Cedric 3/24/08It's absolutely pathetic that people can't have an opinion from actually watching games and supplementing that with stats. If you voice an opinion that doesn't fit into a black/white box you will get completely misrepresented and basically called a tobacco chewing traditionalist...
Raisel Ghul, the Demon's Head
The eyes never lie.
If a clutch pitcher goes against a clutch hitter does anybody notice anything different?
I just don't see how a hitter could do that. What, is he going to let a 90 mph fastball sail down the middle of the plate because it's only the third inning?
"I prefer books and movies where the conflict isn't of the extreme cannibal apocalypse variety I guess." Redsfaithful
I prefer much hitting to clutch hitting. (TM)
I believe that clutch hitting exists. Some people wilt under pressure and some people have a knack for standing up to it. That's true in baseball as much as in any walk of life.
I put two major caveats on this:
1. The idea of "clutch" is grossly overplayed in the media, although that's the case with a number of things that are played up to have more worth than they do. For whatever reason, the powers-that-be have decided that this is a good story. I think it is a good story too, for maybe five or six games a year. Talk about it and revisit it one week in October. Fine. Don't talk about it all year long, because then you stretch the definition of clutch to wrap around a player's entire career, which, you know, goes against the whole definition of clutch.
The media also has a tendency to use misleading players as an example of clutch. Jeter and A-Rod's career postseason stats are a lot closer than most people believe. Again, this is for the sake of a story. That's the stupid media's fault. But the fact that the media plays the idea up foolishly and misleadingly doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
2. The other major caveat regarding clutch is that while I believe in it, I don't see how it can really affect how anyone runs a team. Certainly it shouldn't play a role in the players you obtain if you're a gM, because players have to play 162 games for you before they play 3+ more (see above re: clutch definition. Although I guess "clutch" can apply to late-game heroics too, but I don't think that's what most people talk about there except maybe regarding Ortiz). It shouldn't affect the way you treat players as a manager. Maybe, maybe, once in a blue moon, it affects a late-game managerial decision. Fine. That's instinct, managers use it all the time. Good managers, in fact, use it very well.
So I don't think that clutch should play much role in the way the the game is actually played -- and honestly, I doubt it is; I think it's a media tool more than anything else. But I don't think it's a myth. I don't discount the power of adrenalin and focus and -- say it with me -- intangibles. I'd be curious to know who the truly "clutch" players are in terms of lifetime numbers. But I can accept that Reggie Jackson is clutch, that David Ortiz is clutch, even if their high-pressure numbers aren't significantly different than their normal ones, because they performed very well in notably high-pressure situations rather than falling to it. I guess what I mean is that clutch is to me a more case-by-case thing than a comparison to lifetime numbers. Does that make sense?
There is no such thing as a pitching prospect.
Andy Dolphin has found that "clutch hitters" do exist here in a study that may put you to sleep before you actually reach the conclusion:
Bill James acknowledges his agnosticism, but gives life to the issue and suggests more study is needed:
So before you dismissively wave away the issue, I recommend taking Bill James' words to heart -- the absence of proof is not proof. Instead, I recommend a serious analysis of the issues. Cyril Morong's web page devoted to nothing but clutch hitters:
Let's dig up an old post of mine on another forum...
Ever notice that clutch players are already really good?
Seriously, every single person advanced in this thread as being "clutch" are already among the best athletes today. David Ortiz is one of the most feared hitters in baseball, whether it's the first or ninth inning. Derek Jeter is going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Joe Montana was one of the greatest QBs of all time. The list goes on and on. You never hear about some fragile and weak RB suddenly becoming an explosive and feared runner in close and late games. You never hear about scrappy defensive shortstops who hit .220 on the season having a long and established career average of .400 with RISP.
Everyone who plays professional sports today are already among the top athletes in the world for the very fact that they made it far enough to play professionally. That tends to weed out a ton of the headcases who collapse under pressure. Guys like that don't tend to last in sports; they instead drop out of it before even sniffing the pros.
I think people view clutch in a way that's erroneous in four ways.
1) It is wrong to think that clutch players are people who are able to go above and beyond their performance potential. While athletes are pretty much at the top of the food chain when it comes to speed, strength, and so on, even they have their limits. If these people actually existed, you would see judy hitting shortstops hitting game-winning home runs on a regular basis. Rather, we have to remember that these guys are already talented.
However, there is something that does not go against this line of thinking that I am willing to believe in. While someone might not be able to go above and beyond their performance boundaries, they are able to maintain those levels or even drop well below those levels. If you made Mariano Rivera a 7th/8th inning setup man, he still would be one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. He is able to carry his talent and performance into pressure situations into the ninth inning. Adam Vinatieri has a 82.5% success rate as a kicker; he is able to bring that success into close and late situations.
On another level, some players will delve below their performance levels in pressure situations. Who these players are is up for debate (more on this in a second), but I think we can all agree that this is true for certain people.
2) Fans and observers are strangely finicky. We have selective memories. The media is happy to play on these notions, as people will happily gobble them up. We remember David Ortiz hitting big game-winning home runs. We remember Jeter legging out an infield hit to start a big comeback rally. We remember Adam Vinatieri hitting Super Bowl-winning field goals.
However, people tend not to remember the failures of certain people. If David Ortiz strikes out with two men on base in the bottom of the ninth inning during a game, people will forget about it the next day. The same goes for when Jeter strikes out in a similar situation. Nobody remembers Joe Montana's interceptions in close and late games.
Conversely, people will be all over certain players in similar situations. If A-Rod struck out in that situation, he'd be crucified the next day in the NY Post, with Mike Celzic spewing out approximately twenty articles a day talking about how un-clutch A-Rod is. Prior to his winning the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning throwing an interception in the 4th quarter of a close game would see him strung up by the various talking heads.
However, on a similar and really weird note (because of reputation or whatever, I do not know), we treat them differently when they succeed in these situations. If the Yankees are down 5-1 and A-Rod hits a two run double which helps lead the Yankees to a 6-5 comeback, it'll go unnoticed. When Peyton Manning would lead the charge on any game when the Colts rallied back after being down, nobody would bat an eye. People either ignore these facts or they write them off as mere flukes.
In this case, clutch is all about perception.
3) The biggest problem with clutch moments is that we only have small (albeit memorable) sample sizes to go by. There is a lot of difficulty in attempting to quantify clutch simply because these instances are few and far between. Maybe 8-10 games for an NFL player or 30-50 ABs might seem like a lot, these really are inadequate numbers to create an accurate model to put a label on "clutch" which is more than just an arbitrary designation placed on a player. Perhaps it seems like a guy always gets big hits when they are needed. The problem lies in the word "seems". We could be making a completely unfounded judgment on a player based on our own memories and perceptions, which are subject to all sorts of flaws.
We have no set definition for what is clutch or who is clutch. There are no bright lines marking off the boundaries between those who are and those who are not. Is a guy clutch because he gets big hits when it matters? Is he clutch because he always gets hits when his team has runners in scoring position? Is he clutch because he somehow always manages to make a three point shot within the waning moments of a game?
All of the statistical evidence that has been compiled so far is inconsistent at best. I will happily grant that it's stupid to assume something does not exist because we lack hard statistical evidence for or against its existence, but I will equally grant that it is stupid to say something exists despite the fact that we have no statistical evidence to back up that assertion. If you want to prove something actually exists, you need more than opinions.
4) I think this point is the most overlooked point when it comes to the assertions of being clutch. Sports are about much, much more than just single teams and individuals. I think that people focus way too much on a single person in certain situations in this debate, to their detriment.
Sports involve teammates and the other teams! Context is absolutely critical to making these assertions. Maybe Derek Jeter got a game-winning single in a given game, but the guy he got it off of was a pitcher with a 7.23 ERA and the first baseman was sorely out of position to field the ball cleanly. Maybe Tom Brady led the Patriots to a big comeback victory on the road, but it was against the Texans and their anemic defense. Adam Vinatieri could have nailed a game-winning field goal, but the rest of the Colts could have stunk up the joint for most of the game and nearly blew the game on their own. A-Rod may have struck out in the bottom of the ninth of a 4-3 game with two runners on base, but he drove in two of those runs with a double much earlier in the game. Michael Jordan might have hit the game-winning shot, but his coach drew up the perfect play which the rest of the team executed flawlessly.
You absolutely, positively cannot look at these players in a bubble. A guy might get the "clutch" label for hitting five game-winning HRs in a season, but he only did so when he faced terrible pitchers. A guy like Peyton Manning might get a bunch of the blame for his team's playoff woes, but lost amidst the criticism was the fact that his running game was ineffective at best, the defense played piss-poor, and the coaching staff refused to adjust throughout the course of the game.
If you want my honest opinion, I think clutch exists at some level, but I also think people overrate it to an insane degree. I'm happy to admit luck exists, too. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Raisel Ghul, the Demon's Head
The eyes never lie.
See: Rivera, Mariano
As good as he is in the regular season, he's arguably the most clutch pitcher in post-season history.
112 & 2/3 IP in the post-season, with a 0.80 ERA.
As a point of reference, his career ERA entering the 2007 season is 2.29 in 881 & 2/3 innings.
If you read Andy Dolphin's article, he states that singles hitters and middle infielders are generally the best "clutch hitters," not necessarily "the best athletes," much to everyone's surprise. I recommend reading it. (or at least skip to the conclusion and read it)
As to your point that "people overrate it to an insane degree," I counter that there is a whole market devoted to dispelling anything having to do with clutch hitters. So there are clearly people who underrate it to an insane degree. How many BP articles include the phrase, "there is no such thing as a clutch hitter"?? There must be thousands by now. How many articles has Neyer written on this subject???? It's boilerplate material at this point. And there is little substance in any of this material. Hence my comment, "the lack of proof is not proof."
And frankly, I hold BP and Neyer to a higher standard because they are supposed to be the guys who carry the torch of using knowledge to improve the game. Rather, I see them writing material that supports their own biases, not engaging in quests for the truth.
Andy Dolphin published his article three years ago, and there has been little more than a murmur in these communities about this issue. The silence is deafening.
Living in the land of David Ortiz, I am a firm believer in clutch hitting but see the biggest problem is in how to define it. For instance those who look at career playoff average as an indication may be looking at a incorrect definintion. For instance, if the player gets their average up with hits when the game is lopsided they are not clutch. If a hit comes with two outs in the 2nd and nothing comes of it- not clutch. If it comes with their team up 3-0 in games and by 5 runs in the game, not clutch. Or if someone goes 1 for 5 but that one comes in a close game in the 8th with runners on, you got yourself a full bottle of clutch. ex. hits in 76 series game 4 are a little less clutch than in game 4 of the 75 series.
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