Curt @99, 7 games is a short series. How often do really good teams lose to inferior teams in 4 out of 7 games throughout a baseball season? It happens fairly regularly.
Getting a clutch does not necessarily mean a player has some skill separate from pure baseball skills that is vastly better than all other major league players.
Throughout the history of the game, find me a player that, over a sample of something like 100-200 games, performs vastly better or worse in any situation you would define as clutch than in all other situations. Coming through or not coming through in the clutch is largely a result of randomness. If a player fails to come through in the clutch, it’s either that he wasn’t good enough at baseball or because of randomness/chance/luck/whatever you want to call it. It’s not because he lacks something internal. There is just no way a person who becomes so nervous that he can’t handle pressure will ever make it through all the filters that one must go through to reach the majors and be given playing time in the majors in situations we would call clutch.
Success in the postseason of course has to do with talent. But it also has to do with having certain skills that take away some of the randomness, like having high-strikeout pitchers and great defense. These things take away the prospects of the other team getting seeing-eye hits.
Success in the postseason also has a lot to do with randomness/luck/chance. If a great team loses 4 out of 7 to inferior teams during the regular season, especially if their close games, it’s sort of brushed aside. If a great team loses 4 out of 7 close games to a really good team in the postseason, everyone wants to read into it as the great team lacking something internal, not being gritty or clutch, etc.
Also, do we want our favorite teams to have players that can only psych themselves up in clutch situations? That seems to imply that certain players are not trying to be clutch and utilizing that side of themselves in the first inning of a 0-0 game.
Nate @100, funny how all those clutch players are also great players. Given enough opportunities to shine, great players are likely going to shine. Does that mean players who fail in the clutch don’t have the ability to overcomes pressure and choke in big-time situations? I highly doubt anyone who has gone through everything it takes to reach the majors and are given important plate appearances, defensive appearances or mound appearances lack the ability to overcome pressure. If they fail it’s not because they lack that ability. It’s because they aren’t good, the match-up doesn’t favor them or because of randomness.
Why was Freese the WS MVP and not Pujols? Because that’s the nature of baseball. It happens all the time. Inferior players often out-play better players over the course of 7 games or 10 games or a month. It happens in April, it happens in June and it happens in October. Was it because Pujols lacked some sort of clutch ability and Fresse didn’t or that Pujols clutchness was inferior to that of Freese? I find that highly unlikely. I highly doubt Pujols was more nervous or less focused or something like that.
I agree that LaRussa deserves a lot of credit in managing his pitching staff this postseason, with the exception of the bullpen-gate game. A huge factor in the Cardinals winning was him throwing out different looks at opposing offenses, not letting hitters measure up one particular pitcher and playing match-ups.
I think that’s a major factor in why the Rangers lost. Ron Washington didn’t play match-ups as he should have. Lance Berkman was allowed to bat left-handed way too often. Berkman is out of his mind as a LHB. How did Wash not know this?
The reason they keep stats like RBI or BA w/ RISP and 2 outs is because they show clutch. Hitting from the 7th inning on, things like that. Holds, saves, blown saves, all gauge levels of clutch, not just skill. Lots of guys can throw it 98 miles an hour, not a lot of guys can produce when their team is up 1 run and the game is in the 9th inning with the heart of the lineup due up for the opposing team. That’s why closers get paid more than middle relief guys. They all can’t handle the pressure of that situation. You don’t have to be super talented to be clutch. Robert Horry was a marginal basketball player who hit more big shots than most guys will in their careers. He literally made a living being the guy who could knock down a huge three in the playoffs and, as a result, he won a bunch of championships that would not have been won if not for his performance. But no one confused him with Micheal Jordan. Ever. Or even Dominique Wilkins, for that matter. Why can’t Duke basketball players make it in the NBA, yet win championship after championship? Christian Laettner was one of the most amazing clutch performers in the history of sports. Period. He was a terrible pro player. It’s because they are in a system that targets guys who are unflappable, not the most talented. UNC always has the better athletes. Dean Smith won 2 championships. And there is something to say about coaching that out of players too. Was that women’s Japanese soccer team more talented than the USA? No. Did they make the plays when they needed to in order to win the World Cup? Yes. And what did the Americans do? They choked. The opposite of clutch.
And I’m not sure how many games you would have them play in the post season? You want it to be a 13 game series? At what point is it enough time to not be a fluke that one team beats another?
Shaun, agreed on La Russa and washington. I definitely understand your point in greatness overcoming the situation, but I’m still in the camp that believes certain athletes have that it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it. That’s why everyone can look great in practice, but only some can be great in the actual game.
Curt @103, I’m not denying certain stats show clutch. I’m denying that certain players who make it to the majors are generally more clutch than other players in the majors, insofar as defining clutch as some sort of ability to overcome pressure, not get nervous, etc. in certain situations.
I believe if a pitcher has the stuff and the smarts to know what pitches to throw in certain situations, and he has the make-up that allowed him to make it all the way to the majors; he can close games. This idea that certain guys in the majors have a better “closer’s mentality” than other pitchers I believe is bogus. I think the guys that get all weak kneed and nervous in a close, 9th inning aren’t getting much past Double-A, if that far.
If Laettner and others truly had some sort of clutchness that was better than other players, why wouldn’t he be able to utilize it in all situations and become better than others in all situations?
What you are essentially arguing is that Laettner and others are only capable of being unflappable in those high-pressure situations but not in other situations, otherwise they would have been great players. This seems like a rather weak argument.
Did the USA women’s soccer team choke because they lacked some sort of clutchness that was separate from soccer skill? Did the Japanese team win because they had some sort of clutchness that was better than Team USA’s? Or is it just the nature of sports, especially a sport like soccer, where even if one team is better and could win a majority of the times they play the other team, and inferior team could find a way to win one game or 3 of 5 or 4 of 7?
There is no way to completely do away with flukiness and still have a watchable and entertaining postseason that doesn’t drag on too long. There is always going to be an element of randomness in the postseason, and I’m okay with that.
What I would prefer is that MLB do its best, with a playoff system, to weed out the teams that don’t belong with the upper-tier teams. Either let fewer teams in the playoffs (which isn’t going to happen) or make it tougher for the teams that are clearly inferior going in to win in the postseason (which is more likely to happen).
What’s the point of a 162-game regular season if a team that wins 102 games and is clearly the best team in the league has to play a 90-win team in a 5-game series with just one extra home game as its only advantage? Oh, and the team that won 90 games played in a division with three 90-loss teams, including one 106-loss team, with an unbalanced schedule that allowed them to play those teams more often.
I actually don’t think RBI or AVG w/RISP, saves, blown saves, etc. tell us much. I believe these stats are a lot like pitcher wins. They are more situational stats than stats that tell us anything about a player’s skills and abilities and what those skills and abilities allowed a player to do.
Take a player like Jose Bautista. Clearly the best hitter in baseball, best power hitter in baseball, etc. but he fell short of having the most RBI. Is Jose Bautista truly less of a “RBI guy” than any other hitter? Or was his relative lack of RBI, compared to other clearly inferior hitters, just a result of fewer opportunities. Bautista didn’t play on a great offensive or great OBP team. He also didn’t get many pitches to hit. Basically, he lacked the opportunities of other players because of his teammates and because he was a victim of his own success (pitchers didn’t throw him hittable pitches).
RBI are like pitcher wins, if not worse, in terms of telling us something about players. At least with pitcher wins, a pitcher has to be good enough to go 5 innings and typically has to allow fewer than 3-4 runs. With RBI, a player can rack them up if he’s just at the right spot in the order enough times with the right guys around him and the pitcher is willing to throw him strikes. See Jeff Francoeur.
I don’t think a guy like Francoeur, when he was driving in 100 runs, was any more clutch, less nervous, more unflappable, etc. than Jose Bautista. He just got as many or more RBI in a couple of seasons because his teammates were better, pitchers weren’t afraid to throw him strikes and he swung at everything this side of the Mississippi.
I do believe the best of the best of the best–the type players who clear every hurdle to make it to the majors–all have the it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it to a large degree. Maybe some have it more than others to a minor degree. But I think in a vast majority of instances players don’t fail in the clutch because they lack the it-factor/clutchness/swagger/whatever you wanna call it. I think having it is sort of a prerequisite to making it to the majors. It’s kind of like having a fastball over 86-mph or something. If you don’t have it (of course along with all the talent and skills required), you probably aren’t making it through all the filters and into the majors.
Everyone looks great in practice but not in games because all major leaguers are extremely skilled and talented, more so than the rest of us, and they are facing batting practice pitching and things of that sort. I don’t think that has much to do with clutch/it-factor/etc.
I think clutch does exist. There are plenty of great athletes that get nervous and break down when their team needs them the most. Sometimes its because they just plain get beat however most of of the time it’s because the pressure is too much to handle. A great player rises to the occasion by bearing down and wanting it more than anyone on the field.
I too think clutch exists. I just think human beings who reach the major leagues are almost by definition talented enough baseball players, disciplined and focused enough people in the ways that they need to be, and are capable of overcoming intense pressure. Clutch exists and a vast majority of major leaguers possess clutchness to an enormous degree.
I think the exact opposite. I think the most of the time if a player fails, it’s usually not because the pressure is too much to handle. Maybe at the high school level that’s the case but I don’t think that’s the case with major leaguers.
If a person has the talent, focus and drive, etc. but can’t overcome pressure, I don’t think he’s reaching the majors, getting playing time in key situations and staying in the majors.
Remember in the ALCS, Nelson Cruz dominated. In the most important fly ball in the World Series, he failed to catch it. Did he all the sudden forget how to be clutch? I don’t think that’s very likely at all. I don’t think he missed that fly ball because he didn’t bear down and want it. If that were the case, how do you explain that he bared down and wanted it in the ALCS but not the World Series?
I just don’t think there is any reason to believe nor is there any evidence that clutchness, bearing down, wanting it more, the it factor, etc. is what separates the performance of one major league player from any other.
Major league players have every incentive to want it a lot and bear down to extreme degrees. There are millions of dollars riding on their performances. Messing up would lead to public embarrassment on an enormous scale. These players have worked all their lives and put themselves through a lot just to get an opportunity to play in the majors. I think it’s very unlikely that one player bears down or wants it drastically more than other players.
If there are plenty of great athletes in the highest levels of pro sports (particular baseball where there is such an intense weeding-out process in the form of the minor leagues even after a player gets drafted into pro ball) that get nervous and break down when their team needs them most, where is the evidence that a noticeable percentage of those players exist?
In general, I agree with Shaun. I know – my opinion means a lot.
Clutch is largely a function of over-mediated perception. People develop a narrative about certain players and teams, then self select memories to reinforce their opinion. And because we have so much media coverage, so much opinion out there, it’s easy for people to spin these narratives. That’s why Cruz can be clutch in one series, but not in the next. Or Conrad and Hinske can be clutch one season, and then not the next. This is certainly a function of random success, and not at all indicative of clutch.
Clutch is more accurately used as a descriptive term for a play rather than an attribute for a player. Pros make clutch plays, but that doesn’t mean they have some mystical quality that allows them to excel over another in a specific high pressure situation.
However, I think Shaun is totally sterilizing the human element of sports. There are a rare few players that outperform their talents in big spots on a regular basis. Curt referenced Robert Horry. I’m sure there are more examples. Reggie Jackson maybe. And while RBIs, save, holds, wins, and many more are stats of opportunity, I don’t see how average/RISP or two out hits over the course of a season or several seasons can’t be considered at least indicative of clutch.
You say, “Major league players have every incentive to want it a lot and bear down to extreme degrees.”
That is not supported in many cases. Pitchers drinking beer in the duguot. Guys like Doc Gooden or Albert Haynesworth. Plenty of guys don’t bear down and underperform for lots of reasons.
If MLB increases the number of teams in the playoffs, they will be an even bigger joke than the NBA and NHL. Baseball is strong in tradition and crappy teams don’t belong in the playoffs; they didn’t earn the chance during the long season so, they shouldn’t get the chance to get lucky.