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  • Clutch hitting

    Bill James and other baseball statisticians claim there is no such thing as "clutch hitting". A player may hit well in a "clutch situation" but only due to chance. He may do it a year or two but not over a full career.

    James also says that the RBI is a "meaningless stat".

    But how do you define a "clutch hitting situation"? I can think of several possibilities:
    * Hitting better than my career average when runners are in scoring position?
    * Hitting for a higher average in a close game, especially in late innings?
    * Driving in a run after two outs?

    Without seeing any "splits" data to support my position, I still believe that some batters will hit better in a clutch situation and some will not. Adrenalin may help some hitters better focus their attention in a "clutch situation" while others may "freeze" when a game is on the line.

    Other things being equal, I would expect most hitters to do better when there are runners in scoring position:
    (1) the pitcher is less likely to throw a breaking ball or a change-up
    (2) the pitcher must work without a wind-up
    (3) a runner on second base may steal the catcher's sign and relay that information to the batter
    (4) the pitcher himself might "choke" in a clutch situation

    I think of only factor to offset these hitter advantages: a really good pitcher will perform better when runners are in scoring position. (He will stop "pacing himself".)

    BTW: Who is the better "clutch hitter": Player "A" (a lifetime .260 hitter) who averages .290 when runners are in scoring position, or Player "B" (a career .330 hitter) whose BA drops to .300 when runners are in scoring position? Player A performs better than his average when a hit is most important, but player B still has a slightly better chance (.300 vs. .290) of driving in that key run.

    So -- where can I find "splits" data to test my theory?

    Is there splits data for an entire league, which might reveal whether most batters hit for a higher average or a lower average when runners are in scoring position?
    Are there some hitters who consistently hit for a higher average when a hit will likely drive in a run? Is a "split" of 30 points in this situation (as in my example above) actually very common in real life?

    And is there "splits data" available for even deeper study-- such as "BA with runners in scoring position and two outs"?
    Last edited by Appling; 01-06-2006, 06:11 PM.
    Luke

  • #2
    Originally posted by Appling

    And is there "splits data" available for even deeper study-- such as "BA with runners in scoring position and two outs"?
    Retrosheet has some of that info. It has splits for RISP, times with men on base, and bases loaded data since 1959 I believe. They have it for individual players and teams, but I'm not sure if they have it for the whole league.

    If you're really interested, I'm sure you could tell STATS Inc. about your dilemma and proposed research project and they might be able to help you.

    Comment


    • #3
      I've seen a STATS book with data in clutch situations and batters tended to hit a little worse (probably due to facing fresh relievers). Other sports believe there are clutch players (Elway, Jerry West, Reggie Miller) why not baseball. I believe there are clutch hitters but it's difficult to prove and define
      Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
      Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

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      • #4
        There are different types of clutch situations too though. If the runner on base is a threat to steal, it's adds a whole new set of factors in favor of the hitter. Pitch selection, pitcher's attention is split, where fielders set up, pressure on the catcher to name a few.

        I think player A is the better clutch hitter in your scenario, but player B is the better hitter. Dropping off so much from his norm, would lead you to believe that player B lets pressure affect him.

        To me, clutch isn't necessarily "raising" your performance in a given situation. It's being able to maintain your norm. Your level of focus remains the same without your muscle-coordination, reflexes, and nerves being negatively affected.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by 538280
          Retrosheet has some of that info. It has splits for RISP, times with men on base, and bases loaded data since 1959 I believe. They have it for individual players and teams, but I'm not sure if they have it for the whole league.
          Thanks for that reference information. I sampled just a few, to get a taste of it. I looked at George Brett, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken. Brett's batting average runners in scoring position was more than ten points higher than his overall season BA in 1975, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990. His BA with RISP was more than 10 points lower than his season average in 1976 (.281 vs .333), 1981 (.260 vs .314), 1982, 1984 and 1991. For other years the difference between season and RISP was small.

          Brett's remarkable 1980 season was extraordinary for clutch hitting also. That year George hit .469 with RISP, compared with "only" .381 with bases empty and .390 for the total season overall.

          Like Brett, Harmon Killebrew seems to have a much higher BA with RISP in those seasons which were great for him overall (like 1969). Looking only at seasons when Harmon exceeded 100 RBI: 1959 (.242 for season /.254 with RISP); 1961 (season BA .288 / RISP .321); 1962 (.243 /.298); 1964 (.270 /.232 with RISP); 1966 (.281 /.263); 1967 (.269 /.349); 1969 (.276 /.314); 1970 (.271 /.259); 1971 (.254 /.333). Harmon was never a .300 hitter for a season, but he hit .298 or better with RISP six times (including 1965 when he had only 75 RBI). He didn't only use homeruns to drive in runs -- sometimes he did it with just a timely single. Perhaps he was a true clutch hitter.

          Brooks Robinson was known for being a clutch hitter. His RISP average was much better than his overall season BA in his early seasons (1959. 1960, 1963, 1964 and 1966) but significantly lower in 1962, 1967, 1968 and 1971.

          In a quick sample of Ripken's numbers, it seems he was remarkably consistent in most seasons -- average with RISP was usually close to his overall average for the season.

          Just that small sample seems to show that rarely is a player consistently better in a clutch situation -- maybe for a few seasons, but not over a full career. I wish I could see similar data for players before 1959 -- especially Ruth and Gehrig.
          Last edited by Appling; 01-07-2006, 06:11 PM.
          Luke

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          • #6
            Bill James said clutch hitting exists, clutch hitters do not.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by BoSox Rule
              Bill James said clutch hitting exists, clutch hitters do not.
              Precisely what I was thinking.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Appling
                James also says that the RBI is a "meaningless stat".
                Sorry about this being somewhat off topic, but Bill James has never (to my knowledge at least) said anything like this. James repeatedly says that RBI is a decent sketch of how good a hitter is, but can't be relied on.

                RBI is not meaningless, it is just overrated. A player gets RBI if he:

                A)Plays a lot
                B)Plays in favorable conditions (runners in front get on base, bats in the middle of the order), and
                C)Plays well.

                When looking at stats we are trying to determine factor C. Factor C has a lot to do with RBI, and thus it is not meaningless, but it is just weighed down too much by factors A and B to be relied on.

                P.S (in part to stay on topic): I've before thought a good way of measuring clutch hitting may be to find a way to come up with "expected RBI" based on a player's own offensive stats, how much he played, and the stats of his teammates. We can then compare the "expected RBI" to the player's actual RBI. I think that may be the best way to measure clutch hitting ability, if it can be done.
                Last edited by 538280; 01-08-2006, 08:36 AM.

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                • #9
                  Appling,
                  just do a search on the internet for clutch hitting research. Plenty of people have done them, and at the very least you'll get a hold of some data. FOr instance on retrosheet Tom Ruane has an article on clutch hitting. Plus he also provides a link to all his data.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BoSox Rule
                    Bill James said clutch hitting exists, clutch hitters do not.
                    Gee, then I wonder WHO does the clutch hitting
                    Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
                    Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RuthMayBond
                      Gee, then I wonder WHO does the clutch hitting
                      Nice rebuttal.

                      A .250 hitter isn't going to consistently hit better in clutch situations than normal situations. Once there is a reasonable sample size, he will still be a .250 hitter in those situations. A .330 hitter is probably going to be a .330 hitter in "clutch" situations. He isn't going to be clutch because he hits .330 in those situations. He is the same hitter, he is just called clutch because it happened in an arbitrary situation. He is a great hitter and will be a great hitter in any situation.

                      Same thing for the playoffs. The .250 might hit .400 in the Division Series, but he will probably hit .250 in the LCS and World Series. He is not clutch and will probably regress to the mean with a decent sample size.

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                      • #12
                        They're all clutch, the hitters, the pitchers, the fielders.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ubiquitous
                          They're all clutch, the hitters, the pitchers, the fielders.
                          A hitter can't be getting a clutch hit while the pitcher and fielder is making a clutch out to get the batter
                          Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
                          Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My theory on clutch hitting (I actually think this is what Ubi is hinting at):

                            I think every player in the majors is clutch, simply because all plate appearances in the majors can be defined as "clutch". This is these people's jobs, and if they don't do well, they're on the unemployment line. For many of them, how well they do in their PAs will determine their future. Do well, you'll be rich, famous, and have one of the best jobs in the world. Do badly, and you'll be unemployed, and even if you do get a job it probably won't be a good one.

                            Everyone who gets significant playing time in the majors is really a "clutch" hitter. The non clutch players have long since been out of the game. Different people's ability levels peak at different levels. Some people peak at Little League, and can't compete at a higher level. Some peak at high school, some peak at college, some peak in the minors, and some peak in the major leagues. As you move up the scale, you will need certain abilities. One of the abilities you need to move into the last level (the majors) is clutch hitting.

                            So, that's why there is no such thing as consistently doing better in clutch situations in the majors, at least IMO.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Every time clutch hitting comes up I say the same thing and it is basically what Reggophile said but reduced down to one sentence.

                              99.99% of the time if you cannot perform well in a high pressure, high intensity environment you will be found out and filtered out before you reach the majors.

                              To these players almost every single at bat and pitch is against the best opposition possible. This isn't like Reggie Bush or LeBron James versus a bunch of high school kids. This is people with enough talent and skill to play at the highest level possible.
                              Last edited by Ubiquitous; 01-08-2006, 08:52 PM.

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