Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, and Joe DiMaggio

There was apparently a football game the other day, and some people think the guy who played quarterback for the losing team choked. I know this because I heard on MLB Network Radio and saw on the internet comparisons between the quarterback and the ultimate post-season choker and all-around villain, Alex Rodriguez.

I don't pretend to know enough about the NFL to comment on whether Peyton Manning falls apart in big games. But as for baseball...In 75 postseason games, Alex Rodriguez has batted .263 with 13 homers. He has a .369 on base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage, giving him an .833 OPS (that's on base plus slugging). An .833 OPS is pretty good. It would have ranked 30th among what would be 141 batting title qualifiers in 2013, right between Yadier Molina (.836) and Carlos Santana (.832). And, of course, in the postseason, Rodgriguez faced better pitching than Molina and Santana did over the course of the season.

I was going to write something about how if Rodriguez is a choker, then Ty Cobb (.262/.315/.354, .668 OPS) and Ted Williams (.200/.333/.200, .533 OPS) were completely useless in the postseason. But it's not really fair to base that on 17 games (Cobb) or 7 games (Williams). So I decided to make a list of all players with 200 or more postseason plate appearances. Note: There is no good list of this, so I probably missed a few compiling it more or less by hand. That's OK. I'm sure I got most of them. I wound up with 51 players with 200 or more postseason plate appearances. 

Where do you think Rodriguez' .833 OPS ranked among the 51? Well, some guys are infielders like Omar Vizquel and Mark Lemke and David Eckstein who aren't really paid to hit, so maybe Rodriguez was 30th? Or 35th? I mean, he defines choke, right?

Nope. Eighteenth. He's nowhere near Carlos Beltran (1.128 OPS), Albert Pujols (1.046), or David Ortiz (.962). But he's ahead of most players. Ahead of almost two-thirds of them, to be precise.

Hall of Famers he's behind: Mickey Mantle (.908), Reggie Jackson (.885).

Hall of Famers he's ahead of: Rickey Henderson (.831), Roberto Alomar (.829), Yogi Berra (.811), Joe DiMaggio (.760), Frankie Frisch (.711), Joe Morgan (.671), Phil Rizzuto (.650).

Other Yankees he's behind: Hideki Matsui (.933), Bernie Williams (.850), Derek Jeter (.838). 

Other Yankees he's ahead of: Paul O'Neill (.828), Johnny Damon (.775, mostly not as a Yankee), Jorge Posada (.745), David Justice (.717, same comment as Damon), Scott Brosius (.696), Gil McDougald (.689), Robinson Cano (.686), Tino Martinez (.672), Chuck Knoblauch (.663).

As I said, I can't speak to Peyton Manning. But the whole Alex Rodriguez, Choke Artist thing has been totally overplayed. Unless we're prepared to call Paul O'Neill and Joe DiMaggio and Joe Morgan choke artists too. For that matter, give Rodriguez just one more single in the postseason, and he has a better OPS than Jeter. That could cause some heads to explode.

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