I usually don’t play this game because it almost always lacks proper context, but in this case, I think it’s an interesting comparison.
Player A: .283/.370/.424 with a .794 OPS
Player B: .299/.372/.423 with a .794 OPS
Player A, you might have guessed, is Alex Rodriguez this season. He’s hit for an average perfectly comparable to some of his all-star seasons, with an on-base percentage not far away from his career numbers. But his slugging percentage has taken an enormous hit, by far the worst of his career.
Player B is Kenny Lofton.
“If I get a night like (Tuesday) night where I’m on base four times, I’ll take that all day long,” Rodriguez said. “That is, to me, the equivalent of hitting a couple of doubles or a home run. At the end of the day, those guys behind me are very talented , and they’re going to be driving in runs.”
Hard to tell whether Rodriguez actually believes himself when he says that, but it’s certainly hard to imagine one of the game’s greatest sluggers being satisfied hitting like a leadoff man without the speed. Lofton was a perfectly good player, but he wasn’t a No. 3 hitter and he wasn’t a Hall of Famer.
“Everyone gets caught up in home runs,” Joe Girardi said. “I get caught up in runs and RBI. That’s what I get caught up in. You go out and try to swing for the fences every time and hit .200, that’s not what we want. We want him to get on base, and we want him to be productive. However that happens, I don’t care. I don’t care if it’s bloop singles with the bases loaded every time. I really don’t. I get on K-Long when guys line out. I say, ‘So?’ Bloop singles, I’ll take them.”
Of course, it’s worth noting that Rodriguez has 19 RBI and is on pace for 62, the same number he had last season when he was hurt through most of the year. When he reached base four times on Tuesday, it was on three singles and a hit by pitch. He didn’t score a run, didn’t drive in a run and the Yankees lost 5-1.
They haven’t lost a game or scored fewer than five runs when Rodriguez has homered.
“Obviously I wish I had 35 or 40 (RBI),” Rodriguez said. “That’s definitely a low number, but I’ll take nights like (Tuesday) night and keep building on that and trust that the guys in front of me will continue to get on, and those guys behind me will trust that I’ll continue to get on base for them. … I think overall, when you trust each other, that’s when your offense operates best. At the end of the day, whoever’s hitting behind — whether you walk once, twice — the more you get on base, eventually those guys are going to come up with a big hit. You’ve just got to keep giving them opportunities. That’s sort of a less-is-more approach.”
It’s a fine approach for leadoff hitters and bottom-of-the-order role players, but for Rodriguez?
Associated Press photo