his baseball abstract, an illusion? Or that at the least it is a confidence-driven thing for some that ebbs and flows? Or that, in the case of Melky, we still really haven't properly defined it?

  8. FWIW, Bill James, for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2008, took a look at clutch hitting. It’s also featured as a special to SI.com.

    James says that “clutch” is a concept containing at least seven elements:

    1. The score,
    2. The runners on base,
    3. The outs,
    4. The inning,
    5. The opposition,
    6. The standings,
    7. The calendar.

    Here's a link to the SI feature: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/baseball/mlb/11/30/james.clutch/index.html

  9. "More so, my point is that many have their own opinion on the matter and it's difficult to say one camp is correct and the other is not...just based on the data presented, alone."

    Oh. Sounds like you don't actually have a point? Just posting random data that may or may not infer things to see what kinds of responses you get?

    If you do have a point, please clarify. Thanks.

  10. @DavidRF -

    Here are my points in this one – just to be clear:

    1. If someone want to say that A-Rod only has big days in games that the Yankees lose, well, we now know that’s not true.

    2. In 63% of these games where the Yankees won and Alex Rodriguez had a big day with the stick, the Yankees won the game by 6 runs or more. And, in 43% of these games where the Yankees won and Alex Rodriguez had a big day with the stick, the Yankees won the game by 8 runs or more. These are stats and facts. If you prefer to call them "random data," then, that's your right, of course.

  11. Thanks for stopping short of making any conclusions because you can't make any.

    I'm sorry to be snippy here, but when you post a lot of data and talk about "stat padding", we all know what you are inferring and then I found it disingenuous when you kept changing the subject in your responses and also claiming you never concluded anything. I think the phrase wikipedia uses for that is "weasel words". I'm a reasonable guy and I realize this is just a fun fact-dump blog, but you can't complain if someone takes your bait.

    "Random Data" are facts, too. And random data it shall remain until context is provided. Until then, I'll be rooting against the Yankees in the playoffs, too. :-)

  12. Take it easy on Steve. He's put in some real effort here to research something and provide some data. You can express your opinion without attacking him personally.

  13. Andy - thanks. No worries. I've been writing about baseball on the internet since 1997. And, if I've learned anything in the process, it's that you should never allow someone else's comments on your work get under your skin - especially if they resort to name calling, etc. DavidRF's comments don't bother me, in the least bit. In fact, I'm happy that he's reading this blog, what I wrote, and that he's commenting on it. I hope that he continues to do so in the future as well.

  14. Sorry if I came across as too harsh. There's no "edit post" feature to allow me to tone things down. I'm just happier letting things go with a simple disagreement if things are stated rather than inferred, that's all.

    It is very cool that the PI can be used to find these types of things, but I suspect that a lot of players with excellent-hitting teammates in hitters parks or eras will also have a lot of games they had good games and their team ran up the score (and would have won without their great games anyways). Guys like Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig.

  15. I like the study, and I think it was done fairly. FWIW, I also think that A-Rod is a huge talent and a big-time performer, but I'm not a big fan. Maybe the comparison with other players over time reveals the most. I looked at the Pujols numbers that were added later and those were eye-popping, with Rodriguez' seeming modest by comparison. It would be interesting to see a few others included, but only a handful have been in their prime from 04-09. If it were narrowed to 06-09, players like Howard and Fielder could be included.

  16. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Helpful nitpick: David, I think you mean "imply" everywhere you've been writing "infer." You are inferring things, but Steve was (or maybe wasn't) implying them.

  17. A-Rod definitely hasn't done too much "stat padding" this year. Over half (48 to be exact) of his 93 RBI have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead, and he's already notched 25 go-ahead hits. His slash stats in Late and Close situations are phenomenal, as Rodriguez is raking at a .310/.474/.741 clip.
    Interesting study, by the way.

  18. As DavidRF validly points out, we need context. Is .290 a good BA? Is 4.15 a good ERA? Is .790 a good OPS? Is 1.20 a good WHIP? Is 5.86 a good LooPA? Is .844 a good WPwARhaBD (Win Percentage when A-Rod has a Big Day)? From experience, most fans know what a good BA and a good ERA are. The "stat heads" among us (most readers of this blog) also know a good OPS and WHIP when we see one. But without league-wide (and perhaps era-wide) means and standard deviations, we have no framework to determine a good LooPA or if 84% wins when your cleanup hitter has "a big day" is impressive or mediocre.

    ANY team should be able to compile a winning record - and probably a high percentage at that - when their cleanup hitter has at least 2 RS and 2 RBI. Heck, by definition, they've scored at least two runs, and barring two solo homers, likely scored more than that. Throw in the fact that he also had 3 hits, and you're probably looking at a lot of games where the opposing pitcher(s) didn't bring their 'A' game to the park. While it is possible that the cleanup guy was the exception, and the rest of his team was shut down offensively, I suspect that more often the cleanup hitter was indicative of the opposing pitchers’ performance, and that the opposing pitcher gave up more hits than average, even discounting the cleanup hitter’s hits.

    So until we have a significantly larger sample size (and I’m talking number of players, not number of games by A-Rod), I must agree with DavidRF, we can’t conclude anything by this.

    But Steve, I like your work, and would be curious to see what other players – particularly other 3- and 4-hole hitters – numbers look loike.

  19. A-Rod is a top three player in MLB. Nothing changes that.