Tuesday, April 20, 2004

A-Rod's struggles continue -- for now
After a lousy series with the Red Sox I started to wonder if A-Rod could really play this poorly for the entire season. I know everyone goes through slumps, gets off to slow starts and generally struggles at times during the season. And usually, the really good players always rebound, putting up huge numbers that make you all but forget the 0 for 18 stretch they had in early May. But this is a little different because now A-Rod is playing in New York and I'm guessing he has never experienced the pressure or scrutiny he now faces on a daily basis.

I decided to take a look at how other 'impact' players, coming from small market teams to play in either New York or Boston faired their first year under the microscope. I only went back ten years and the term 'impact' is loosely defined at best (in fact, there really is no definition; instead I looked at the rosters of both teams and chose the high-profile acquisitions). I decided to go back ten years because both teams have been playoff-competitive over that time and I suspect newly acquired players would feel much more pressure to perform under those circumstances than playing on a New York team that won 70 games in 1994, for example.

Anyway, I looked at the following players: Danny Tartabull, Chuck Knoblauch, Cecil Fielder, Jason Giambi, Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Wil Cordero, Carl Everett and Tony Clark. I feel like all of these players were brought in to have an immediate impact on their team's performance, but how do you quantify impact (that's another can of worms -- something I'll have to give more thought to)? Either way, this is nothing more than a cursory look at how these players did their first year under the microscope and maybe shed some light on what A-Rod can expect as the season progresses.

I simply looked at the OPS of all these players before and after they joined either New York or Boston and as a Red Sox fan the results are unsettling (at least as it applies to Yankee players).
player OPS b/f ny/bos OPS 1st yr in ny/bos
Giambi 0.938 1.033
Knoblauch 0.809 0.766
Fielder 0.811 0.837
Tartabull 0.903 0.898
M. Ramirez 0.939 1.014
Damon 0.767 0.799
Cordero 0.765 0.734
Everett 0.689 0.960
T. Clark 0.836 0.556
All players 0.844 0.830

*OPS is on-base percentage + slugging percentage -- which correlates highly with offensive production
I ran a t-test and there is no statistical difference between how players perform prior to coming to the big cities and how they perform during their first season in the pressure cooker. In fact, most players actually improved -- Giambi, Fielder, Manny, Damon, and Everett (by a lot) -- and Knoblauch's, Tartabull's and Cordero's decline was minimal. So the good news for A-Rod and Yankee fans is that this slump shouldn't last long -- and in fact, if history is any guide, A-Rod's likely to have an average year (for him) -- which is an all-star year for anybody else. But as a Red Sox fan I'll keep my fingers crossed just in case.