By In Stuff

Pinch-Hitting A-Rod

A long Yankees post is coming, but sometimes it’s important just to stop for a minute and make note of an absolutely amazing moment.

Tuesday night in Detroit, with the game on the line, with the series on the line, with the season on the line, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi allowed Raul Ibanez to hit against a lefty when Alex Rodriguez was on the bench.

Could you imagine those words being written even three weeks ago, much less six months or a year or two years ago?

That’s how far this crazy postseason has come. Let’s throw a few numbers out there:

How lefties have hit Phil Coke over his career: .233/.287/.336.

How Raul Ibanez hit lefties this regular season: .197/.246/.246 with zero homers.

Now, you could point out that the last time Ibanez faced a lefty reliever in a huge situation, he homered off Baltimore’s Brian Matusz. Thing is, you could take two things from that. One, you could take that Ibanez is some kind of hot and that, lefty or righty on the mound, doesn’t matter, not with this version of Raul, so you can throw the past into the dustbin because this is a whole new deal. Or two — and this is coming from the world’s biggest Raul Ibanez fan — you could take away that Raul got his one homer off a lefty already, and that to hope for that to happen again its to hope for winning the lottery twice.

The larger point is that A-Rod was on the bench. It’s hard to imagine what is left for Joe Girardi to do to A-Rod. Make him clean the latrines? Girardi pinch-hit for him in the ninth inning, got the Ibanez homer, and felt empowered by the move (and, perhaps, the good press that came with it) and then pinch-hit for him again the next night. Then he benched A-Rod for a Game 5. Then he pinch-hit for A-Rod down four runs. Then he benched A-Rod again. And finally, in the crescendo, he decided Tuesday night that he would rather take his chances on the remarkable unlikelihood of Ibanez hitting a tough lefty than put A-Rod out there.

Here’s what happens if Girardi pinch-hits A-Rod: Jim Leyland pulls Coke. There’s no way he allows Coke to face A-Rod there — heck, as down a year as A-Rod had, he still hit .308/.410/.514 against lefties this year. In the immediate narrative of “A-Rod is done,” it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that A-Rod has hit a lot of home runs in his life, and Leyland’s respect for A-Rod would unquestionably have sparked a bullpen move.

So, he pulls Coke and brings in … who? Joaquin Benoit? Octavio Dotel? Heck, we KNOW the closer, Jose Valverde, wasn’t coming in. The Tigers’ bullpen is scary bad, this is one of the biggest stories of the postseason, this is something that Joe Girardi must have in his binders* somewhere. The wonderful ol’ left-hander, Joe Nuxhall, used to always say on his radio broadcasts: “If you swing the bat, you’re dangerous.” Well, if you can force Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland to open that bullpen gate, you are seriously dangerous.

*No. No binders jokes here.

But … no. Girardi went with his gut or his grudge or something. Hey, I know A-Rod is struggling. I get it. He looks terrible. He’s apparently trying to make up for his struggles by trying to pick up women during the game — and reportedly he’s striking out there, too. He’s hitting .130 for the postseason with 12 strikeouts in 23 at-bats. He’s got Donald Trump beating him up on Twitter. He’s got the media and the fans all over him. I get it. And he looks thoroughly beaten, thoroughly embarrassed, his last at-bat on Monday night was like a performance art piece titled: “Man Flailing.” I understand.

But, he’s hit 647 home runs in his career, 18 of them this year. He has been one of the greatest players who ever lived. He may have ticked off a lot of people because of his bank-bouncing contract, but he didn’t get that contract because of his personality, he got it because of his sheer and utter awesomeness.

He’s not as awesome now. He’s older, his bat’s slower, his body’s more beaten up and I suspect his mental health at the moment isn’t too great. So, when Girardi pinch-hits for A-Rod, people nod (especially when Ibanez hits the homer). When Girardi benches A-Rod people nod. When Girardi benches A-Rod again — this time for Eric Chavez, who is now 0-for-14 in the series, by the way — many people continue to nod. Seriously: Who is going to stand up for Alex Rodriguez?

But this … having Raul Ibanez hit against a lefty instead of sending A-Rod up there in the ninth with the hope that he might find his strength and do something he has done 660 times in his career (including postseason play)? This, it seems to me, is putting your own rancor or bizarre intuition or point-proving gene ahead of trying to give your wounded team its best chance of winning.

The Yankees will have to figure out what to do with A-Rod and his $114 million contract when this season ends, and I suspect that will not be an easy thing to figure out. For now, it seems obvious to me, they should have at least tried to squeeze another big home run out of him.

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43 Responses to Pinch-Hitting A-Rod

  1. BD says:

    “The Tigers’ bullpen is scary bad.”

    This is overkill. Tigers bullpen is slightly below average, and you’re overreacting to recent high-visibility events.

    Is the Yankees offense “scary bad” on some absolute level, or have they just had a bad postseason? Clearly the latter. Similarly, the Tigers bullpen is merely not good.

  2. Karim Renno says:

    As usual, an absolutely fantastic post Joe. Too bad so many journalists are blinded by their dislike for A-Rod to realize how utterly ridiculous Girardi’s decisions regarding him are.

    Yes, it is obvious A-Rod is no longer an elite player and, yes, it is true he didn’t exactly sparkle in 2012 considering his contract. But his OPS of .783, as bad as it is by his lofty standards, was still good enough for 35th in the AL among qualified players. Acting, as Girardi is doing, like he can’t possibly contribute to the Yankees in the postseason just makes no sense even if, for the sake of argument, we did not consider the rest of his career before 2012.

  3. mckingford says:

    I agree with all of this, but lets take it even further. Because, we all agree, Leyland surely brings in a righty. Even if Girardi doesn’t want ARod hitting righties (and thus thinks to justify his move by saying he’d rather have Raul hit against a lefty than ARod hitting against a righty), he still has Swisher sitting on the bench. So force Leyland to go with a righty and then pinch hit ARod again, if you’ve totally lost confidence in his ability to hit righties.

    The question Girardi needed to ask was: do you want

    a) Raul v lefty (Coke)
    b) ARod v righty (Benoit/Dotel/Albuequerque)
    c) Swisher v righty

    Choices b and c are both better than a.

  4. Mark Daniel says:

    You would have pinch hit for Raul Ibanez in that situation? And you would have done it with ARod? Yikes.
    You are neglecting two key facts in your, admittedly, reasoned analysis. One, the Yankees believe in ghosts and magic. Raul Ibanez has delivered more magic this postseason than Reggie Jackson in 1977. Two, the Yankees believe that some players can’t hack it in New York. And ARod is almost the very definition of that type of player.

    Girardi would have had to go against generations of Yankee lore to make that decision. And that’s a hard thing to do for a guy with 4 World Series rings with the Yankees.

    • brhalbleib says:

      Guess where Mr. October was at the beginning of Game 5 (in 1977 that was the final game) of the ALCS in 1977. Pretty funny you should mention him as being magical that year. Billy Martin apparently didn’t agree with you, at least against LH pitchers.

    • The Yankees may believe in ghosts in magic. Certainly they allow the fans’ belief that they do to persist. They definitely do believe that certain players can’t hack it in New York. They certainly do not believe that ARod is such a player.

      ARod has won 2 MVPs with the Yankees. They are the only 2 MVPs won by Yankees in the past 27 seasons (including 2012 since we know it’s not going to a Yankee this year). When he opted out of his contract, and they could have got out from under, they re-upped him for more money and more years. And to an extent, they were rewarded for doing so when he turned in one of the great postseasons in 2009 and led them to their only championship of the past 12 seasons.

      So the Yankees don’t think that ARod can’t hack it in NY. He has already hacked it in NY with fantastic results (1 World championship, 2 MVPs and 8 postseason appearances in 9 seasons are fantastic results, even for the mighty Yankees).

      They (and “they” really means Joe Girardi) merely let recent small-sample sizes fool them into believing that Ibanez against a lefty was a better bet than Rodriguez or Swisher against a righty.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      brhalbleib, are you talking about world series MVP Reggie Jackson? Reggie was benched in part for the same reasons Ibanez was left in to hit against Coke in the last game – small sample size aberrations. But he was also benched because Paul Blair was a better fielder, and the Yanks had their best pitcher (Guidry) going that game. He also had personal issues with Billy Martin, which no doubt played a role in Reggie being benched. And, Martin pinch hit Reggie in the 8th inning of that game, and he delivered an RBI single. He pinch hit Reggie because Reggie was in his prime and had one of his better season in 1977 (OPS+ 150).

      ARod is not on the bench because there’s a better fielder out there. It’s because he is currently stinking up the place. Maybe it’s small sample size noise, but his replacement, Ibanez, has delivered some magic. As I said, the Yankees believe in magic.

    • Josh Ross says:

      Has everyone somehow forgotten that A-Rod won the 2009 division series essentially by himself, and hit .390 for that postseason with 6hrs and 18rbi? I know matsui won the ws mvp, but a-rod was the playoff mvp. Saying he can’t hack it in ny is just plain ignorance. The a-rod haters our there are just jealous of his contract. This is a guy that gave up a position at which he won a gold glove just to come play in ny, and he’s received nothing by ill-will since, despite those 2mvps and 300+ hrs. It’s disgraceful. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a Yankee fan.

  5. dmstorm22 says:

    I like the idea to replace A-Rod in the lineup with Eric Chavez, who was 0-11 in the postseason entering last night. I realize the Lefty vs. Righty aspect, but there are few other options. A-Rod is covering for Cano and Granderson both having awful playoffs.

    I definitely would have put A-Rod in, but not even for Ibanez, but for Cano, where Leyland wouldn’t have been able to make a pitching change.

  6. Gary says:

    And, if Girardi had pinch-hit A-Rod and he’d have flailed at three sloppy pitches from Benoit, writers all over the Internet would be beating up Girardi for not riding the hot hand with Ibanez. It was a damned if you do-damned if you don’t situation for Girardi. What no one has pointed out that I’ve seen is that based on the post-season so far, Girardi would have been better off pinch-running A-Rod for Teixeira and putting Nix in as the pinch-hitter.

  7. Chris M says:

    Fun with numbers:

    The awful, no-good, very-bad, un-clutch loser A-Rod has a career .838 postseason OPS.

    The amazing, wonderful, super-clutch Mr. November Derek Jeter has a career .838 postseason OPS.

    Even at his worst, A-Rod is just as good as Jeter as his best. Get off his back, Yankee fans and appreciate the best player your franchise has had since Mickey Mantle.

  8. Harry B says:

    If the Yankees pick up $85 mil of that contract, chump change for them, there will be 30 clubs waiting in line to make that trade.

  9. Yes, letting A-Rod pinch hit there would have made sense.

    Hoping for Ibañez to perform more miracles is much more fun, though.

  10. Feralad says:

    The rationale for pinch-hitting A-Rod is good. No argument there. But Girardi has to take into account what happens if A-Rod fails. Which, by his Postseason numbers is 87% likely to happen. Even if you go by his regular season numbers, he has a 69.2% chance of failing. (Batting average)

    As a manager you have to weigh all the possibilities. The consequences are devastating if A-Rod fails. Girardi is hanging himself and A-Rod out to dry.

  11. Jeff Harris says:

    “A long Yankees post is coming…”

    Long-time reader, and I love Joe’s writing, but I don’t think we need another curiously long Yankees post.

  12. Dandy Prof says:

    Apparently everyone neglects the fact that A-rod suffered a broken wrist not too long ago, and the version of himself that returned after the DL stint is a shadow of the shadow of A-rod that we have witnessed the last few years. He has had no power and his timing is way off.

    It’s not that Girardi didn’t pinch hit the diminished A-rod of the past few years for Ibanez. It’s that he didn’t pinch hit the still-recovering-from-injury-and-lost-at-the-plate version of A-rod for Ibanez.

    • But the still-recovering-from-injury-and-lost-at-the-plate version of A-rod is still better than Ibanez against lefties. A-rod’s rather bad line in Sept/Oct of .261/.341/.369, is still quite a bit better than that of Ibanez’s line against lefties.

    • Dandy Prof says:

      Except it would have been A-Rod vs. Righty and his triple slash against righties has been terrible all year.

  13. A-ROID is paying the price for using so many drugs for so many years. I think the yankees should take the advice of Donald Trump and try to get out of Rodriquez’ contract on the basis of Rodriguez having hidden his long-term steroid usage. I know the players union would fight that tooth and nail, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

    • Scott says:

      Won’t fly in court. Baseball’s commissioner and owner knew about the steroid use years before it came out and opted to do nothing. At that point they were in a de facto criminal conspiracy with steroid users like A-rod and because of their part in covering up his (and other players) steroid use and benefiting from that use while it occurred they won’t have any claim for damages now.

  14. No comment on the Schticky yet?

  15. For me, picking up on Cal Ripken’s comments for TBS, Girardi’s vendetta became clear once I saw A-Rod’s career stats vs. Verlander, against whom the Yankees needed all the help they cd get regardless of the righty-righty match-up. A-Rod has a career 1.005 OPS vs. Verlander in 30 career ABs incl. three homers and 8 walks. I’m saying this despite the fact that I’m an Oriole fan–I just think it’s bad managing about a very important piece of strategy.

  16. Carlos Manon says:

    hes done and everyone knows it….

  17. if it hasn’t been mentioned, Rob Neyer had a post about this, as well. He even posted a screencap of his tweet before Cano singled to prove he wasn’t making things up: he really really thought A-Roid was a no-brainer there.

    I disagreed with him and I disagree with you, Joe.

    Ibanez is the textbook streak hitter, and when he’s hot, all bets are off. When he’s going good, he even hits lefties. Witness as you did the Matusz homerun. Making a joke about a once-in-a-lifetime event doesn’t make it not have happened. Fact is, Ibanez had homered off a lefty more recently than A-Rod had.

    After all, the platoon split doesn’t always obtain. A-Rod has what? 150 points of OBP on Ibanez vs. lefties. So, three times in twenty it’ll make a difference. It’s hard to fault Girardi or any manager for playing a hunch that a platton split won’t make a difference, when the other thing he could do is play a hunch that it will.

    In a phrase my position is Over a season, play the platoon, over an atbat play the hot hand. Nothing original here, it’s probably the default position for major league managers, but just saying I think you and Mr. Neyer have it wrong. This time, anyway.

  18. Kevin Miller says:

    If Girardi had sent A-Rod up, Detroit would have countered with a righty. Home team gets the last move. A-Rod is done and has been for awhile.

    • Frank says:

      @Kevin. What are you talking about? Team at bat gets the last move. Detroit brings in a righty, and the Yankees counter with a lefty batter pinch-hitting for A-rod. – Swisher, probably.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Kevin just made up a new rule! Very creative.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Frank, you’re not exactly correct either. Pinch Hitting is only limited by the number of players on the bench, while relief pitchers must face one batter before being replaced. It has nothing to do with the team at bat getting the last move.

  19. Jeremy says:

    one talks about Chavez error he made that cost them the winning run in game 3 arod makes that play.

  20. Unknown says:

    Yes, lets justify that the Yankess cant win unless they get A-ROID the cheater out there with his charismatic play and unabashed credibility for playing the game the right way..HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

  21. Unknown says:

    Yes, lets justify that the Yankess cant win unless they get A-ROID the cheater out there with his charismatic play and unabashed credibility for playing the game the right way..HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA

  22. Gary says:

    And now we know: A-Rod pinch-hits for Ibanez and hits a weak fly ball to medium centerfield.

  23. Alejo says:

    Dear Mr Posnanski,

    Lance Armstrong has been dispossesed of his Tours de France (seven, the record) and abandoned by Nike.

    Probably, his Tours will not be reassigned to anyone, because those who came after him are also convicted of doping.

    The sponsors of several pro cycling teams are also quitting. The sport it´s not clean and ultimately not true: fans don´t know what they are watching. Understandably, banks and other businesses don´t want to be associated to cheating athletes.

    In the past you have been ambivalent about the use of PEDs in baseball. You have also defended the inclusion of PEDs users in the HOF. This would be a travesty, awarding those who practically stole money and trophies from clean players.

    You love baseball with passion. That´s pretty obvious. When you think about its future, see what´s happened to pro cycling, how it became irrelevant and synonimous with fraud.

  24. David bone says:

    wow great i have read many articles about this topic and everytime i learn something new i dont think it will ever stop always new info , Thanks for all of your hard work! hgh

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