It’s easy to overreact to one game in the postseason, especially the first game, and it’s possible that Alex can change the perception of him quite quickly with a good game tonight, but there was some real reason to worry about his ability to remain effective in the middle of the Yankees’ order. Most of all, and somewhat paradoxically, he didn’t chase pitches out of the zone last night. Via Texas Leaguers, here’s a visualization of all of the pitches A-Rod hacked at in Game One:
As you can see, with the exception of one slider away, all of these pitches are in or around the strike zone, and they’re all fastballs. We saw A-Rod have trouble with fastballs in last year’s ALDS, but that was when he was just coming back from a thumb injury. He’s had some more time to get over the wrist injury he suffered this year, but he’s been struggling with his timing on fastballs for most of the year anyway. Watching him whiff on four hittable fastballs was certainly not what the Yankees anted to see from their number three hitter as they open their latest postseason campaign.
Look, I’m as big a fan of A-Rod as anyone, but it’s certainly safe to say that the only reason he’s still a middle of the order hitter in 2012 is because of the name on the lineup card. His power has been severely diminished all season, and he’s the one guy in the middle of the order opposing pitchers don’t seem afraid to challenge with fastballs in tough spots. It’s not the time for a rash decision, but if Alex doesn’t start producing like a middle of the order hitter, Joe Girardi should seriously consider moving him into the second half of the lineup. Especially if Mark Teixeira is able to overcome that calf injury and hit with some pop, I’d probably be inclined to move him down to the sixth spot in the lineup, where his discipline can create some opportunities for the bottom of the order to do some extra damage, but he won’t necessarily be the guy you need to count on to move Derek Jeter or Ichiro Suzuki around.
For more on how this is no longer A-Rod’s lineup to carry, see William’s article from yesterday