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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Clutch hitting on planet earth. Oh, and please explain Bobby Richardson.

Yesterday on the TV program MLB Clubhouse Confidential host Brian Kenny focused on clutch hitting with the expected conclusion that it does not exist.  He had a couple of the usual suspects support this with data on gazillions of plate appearances.

In the individual sports, especially golf and tennis, choking, the unspoken opposite of clutch, seems quite evident and the former participants providing commentary can scarcely hide their disdain for those choking in real time, particularly in major tournaments.  So how come clutch and choke are considered a myth in baseball?

Brian Kenny compared playoff stats for Alex Rodriguez, considered a choke, and his Yankee teammate Derek Jeter, considered clutch.  He used BA, OBP, SLG.  Their numbers are pretty close.

Brian Kenny never mentioned:
Jeter: 152 games, 704 PA, 7 WS
Rodriguez: 68 (15 Seattle, 53 Yankees) games, 299 PA, one WS

This illustrates part of the problem.  Homogenizing clutch numbers, large and small, in April with those in September for a player's career seems silly on its face,  as does ignoring the team situation in the standings.   And aren't these the same people who give more brownie points for a closer pitching the ninth inning than a set up guy pitching the eighth?

There may be just a few moments of truth in a player's career, usually in a big spot in the MLB finals or down the stretch in the regular season, not in some meaningless game early in the season or late between teams not in contention.

Please see my favorite baseball clutch conundrum:

October 24, 2008 Bobby Richardson and clutch performance

Most people know when they are having a good day and when they are not.  They know when they have met their personal expectations and when they have underachieved.  Why it so difficult for baseball analysts to treat baseball players like human beings instead of like so many rolls of the dice in a never ending game of chance, a pathetic adult version of Stat-O-Matic, sitting in their rooms rolling those dice over and over again?  To paraphrase Einstein: God does not play dice with baseball.

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