>You can't convince me it doesn't exist. The players and coaches sure thing
>so. You approach hitting differntly when there are men on. Just like you
>do on a full count.
There are minor adjustments to be made in virtually every at bat, whether
you're trying to get a runner home from third with less than two out or
trying to get on base leading off an inning or trying to get the two out
single with a man on second. I don't think anyone here is disputing that
there is such a thing as "situational hitting," but there _is_ a question
as to whether "clutch ability" exists.
>Rick Sutcliffe and Jon Miller on ESPN were talking during the Cards-Cubs
>game about how JD Drew hasn't learned it yet. They said it as he walked up
>to bat in the 9th inning and sure enough he got out. And then along came
>Tino and they said he knows what to do and sure enough you could see it in
>his eyes and he got 2 RBIs. A Mariners coach (I think their pitching
>coach) said yesterday no one in the league hits better with runners on than GA.
Which is why GA was the worst outfielder in baseball at bringing runners
home a few years ago, I suppose. There's all kinds of anecdotal evidence
for clutch hitting (like the instance you describe), but there's never been
any systematic evidence for it. There isn't anyone who you can _predict_
will show up as a great clutch hitter. If you look at GA's numbers and
Tino Martinez's numbers and -- I dunno -- Edgar Martinez's or Manny
Ramirez's or whoever next year, as likely as not, you're going to find them
with very average performances in "clutch" situations.
It's worth noting, though, that "clutch" situations are difficult to
define. In the numbers, you see RISP numbers and "close and late" numbers,
but you could have a great RISP while hitting .200 in close games and .600
in blowouts. If you combine it with "close and late" numbers, you might
find that someone hit .230 until his team was out of the pennant race, then
hit .500 the rest of the season. And, if you _do_ break down the
performance to those at bats that are truly, indisputably "clutch," you're
talking about maybe 20 PAs a season, tops, at which point the numbers
aren't likely to be significant over a career, much less a season.
Obviously, this is one of those things where it's simply a question of what
your orientation to the game is; the systematic evidence, as far as it
exists, basically suggests that unusual success in "clutch" situations is a
function of luck. But almost everyone in baseball with swear up and down
that there is such a thing.
Personally, I don't mind talking about "clutch" in a descriptive
sense. Salmon's been a better clutch hitter this year than last. Ichiro
was a phenomenal clutch hitter last year. That sort of thing. I _don't_
expect the past, though, to replicate in the future...I don't think there's
such a thing as "clutch ability," beyond simply being able to avoid
"choking"; performing poorly because of an inability to manage stress
appropriately. In terms of there being truly "clutch" players, I tend to
see it as an anthropologist might -- the vagaries of life (or, in this
case, the game) explained in terms of hidden talents and moral
imperatives. Which, I suppose, makes me a skeptic.
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