'Analytics understander' A-Rod logs on and fails in October once again

Alex Rodriguez knows what analytics is? It would be reasonable to assume that he does, as a broadcaster for MLB in 2021. But life is full surprises, such as A-Rod applauding the Houston Astros in Game 2 for an anti-analytics pitch.


The Houston Astros. This team inspired a whole book on using analytics to build a champion baseball club. The team that employed a rocket scientist to get them there.

Those Houston Astros. They were the ones that tied the World Series by being anti-analytics.

It is obvious that Rodriguez does not understand analytics. This may be because he has used the term to describe a style of baseball that doesn't like it over the past few years.

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There is a valid conversation about the aesthetic appeal and impact of analytics on the modern game. Infield shifts are more common than ever for even light hitters and teams have built their pitching staffs around strikeout performers.

Analytics does not necessarily mean all these stylistic trends are analytics. Neither does it mean that analytics is the only way to make a team successful. Ask A-Rods' old Yankees friends about this.


What is analytics-driven baseball? This is about using data to create a team that scores the most runs and makes the most of its 27 outs while allowing the least runs. It is generally more likely to get a good result to hit the ball in the air than it is to hit the ball on the floor. A strike against a hitter will guarantee an out. However, any ball in play does NOT guarantee an out.

The Astros are the most popular team in this league. Houston was the ninth most homer-hitting major league player this season. The Astros had the second-lowest number of strikeouts in baseball this season, continuing a trend. Houston had the second-fewest or the lowest number of strikeouts in MLB since 2016, the same year the Astros made the playoffs.


Many baseball fans have forgotten that data changes once there are two strikes. A second strike is an out. However, putting the ball in play allows you to avoid an out. Only 37.4% of Astros plate appearances went to two strikes this season. Blue Jays at 39.9% was the only majors team below 40 percent. Houston's two-strike team line, which was.179/.275/.309, led MLB in all three categories. The Astros excel at analytics and a batter changing his approach to the plate to reduce strikeouts.

The Astros saw four at-bats reach two runs during the second inning, which A-Rod called anti-analytics. Carlos Correa and Jos Aluve were outfielders, but Yuli Gurriel drove in a run and Michael Brantley scored a run.


What is the advantage of winning the shift? Analytics is not also a loss. Players might not try to beat the shift over the course of the season. They are aware that ground balls can be unpredictable and that it is better to hit the ball in the air than the ground. But what about the playoffs? What against a strong pitcher like Max Fried? Different calculus. It's not about sticking to a strategy, but knowing how the numbers will work in the long-term. It's all about the at-bat and how to keep aninning alive.

The Astros' second inning was not anti-analytics. It was following analytics to form a logical, and ultimately successful strategy.


Atlanta could shift against a hitter if he hits 80 percent on his ground balls to the pull side. A hitter does not care because they aren't looking for singles. They want to drive the ball, score extra runs, and do damage. If you are unable to hit a pitcher in the World Series, that shift will mean there is a 100% chance of getting a base hit. It's much better to chase Fried, who has a 51 percent groundball rate and a.353 slugging percent against him during the regular season.

The Astros' second inning was not anti-analytics. It was following analytics to create a logical, and ultimately successful strategy. While everyone can criticize the Astros for using analytics to cheat in 2017, it doesn't mean they are less dependent on analytics. They actually use analytics better than teams that get too focused on a few elements of the analytics and then stick to it instead of adapting to real-world situations.


A-Rod isn't the only one who doesn't get this. It's also shameful that he is just one of many MLB broadcasters who don’t grasp the fundamental principles of this era's dominant strategic base and see its success as a contradiction to itself. You should not say that the Astros were the Houston Astros. Instead, look in the mirror to see where you are going wrong.