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BCubb2003
04-07-2006, 01:39 AM
Baseball Prospectus readers may be familiar with this already, but here's an article at ESPN about clutch hitters. It's an excerpt from the BP book. It discusses Tony Perez but doesn't draw any conclusions about him. It does name the best clutch hitter since 1972, however.

One other thing. It says a lead-off out is more than twice as costly as the last out of an inning. I think I know what they're getting at, but I'd think the last out of an inning would be infinitely costly.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=betweenthenumbers/ortiz/060405&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab4pos2

Dom Heffner
04-07-2006, 01:41 AM
I wonder what part of the brain the clutch skill lives in. :)

dougdirt
04-07-2006, 02:29 AM
Last guy I want to pitch to with a runner on base is Manny Ramirez...but thats just my opinion.

SteelSD
04-07-2006, 02:40 AM
I wonder what part of the brain the clutch skill lives in. :)

The clutchdulla oblongata?

WMR
04-07-2006, 03:09 AM
dunn was clutch last nite

Highlifeman21
04-07-2006, 12:46 PM
dunn was clutch last nite


The umps were more clutch by reversing that call for Dunn's flair to center where they initially called it a catch by Duffy.

For the record, I think 479 feet for Dunn's HR is a small estimate.

BCubb2003
04-07-2006, 01:18 PM
Skeptics would point out that Dunn struck out with a runner on first, flied out with the bases loaded, and grounded out with a runner on second. Believers would point out that as the game got close and late, he came through.

I expect him to hit at least 50 homers this year and drive people crazy every time he doesn't hit one.

RedsManRick
04-07-2006, 01:55 PM
My favorite line regarding clutch: Clutch is something you do, nothing something you are.

M2
04-07-2006, 02:03 PM
Clutch is to the left of the brake.

TheGARB
04-07-2006, 02:04 PM
My favorite line regarding clutch: Clutch is something you do, nothing something you are.

I thought Clutch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clutch_Cargo) was "a writer and pilot with a muscular build, white hair and rugged good looks".

http://www.stcsig.org/oi/hyperviews/archive/00Winter/001cedg5.gif

BCubb2003
04-07-2006, 02:18 PM
I thought Clutch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clutch_Cargo) was "a writer and pilot with a muscular build, white hair and rugged good looks".

http://www.stcsig.org/oi/hyperviews/archive/00Winter/001cedg5.gif

For some reason, that cartoon was the most terrifying thing to me as a baby.

M2
04-07-2006, 02:22 PM
For some reason, that cartoon was the most terrifying thing to me as a baby.

Yeah, but baby's are scared of everything.

Plus, they never have your back in a bar fight.

vaticanplum
04-07-2006, 02:26 PM
Clutch is the bane of my existence, because I believe in it and I love it, but I know there's no way I can justify it with facts. In that sense, it is similar to my love for the Reds themselves.

Blimpie
04-07-2006, 02:33 PM
The umps were more clutch by reversing that call for Dunn's flair to center where they initially called it a catch by Duffy.

For the record, I think 479 feet for Dunn's HR is a small estimate.That "flair" was still a base hit--both before and after the call was reversed...in the bottom of the 8th of a tie game...with a 1-2 count against him. Just sayin'

Blimpie
04-07-2006, 02:34 PM
Clutch is to the left of the brake.My dad always called that the "parking brake" ;)

KronoRed
04-07-2006, 02:49 PM
I expect him to hit at least 50 homers this year and drive people crazy every time he doesn't hit one.
I expect about 40 threads the next time he fails with runners on, and NONE when he succeeds.

blumj
04-07-2006, 03:01 PM
Last guy I want to pitch to with a runner on base is Manny Ramirez...but thats just my opinion.
Which is why David Ortiz is clutch, a lot of pitchers feel the same way. That looks like it might be changing, more pitchers have started making the other choice.

dougdirt
04-07-2006, 03:15 PM
Manny hits better with risp all across the board. You want to talk clutch, las season Ortiz hit just 7 home runs with runners in scoring position, Manny hit 19 with runners in scoring position.

Hoosier Red
04-07-2006, 03:31 PM
Wouldn't a runner on first score on a home run regardless?
Then what does it matter if it was with runners in scoring position?

Johnny Footstool
04-07-2006, 03:39 PM
Clutch is to the left of the brake.

Clutch doesn't exist.

I drive an automatic.

ochre
04-07-2006, 04:13 PM
Clutch doesn't exist.

I drive an automatic.
automatic is short for 'automatic clutch'....:)

gonelong
04-07-2006, 04:17 PM
automatic is short for 'automatic clutch'....:)

Automatic clutch. What a coincidence, thats my nick-name!

/not really

Johnny Footstool
04-07-2006, 04:36 PM
automatic is short for 'automatic clutch'....:)

Details, details...

blumj
04-07-2006, 05:31 PM
Manny hits better with risp all across the board. You want to talk clutch, las season Ortiz hit just 7 home runs with runners in scoring position, Manny hit 19 with runners in scoring position.
I wasn't disagreeing with you. Manny hits behind Ortiz, so pitchers are choosing to pitch to Ortiz in "clutch" situations late in games because their other option is pitching to Manny.

TeamBoone
04-07-2006, 05:34 PM
Wouldn't a runner on first score on a home run regardless?
Then what does it matter if it was with runners in scoring position?

That's the debate of the ages... also applied last year to the heat over 0 sac flies (didn't matter that a HR is better than a sac fly).

dougdirt
04-07-2006, 05:49 PM
Last year Manny
.346/.439/.743 with runners on, 32 home runs and 131RBI in 280 at bats
.352/.471/.774 with RISP, 19 home runs and 104RBI in 159 at bats.
Last year Ortiz
.315/.425/.581 with runners on, 18 home runs and 119 RBI in 289 at bats
.352/.462/.580 with RISP, 7 home runs and 92 RBI in 162 at bats.

Dom Heffner
04-07-2006, 06:23 PM
Clutch is the bane of my existence, because I believe in it and I love it, but I know there's no way I can justify it with facts. In that sense, it is similar to my love for the Reds themselves.

I have been meaning to post something on here for a long while about the topic of clutch hitting, because the term bothers a lot of statisticians: some people talk about it like it's something that can be turned "on" when the game gets in a clutch situation, and our sabremetrics guys simply don't believe that can be done. Otherwise, they argue, someone would just turn that "clutch" thing on whenever at bat and set all kinds of hitting records.

My friend is truly into the sabre thing and Bill James and he is always saying that clutch hitting does not exist. If it did, people would just turn up their performance at any given time and produce results.

My problem with that argument is that it assumes someone can reproduce the emotions that come with a pressure situation in a non-pressured situation. Have you ever given a speech? It's a lot easier to give one in front of your mirror than it is in front of 50 people and for a grade, no? I'm betting that no matter how hard you tried to recreate the nervousness or anxiety you get in the latter, you couldn't do it. Your mind can't be fooled.

As well, we shouldn't be looking at "clutch" from the standpoint of a positive term- something we can turn on- but rather from the negative side of it: something along the lines of "choking."

There are some people who just don't get rattled in pressure situations, and those people are going to have steadier performances. I've read interviews with players who have said they were very, very nervous in pressure situations and it affected their play. This happens a lot in tennis- Andre Agassi comes to mind- where you see someone just giving a way a lead or not being able to perform up to their known abilities because they simply can't shake the butterflies. In other words, people don't play better because it's a clutch situation but maybe some people just don't let the pressure get to them.

I'm thinking of this on the fly, so maybe I'm throwing some non-sensical stuff out there, but there might be something to it.

Personally, I think it's situational. It's all a matter of who the batter is facing, who is hitting behind him, and how well either of them handles pressure.

RANDY IN INDY
04-07-2006, 07:01 PM
Real good post, Dom!

SteelSD
04-07-2006, 07:48 PM
My problem with that argument is that it assumes someone can reproduce the emotions that come with a pressure situation in a non-pressured situation. Have you ever given a speech? It's a lot easier to give one in front of your mirror than it is in front of 50 people and for a grade, no?

Depends on whether you're talking about your average person on the street or one of the best 100 public speakers in the world. The latter sample is far more representational of MLB than the former because we're talking about the best of the best of the best in their profession matching up against each other.

Guys don't get to the Show unless they're already able to better suppress the pressure specific to baseball action than the next guy or, if they can't, they're not in the show long enough to matter. And frankly, considering the extreme nigh-instantaneous action/reaction nature of MLB, might not the effect of pressure be overstated? Does a MLB player have time for anxiety to overwhelm what is almost entirely pure muscle memory and near-instant decision making on an almost subconscious level?

You may be right about the aspect of "choke" being more relevant than "clutch". But I'd say the vast majority of "chokers" are weeded out long before they have a chance to demonstrate one attribute or the other on a Major League diamond.

That being said, it takes two to tango during a MLB PA and the positive offensive result of a PA is an exceptionally complex (and random) thing. How do we know that the pitcher (or the defender), rather than the hitter, isn't the "choker" or "clutch" performer?

Maybe a nervous hitter walks to the plate to face a more nervous pitcher who serves up a grounder fielded by an anxiety-ridden Shortstop who throws in the dirt to a less anxious First Baseman who scoops the ball up to preserve the win. Is the hitter a "choker"? Is the pitcher "clutch"?

Does it really matter?

Dom Heffner
04-07-2006, 08:58 PM
Guys don't get to the Show unless they're already able to better suppress the pressure specific to baseball action than the next guy or, if they can't, they're not in the show long enough to matter. And frankly, considering the extreme nigh-instantaneous action/reaction nature of MLB, might not the effect of pressure be overstated?

Steel, I've thought about that one, too, and again I'll offer the example of Agassi. Had 3 or 4 grand slams under his belt when his nerves nearly got the best of him in the 1999 French Open. He said so.

You'll also see performers get nervous, even though they've been doing it for years. Sasha Cohen is a perfect example- is she not the best of the best? Do her nerves get to her? You bet.

Again, these people are the best at what they do, but they are not playing under "clutch" conditions constantly. Those come up periodically, which is why we are having the discussion.

Every at bat for a major leaguer is not do or die and it's the ones that are that are fueling the debate.

SteelSD
04-08-2006, 02:24 AM
Steel, I've thought about that one, too, and again I'll offer the example of Agassi. Had 3 or 4 grand slams under his belt when his nerves nearly got the best of him in the 1999 French Open. He said so.

You'll also see performers get nervous, even though they've been doing it for years. Sasha Cohen is a perfect example- is she not the best of the best? Do her nerves get to her? You bet.

Again, these people are the best at what they do, but they are not playing under "clutch" conditions constantly. Those come up periodically, which is why we are having the discussion.

Every at bat for a major leaguer is not do or die and it's the ones that are that are fueling the debate.

Dom, when a championship-level tennis player plays a Grand Slam event, you can bet they're playing in "clutch" situations constantly. The whole tourney is one big clutch situation because if you lose, there's no match for you tomorrow. There's simply no real comp within the game of baseball for something like that on an individual level- particularly from an offensive perspective; where "pressure" situations manifest themselves randomly and are entirely unrelated during a game, week, or season.

Secondly, the behavior involved with tennis is much closer to that of either pitching (serving) or fielding a baseball. An Unforced Error in tennis is an error of placement rather than reaction. And please, no figure skating comparisons.

We don't need to look outside baseball to see examples of how anxiety can damage performance. Let's take a look at Steve Sax. Suddenly couldn't throw a baseball to 1st. Anxiety issue. Ditto Rick Ankiel and throwing strikes, but let's focus on Sax as he's the guy who stepped to the plate during his bout with brain demons.

Now, Sax is obviously a guy who, over time, played with exceptionally heightened anxiety. Every defensive play was an adventure. But here's the irony...

In 1989, the Elias Sports Bureau identified a list of the greatest clutch hitters from the ten years prior. The criteria was Batting Average In Late-Inning Pressure Situations (LIPS). Rob Neyer took umbrage with Elias' criteria and LIPS sample size (25-point LIPS BA increase vs. the norm, 250 LIPS AB) and extended it to a minimum 35-point LIPS BA increase and 400 LIPS AB for the same time frame.

Y'know who was left from Elias' list of the best "clutch" hitters from the previous decade? Tim Raines and Steve Sax.

Fancy that. A guy who was so wracked with anxiety over throwing a fielded baseball ended up as one of the two best Late Inning Pressure Situation BA differential hitters of the 1980's. So why didn't Sax' anxiety manifest iteself at the plate?

Here's a theory- Sax' throwing issues were placement goal oriented. In short, Sax was committing the equivalent of tennis' Unforced Errors because he became more worried about the "where" than the "what", resulting in a conscious thought process override of his muscle memory. This issue was exacerbated by a time factor- i.e that Sax could perform fast-time throwing functions (turning a DP, throwing quickly after diving, etc.) but had issues on routine plays due to the increased amount of time he had to think about failure.

Of course, when hitting, a player has time to sit between pitches and think about this or that. But from the moment of pitch release, a player has less than half a second to think. And placement is simply not the same kind of issue as it is in the field on a throw (or in tennis) because even the best "placement" hitters (Gwynn, Suzuki, Boggs) have to rely on more randomness than skill to get their hits to drop. The big difference with offensive baseball versus any other major sport is that once the action starts, there simply isn't as much time for the brain to override the more simplistic body mechanic functions.

Let's face it, a tennis player has to think about where the ball may be hit to begin to get his body in position to swing, must properly set himself, identify intended stroke placement and intended spin, and then must initiate the appopriate swing that will most likely achieve said goal. The body mechanics and different conscious thought processes involved with championship-level tennis is very much different than what's involved with attempting to hit a pitched baseball.

One of the reasons the serve-and-volley game became more popular in the early 80's- even with wooden rackets- is that it minimized the potential for Unforced Errors from the serve-and-volley player and maximized the potential for Unforced Errors from the baseline player.

A guy like Bjorn Borg was a master at clobbering his opponent through planning and then executing said plan. But then John McEnroe showed up and demonstrated that even the best planner could be thrown off his game by aggression and behavior simplicity. That caused Borg to have to think three steps ahead instead of two and it allowed McEnroe (a less talented ball striker) to beat him by pressing the issue and simplifying his own game. Basically, McEnroe identified that the weakness in most players' game was off the serve as there is no point after the serve at which he held the same advantage. Because of that, McEnroe ended up with a "pressure" advantage when on-serve as well as a "pressure" advantage when receiving serve after hitting an appropriate deep ball. Yes, he attempted to further that "pressure" advantage with his emotional outbursts but the fact of the matter was that he was able to glean the most out of his talent because his gameplan relied on nearly instant reaction rather than a baseline placement "planning" strategy.

Now, fast forward to Andre Agassi. Is he a baseline player or a serve-and-volley guy? Exactly. Yes, Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992 versus a stunningly dumb Goran Ivanisevic (who did actually choke that tourney away while on-serve) but the vast majority of Agassi's successes have been on slower surfaces that negate a serve-and-volley game. Was Agassi nervous ina French Open final in 1999? Well, considering that he was getting bum rushed off serve by the 100th ranked player in the world (Andrei Medvedev) during the final, I'd hope that he'd get a little rattled. But then, Agassi was the 13th seeded player at the 1999 French Open and won versus the 100th ranked player in the world at the time (Andrei Medvedev).

If Agassi was nervous, maybe it was because that match at that moment was Agassi's tennis LIFE. That's far far different than an accomplished MLB baseball player stepping to the plate with a runner on 2nd base in the seventh Inning in the middle of June.

BTW, here's a comment by Agassi after that 1999 French Open win after Medvedev dominated the first two sets:

"I felt if I could let him feel my presence it could turn into a battle," Agassi said.

Sure doesn't sound like a guy who was nervous, does it?

Flash forward to tomorrow...

David Ortiz goes 0-for-3 heading into the ninth in a one-Run game and proceeds to hit a walkoff two-Run Home Run. You think he's going to trump that up to the opposing pitching staff finally "feeling his presence"? Me neither. ;)

BCubb2003
04-08-2006, 03:15 AM
I'll probably end up arguing all sides of this question, but here are a few musings to dissect:

The major leagues haven't filtered out the batter who bails against Randy Johnson, or the pitcher who "wants no part of" Barry Bonds. Then there's the pitcher who falls to pieces after an unearned run, vs. the pitcher who shakes it off and gets out of the inning.

Baseball might actually be the most psychological of the team sports. It's possible that there are differences in the Kearns who is locked in and feels he can hit anybody at any time, and the Kearns who feels like a platoon player who has to get a hit here or its back to Louisville for him.

In terms of placement, maybe it's the placement of the bat that the batter has to deal with, like the fielder has to place a throw, which means the placement of the arm, and the placement of the grip.

If you had a bat to protect you, and somebody suddenly threw a ball at your face, you'd instinctively block it. Maybe clutch is the ability to act instinctively when others would be thinking too much about how the game is on the line and because of that not picking up the slider in time.

You don't tend to see the "yips" or the "heebie jeebies" so noticeably in hitting like you do in throwing (except maybe golf) but there are certainly players like Brandon Larsen who can hit like AAAA in the minors, but they hit like AA in the majors. It doesn't seem to be their hitting ability that's at issue. Something else is going on.

But I can argue the other side too. Nobody has adequately defined or measured clutch satisfactorily, and it's still in the realm of anecdotes about the big hits that stand out disproportionately in our minds.

I do think it's useful to start with the idea that clutch may just be the absence of choke. Clutch doesn't make a .240 hitter become a .270 hitter, but maybe it's the .300 hitter who hits .290 in clutch situations when his peers drop off even more.

Maybe we should look for the least clutchy players. Are there hitters whose numbers drop sharply in clutch situations? (Besides the minor-league all-stars who never make it in the majors?)

vaticanplum
04-08-2006, 03:07 PM
Depends on whether you're talking about your average person on the street or one of the best 100 public speakers in the world. The latter sample is far more representational of MLB than the former because we're talking about the best of the best of the best in their profession matching up against each other.

Yeah, but even the best public speakers in the world aren't put on display on television in front of millions with 50,000+ people screaming at them at the pivotal moment of, say, the World Series (depending on where they're playing, possibly 50,000 people screaming AGAINST them). There is something to be said for psychological toughness -- or perhaps, as Dom says, lack thereof -- in these situations. In the end, is "clutch" negated in the stats? Perhaps, but nothing negates the importance of a pivotal at-bat or pitch in a World Series final, and if I were a manager, there are simply people that I would trust more in such a situation, stats aside (I know, I know, much of my argument is rendered moot the minute I utter "stats aside"...and that's not invalid...but...)