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Just The Sports: If I Hear The Word Clutch One More Time

Just The Sports

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If I Hear The Word Clutch One More Time

Joel Sherman is the latest sports writer to jump on the Alex-Rodriguez-Isn't-Clutch bandwagon and make a fool of himself. Since very few sports writers even try to validate the points they make with actual data, I am sure he will not be the first.

David Ortiz tormented more than the Yankees again on Monday night. He bedeviled Alex Rodriguez once more, as well.

He did not bedevil Alex Rodriguez at all. Rodriguez is not a pitcher so David Ortiz has never faced him in a one-on-one situation. Please stop typing now before you set the world record for ignorant statements in one article.

Ortiz restated, on the first day of May 2006, the best argument why he - and not A-Rod - should have won the 2005 AL MVP.

You cannot possibly be serious. Joel, please tell me you don't really think that how a player performs in 2006 should have any bearing on an award given out for the 2005 season. By that logic why we don't rip the 2005 AL Cy Young from Bartolo Colon, who is winless and on the DL, and give it to Jose Contreras, who has a 4-0 record with a 1.45 ERA this season.

But when it comes to the big moment, Ortiz's successes now feel as if they are on endless loop.

They are only on an endless loop because the media keeps harping on his late-inning hits instead of putting them into perspective by comparing them to all the times he fails to get a hit in the same situations.

Rodriguez's late-game Yankee highlight reel is not as dense.

But his early-game Yankee highlight reel is pretty damn impressive.

"The voters got it wrong," an AL manager recently told me unsolicited. "I would do almost anything to avoid facing Ortiz late in a close game. I don't feel anything close to the same fear with Rodriguez. What is more valuable than that?"

Thank you for asking that very astute question, AL manager. Please allow me to answer your question, which is in all likelihood a rhetorical one. Rodriguez being more likely than David Ortiz to hit a home run last year when the game was scoreless or tied is more valuable. Having a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage could also be seen as more valuable. Not to mention Rodriguez, in 2005, had an RC/27 of 9.53 compared to Ortiz's 8.90. This means that a team composed of Alex Rodriguezes would defeat a team made up only of David Ortizes. Lest I forget, Alex Rodriguez also had a WARP1 of 10.4 higer than Ortiz's own WARP1 of 8.0, indicating having Rodriguez on the Yankees was good for two more wins over a replacement player than having Ortiz on the Red Sox.

And all that is without mentioning Rodriguez actually plays a defensive position while Ortiz is a designated hitter. All Ortiz has to do is concentrate on hitting and he is still not better statistically than Rodriguez.

Oh, and the AL manager shouldn't be so afraid to face Ortiz late in the game. While he is more likely than Rodriguez to hit a home run when his team is trailing, last year, Boston's record was 6-53 when trailing after seven innings. The Yankees were 13-58 under the same conditions. Therefore, Boston received no appreciable benefit from Ortiz's supposed clutch play.

Rodriguez's biggest hit of 2006 was probably opening night when his grand slam off Barry Zito blew open the game. That was a second-inning homer in a 15-2 game.

If you are going to use the term clutch, at least use it correctly. What is more clutch than scoring runs to keep your team ahead of the opponent? If a first inning home-run that gives your team the lead isn't clutch, then what the hell is? Joel, I want you to remember this last tidbit the next time you foolishly plan to write another article on a perceived intangible. The team that gets ahead first usually wins the game.


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