erik lundegaard

Clutch Schmutch

I'm sure this has been done elsewhere but what the hell.

Here are the career stats, regular and postseason, of a current Major League player. We'll call him Player A:

Player A
Regular season .314 .385 .452 .837
Postseason .312 .381 .475 .856

The postseason numbers are remarkably similar to the regular season numbers. A little more pop. Otherwise, almost identical.

And here are the career stats, regular and postseason, of another current Major League players. We'll call him Player B:

Player B
Regular season .303 .387 .571 .958
Postseason .300 .404 .552 .956

Again, remarkably similar. A little less pop in the postseason than in the regular season, but still more pop than Player Ain either the regular or postseason. In fact, even with the power dropoff, he's exactly .100 percentage points better in OPS than Player A in the postseason. Nothing to sneeze at.

Who are they?

Player A is Derek Jeter, who is known as one of the greatest postseason clutch performers of his era.

Player B is Alex Rodriguez, who is known as one of the great postseason chokers of his era.

Overall, Alex has played about a third of a season in the postseason (57 games, 210 at-bats), while Jeter has played almost an entire season in the postseason (141 games, 573 at-bats), so he's had that many more chances for memorable clutch performances. And he's certainly delivered. The catch in the stands, the shovel pass to nab Jeremy Giambi, the homerun on Nov. 1st. Was that all in 2001? All in a losing effort, ultimately.

Alex also suffers because his greatest postseason, until last year, was in 2000, when he was off-stage, as it were, with the Seattle Mariners.

The numbers, looked at one way, support those who believe there's no such thing as clutch performance. Given enough time, the players put up the numbers they always do.

Looked at another way, both of these guys seem clutch, since, even facing what one assumes is the superior pitching of postseason teams, they put up the numbers they always do.

Where the numbers leave no doubt? The rep of Derek Jeter as an October hero, and the rep of Alex Rodriguez as an October goat, are both greatly exaggerated.

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Posted at 06:17 AM on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 in category Baseball  


Jack Bradbury wrote:

Erik, Erik, Erik................never, ever, ever write an article that somehow justifies the weasel that is Alex Rodriguez. For gosh sakes man!
Comment posted on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 at 07:28 AM

Erik wrote:

Matthew 6:14-15
Comment posted on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 at 08:14 AM

Jacob Michaels wrote:

Cumulative player stats over a course of the regular season tell you a lot about the value of a player over, yes, the course of the regular season. Important stuff.

The nature of playoff series of 7 (and especially 5) games are entirely different than the regular season. A big hit has a huge impact on the course of a playoff series. Therefore the manner in which we "appraise" a players performance has to be different.

If a player has a number of hits that profoundly effect the outcome of a short series, that creates a real, direct, "stat" for his team: he won friggin' ball games in a do or die post season situation.

I mean, I'm not about to write those big hits off because statistically it's too small a sample size for analytical meaning.

The post-season is ALL ABOUT what you do in specific situations where the outcome of a game has an order of magnitude more importance than 95% of regular season games.

With enough at bats in the post-season most players will usually revert to their career averages. But again, the post-season is so obviously different than the regular season I'm not really sure what meaning those cumulative post-season stats have.
Comment posted on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 at 09:51 AM

Erik wrote:

It's an argument, Jacob. A lot of statheads write off clutch performance because Bill James does, or has (don't know if he's changed his mind), but I go back-and-forth on the matter. In my own experience, I know people who rise to challenges better than others, who deal with confrontations better than others, who thrive on them, who desire them, so it seems natural some would perform better in clutch situations. Even when talking about players at the elite level of MLB.

But I get the feeling you're not talking about that. I get the feeling you're saying that Bill Mazeroski can go 0-12 but if he hits a homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series to win the Series, then he's a hero, forevermore. Because he hit the homerun in a situation that mattered.

Makes sense.

But does that make him a clutch performer? Or just a hero?

At the least, I think the above numbers would surprise a lot of baseball fans, who assume Jeter's postseason numbers would dwarf Alex's. They don't. The opposite. But Jeter hit a homerun to win a game in a series that his team ultimately lost in spectacular fashion--on a ball hit over his head--and fans choose to remember the homerun.
Comment posted on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM

jack bradbury wrote:

I guess I can't argue with Matthew. That means I got a lot of splainin' to do when this little run is concluded.
Comment posted on Tue. Oct 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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