Sunday, October 5, 2008

Something New In Clutch Hitting? A Couple Of Recent Articles

One was called Analysts: Tough to determine if there is such a thing as clutch by Paul White. In discussing the issue of whether or not some guys are clutch hitters, Reggie Jackson was mentioned. "Mr. October" had the following AVG-OBP-SLG 27 World Series games .357-.457-.755 (data from Retrosheet). But what about in 45 league championship series games? He had .227-.298-.380. Combining the two he has a .276 AVG and .521. Still good numbers but hardly stunning and why did he hit so poorly in the LCS? Lucky for him his teammates were doing well enough for him to make it into the World Series.

The article also mentioned Derek Jeter. Nike even has a shoe called the "Jeter Clutch." But in his career his AVG in close and late situations is .286 while his overall AVG is .317 (both through 2007). Generally players hit more poorly in when it is close and late because you face ace relievers and the pitcher is more likely to have the platoon advantage. But his differential is probably bigger than normal.

To read lots of other good articles on clutch hitting go to Clutch Hitting Links. One thing that is important to ask when we talk about clutch hitting is do teams make personnel moves even partly based on it? Have you ever heard of a team trading a .300 hitter because he hit poorly in the clutch or trading for a .250 hitter because he was good in the clutch?

What about Barry Bonds in the post season? It appeared that he was a bad clutch hitter until 2002, based on his past post-season performances. His averages in the LCS in 1990-2 were .167, .148, and .261. Did Dusty Baker decide to bench him in the 2002 playoffs because he was a bad clutch hitter? No. Obviously Baker, a big league manager, does not buy into clutch. For more on this kind if argument, go to Please, no more clutch hitting statistics!

The other article is called Clutch hitting is no accident. Apparently, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire thinks you can teach it. From this article:

"The Twins' .311 batting average with runners in scoring position is so much higher than any other major league team's — runner-up Baltimore is 24 points behind, at .287 — that it seems like a statistical fluke. In the Twins' case, the manager said, they can shorten their swings, watch for particular pitches, and use the entire field as a target. Under batting coach Joe Vavra, Gardenhire said, every Twins hitter sharpens his run-producing skills every day.

"It's execution — getting them over, getting them in. I think that's definitely a skill," Gardenhire said. "You work at anything long enough, you get a mind-set for what you're trying to do." The Twins didn't have that last season, when they batted .276 with runners in scoring position, 14th best in baseball."

We will have to see if the Twins continue to do so well with runners in scoring position next year. If they do, maybe other teams will adopt what they do and we will see them hit better in these situations, too. But I am not holding my breath. Pitches might start pitching differently then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wat does a economics professor know anything about sports?