Alex Rodriguez has 6 strikeouts, thus far, in the World Series. He’s performing like it’s 2006.
Here’s Tom Verducci’s (SI) take on A-Rod’s first two games of the series:
Those were some funky swings Alex Rodriguez took in Games 1 and 2 in the World Series, looking nothing like the compact, balanced strokes he took in the ALDS and ALCS. His swing was at times lengthened and at times became very defensive, more of swatting for the ball or feeling for it than taking a quick path to it. It’s almost as if he’s a shooter in basketball whose stroke gets tighter with each miss; he needs something to go down to restore confidence.In two games Rodriguez has swung at 23 pitches and put two balls in play: a grounder to third and a flyball to left field. He punched out three times in Game 1 and three times again in Game 2. Only one other player ever had back-to-back three-strikeout games in World Series history: Jim Lonborg. A pitcher. In 1967. It’s not the kind of World Series history Rodriguez had in mind. He waited his whole career to get to the World Series, and when he got here, he immediately became the first hitter, other than a pitcher with a .136 career average, to whiff three times in two straight World Series games.
To better understand the situation, here are A-Rod’s 8 at-bats (6 K, 8 outs) of the World Series, via Brooks Baseball.
Alex Rodriguez versus Cliff Lee, Game 1, 2nd inning, strikeout:
Based on the location of these pitches—up in the zone, middle of the plate—Alex must not have been seeing the ball well against Lee, or he was trying to be overly deliberate while at the plate. Lee threw him 4 pitches (1, 2, 3, 5) which should have been hit out of the park.
Alex Rodriguez versus Cliff Lee, Game 1, 4th inning, strikeout:
A-Rod’s patience is, for the most part, intact here, as he identifies 3 balls out of the zone. He chases pitches 1 and 2, though, and the first pitch (1) was particularly tough to hit since it was inside and low. Either could have been called strikes by the umpire, but maybe Alex should leave that up to the umpire rather than swing.
Alex Rodriguez versus Cliff Lee, Game 1, 7th inning, groundout:
A-Rod’s strike zone has expanded, inside. After laying off the first inside pitch, he should have laid off the second, as they were nearly identical. He fouled it off, instead, and when Lee came inside but caught a good amount of the plate, Alex simply missed it.
Alex Rodriguez versus Cliff Lee, Game 1, 9th inning, strikeout:
Lee leaves another pitch, pitch 2, in the middle of the plate and Alex merely fouls it off. Even the first pitch on the outside corner should have been hit since it’s right in his wheelhouse (perhaps he went up with the intention of taking the first pitch). The fourth pitch by Lee was pretty nasty, low, but Alex probably could have done some damage with it since it wasn’t inside on him (or far outside).
Alex Rodriguez versus Pedro Martinez, Game 2, 2nd inning, strikeout:
Against Pedro, A-Rod starts off the game with a good at-bat, however, again, 4 of these pitches (4, 5, 6, 9) were practically dead center. Alex should have hit all 4 of them, especially the 2 (4, 5) that are in the upper part of the zone. He also chases the first and the second pitch. Those 2 pitches are well out of the zone. The A-Rod we saw in the ALCS and the ALDS generally didn’t chase pitches like this.
Alex Rodriguez versus Pedro Martinez, Game 2, 4th inning, fly out:
Again, these pitches aren’t necessarily well located. Out and over the plate is a strength for A-Rod, but he failed to do anything here. He hit the ball hard, but he pulled it to left field rather than going with the pitch, away (this was directly after the Teixeira home run).
Alex Rodriguez versus Pedro Martinez, Game 2, 6th inning, strikeout:
A-Rod’s strike zone just doesn’t seem as good as it was against the Angels and the Twins. While Pedro makes 2 pretty good pitches here (2, 4), the third pitch of the at-bat was out of the zone. If Alex would have been patient with it, the count would have been a more favorable 2-1 (assuming the umpire calls the third pitch a ball) rather than the unfavorable 1-2. That, then, led to pitch 4—the strikeout pitch, inside.
Alex Rodriguez versus Ryan Madson, Game 2, 8th inning, strikeout:
Against Ryan Madson and his changeup, A-Rod totally folded. Though he allowed the first pitch to go by for ball 1, he then swung at 3 pitches that were in the exact same location (or thereabout, anyway) and all of them were well outside. Madson saw him diving over the outer part of the plate and just kept plugging away until he finally changed it up with a pitch on the inside (and up). There you have it, A-Rod’s worst at-bat of the series (on his last at-bat before Game 3).
Based on these 8 at-bats, I think A-Rod looks far too anxious at the plate. In previous postseason games this year, he would take his walks and allow the umpire to decide whether a close pitch was a strike or not (he wouldn’t chase). The Ryan Madson at-bat, in particular, was such a far cry from what we had been seeing all October, which was a patient Alex Rodriguez. In addition, when the Angels or the Twins left pitches up in the zone, especially on the outer part of the plate, Alex would crush them. Perhaps his nerves have finally caught up to him, at least for these two games.
Do I think we’ve seen the last of a clutch A-Rod this October? No, not at all. However, the at-bats above are, indeed, frustrating affairs. His strike zone judgment from Game 1 to Game 2 seems to have gotten worse, as well, which would indicate that he’s trying too hard. Hopefully, when he arrives in Citizen’s Bank Park and faces off against Cole Hamels in Game 3, he’ll opt for a more patient approach at the plate.