An in-game analysis of Alex Rodriguez hitting approach:
In the second inning of tonight’s game, Alex was hit in the upper back by a pitch from Joe Blanton. It was the third time in the last five at-bats Rodriguez was hit by a pitch.
After a conference between the umpires, they decided stupidly to warn both benches about retaliation. Alex exacerbated the situation by telling home plate umpire Mike Winters it was obvious the Phillies were throwing at him.
I disagree with Alex. The Phillies are not throwing at Alex, but are following the game plan all teams have this postseason.
Throw Alex fastball inside on the hands to get two strikes on him, then go away with junk to get him out. Pedro Martinez worked this to perfection in Game Two. When the Phillies pitchers miss on that inside pitch, they are missing inside off the plate, and a couple of those errant pitches have hit him. With any power hitter, if you miss inside, you better miss off the plate.
This approach by the Phillies has retired Alex most of the series, as he has only one hit (albeit a big one last night) with six strikeouts.
But Alex has to change his approach this game, and this game only. Due to the warning to both benches, The Phillies will not be able to pitch him inside with hard stuff as consistently. Rodriguez’ next two at-bats after being hit resulted in a few token inside pitches, with most of the stuff form Blanton being off-speed stuff right over the plate.
For example, the first pitch in his third at-bat (with two men on and two outs), Blanton threw Alex a “hit me” curveball right over the middle. Alex took it for a called strike and went immediately behind in the count.
Because he is so conscious of being pitched inside, Alex is pulling out early and basically waving at the slow stuff middle out.
HE NEEDS TO REALIZE THAT THE INSIDE STUFF IS NOT HAPPENING TONIGHT.
He can avoid looking inside this game because of the pitchers’ fears of being ejected of coming too close.
By looking to be aggressive early in the count on pitches over the plate, Alex can become a factor late in the game.
But that all changes again tomorrow when a new set of rules will apply, and Cliff Lee will again be pounding the inside corner with fastballs—before looking to get him out away with soft stuff.
One reason why the little guys like Mark Lemke for the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, Brian Doyle for the Yankees in 1978, and Al Weis for the New York Mets in 1969 were successful in the World Series is the opposition goes to great lengths to attack the big hitters. Sometimes, the little guys slip through the cracks because the concentration level is not that high for each of their at-bats.
The concentration level for all the Phillies pitchers is very high when Alex is up at bat, and it shows this series.
Alex needs to adjust for every at-bat, but especially this Game Four.