Rodriguez entered the year in an 0-for-19 postseason slump with runners in scoring position but put those struggles behind him in the American League Division Series against the Twins and the AL Championship Series against the Angels. Against Minnesota, Rodriguez hit .455 with two homers and six RBIs. Against the Angels, A-Rod hit .429 with three homers and six RBIs. It added up to an overall postseason of a .438 batting average, a .969 slugging percentage and a gaudy OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.516.
"There is no questioning what he's meant to that Yankee lineup through the Minnesota series and our series," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's as good as anybody has performed up to this point of any playoff. With the clutch hits, he's played terrific defense -- he's doing everything for those guys."
Rodriguez has been doing it since May 8, when he returned to the Yankees lineup following hip surgery. The surgery was only part of a tumultuous offseason for A-Rod, whose arrival in Spring Training was marked by the admission that he took performance-enhancing drugs during his tenure with the Texas Rangers. Despite the distractions he caused, the Yankees missed their middle-of-the-order threat, going 13-15 before A-Rod's return. Beginning May 8, they were 90-44 over the rest of the regular season.
He was a pedestrian 3-for-12 in the Yankees' Interleague series against the Phillies in late May, but two of the hits were home runs. Rodriguez could also pose some problems for Phillies ace Cliff Lee; He is 5-for-15 in his career against Lee with two homers, six RBIs, four walks and three strikeouts.
Pedro Feliz, Phillies
.266 BA, 12 HR, 82 RBIs
With catcher Carlos Ruiz surging in the postseason, Feliz is the weak link in an otherwise potent Phillies lineup. But that's not exactly a knock on Feliz, who drove in a not-too-shabby 82 runs during the regular season and plays a slick third base, providing some stability to a position that had been a platoon in the two seasons before Feliz's arrival from San Francisco.
Feliz has done very little at the plate in these playoffs, going 2-for-17 in the National League Championship Series with one home run. In the NL Division Series against the Rockies, Feliz was 3-for-14 with no runs scored and no RBIs.
But he was relatively clutch in the regular season. Eleven other NL starting third basemen hit more home runs but only Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval had more than Feliz's 154 hits, a high for his 10-year career. Feliz hit .336 in 140 at-bats with men in scoring position and converted those chances into 67 RBIs. Twenty-seven of those RBIs came with runners in scoring position and two outs, a situation in which Feliz hit .317.
He has not struck out more than 70 times in any of the last three seasons, but there is a trade-off for that "put it in play" mentality. On one hand, Feliz hit .289 over that span with men on base -- including .325 this season. On the other hand, he grounded into 41 double plays in that span. He's grounded into 97 double plays over the past six seasons.
Note: Hitter evaluations based on a 100-point scale, factoring in power, contact hitting, speed, fielding, experience, recent performances and moxie. Click on each expert to see all of their selections for the 2009 World Series.
Final tally: Rodriguez 96.4, Feliz 75.4
World Series Third Base Matchup
|Panelist||Pedro Feliz||Alex Rodriguez||Expert analysis|
|70||97||One of the biggest mismatches ever. There is no reason to believe A-Rod will slow down in Round 3, as he has simply done it all. If both A-Rod and Howard stay hot, this series will be explosive. On the other hand, if Feliz doesn't make any errors and connects here and there, the Phillies will take it. |
|66||91||A-Rod is on a tear, completely exorcising his postseason ghosts with an otherworldly 1.516 OPS against the Twins and Angels, while playing solid defense. Feliz, on the other hand, is above-average with the glove but offers little with the bat other than the infrequent long ball.|
|80||98||A-Rod is in another orbit right now, a far superior hitter even if Feliz gets a slight edge with the glove.
|70||100||Feliz's defense at the corner is extremely underrated, but A-Rod's true baseball abilities have finally come out during the postseason like they consistently have during the regular season.
|80||95||Rodriguez put to rest doubts about his October ability against the Angels. Feliz isn't in the same class, but he has a knack for delivering a clutch hit when least expected.
|82||96||Feliz might be the better defensive player, but A-Rod is just A-Rod.
|77||94||The weak spot in the Phillies' lineup keeps his job because of stellar defense that almost makes up for his poor bat. Rodriguez bounced back from hip surgery to have a strong year and is quieting his critics with a heroic postseason.
|78||100||A-Rod is on a mission in this postseason. Feliz has the edge defensively and has come up with some clutch hits, but is inconsistent making contact. What A-Rod has done returning the Yankees to the World Series tells it all.