I assume he means for the next two months, and then Jeter retires.
I examined how, for each player, the leverage of a situation affected his tendencies to swing at the first pitch… I then… calculated the chances that each player would swing at a first pitch when the leverage index was 1 (average) and 2 (a situation twice as important as the average situation)... What I found is that for hitters who show more of an effect on swing difference (leverage makes them swing at the first pitch more), they were less likely than expected to walk and less likely to strike out as leverage went up. Instead, they showed higher rates of both extra base hits and outs in play…
What we have here is an indicator that has reasonable (if not great) consistency across years, and it explains differences between players in how leverage affects them. More searching might find something with more consistency. Even then, year-to-year consistency is not the only way to establish that a measure is reflective of a player’s true talent level. Using a more tracking-based approach might help. Players can and do change, even within a season. There’s no reason clutch needs to be an enduring trait, rather than a state we can detect with some reliability. The rest is simply showing that the factor, whatever it is, can explain some of the differences between players’ performances in different leverage situations.
As to these specific analyses, it might very well be that what’s driving things is that some players are looking at the sorts of relievers they face in high-leverage situations and saying “Well, he usually comes right at me, so no point in messing around. I might as well swing when I see something interesting.” It might not be a mystical force at work, but a very reasonable reaction to the circumstances. In that case, clutch isn’t even something psychological, but a mental skill. Still, there could be problems with multi-colinearity. What this might be showing is that some players swing more in high-leverage situations, and so we would expect them to take fewer walks, somewhat by definition. Then again, even knowing that information could have strategic value. Maybe when we have other data sets to work with, we might be able to look at measures of how leverage affects a player that aren’t based on game results.
The other piece of this, and it’s one that I tried to drive home in the piece in the [2014 Baseball Prospectus] Annual that started everything, is that knowing that a player swings more (or less) often in high-leverage situations might be good within the context of one skill set and bad within another. These analyses fall into the large-N trap that assumes that more swinging is better (or seems to be) for everyone. But if nothing else, I’d present these analyses as a way of re-opening what had been assumed to be a closed debate. Clutch hitting might just exist.
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