I pretty much agree with Bill James’s early assessment on the topic, which was that what a batter hits in so-called “clutch” situations is close to what he hits in all other situations - and that if this wasn’t obvious, it’s merely because there hadn’t been enough of a sampling. In other words, if Willie Mays never hit a home run in 21 World Series games it was simply luck of the draw. Given, say, another two World Series and another 10 or 12 games, if he batted another 40 times and hit, say, 6 home runs, then he’d have 7 home runs in 114 at-bats, which would be almost the same ratio as his regular season average.
It’s unsettling to watch baseball as long as I have and suddenly have to entertain an entirely new concept, but after watching the Yankees play like deer caught in the headlights in game after game, I’m beginning to think I was wrong about clutch hitting. Or at least wrong about clutch hitting as it manifests itself in the postseason, which is about as clutch as I can think of.
...Here’s the kicker: the best of the bunch turns out to be Alex Rodriguez. I was surprised, as I expected him to be much worse than the others. But after Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Tigers, he had played in 74 postseason games and come to bat 272 times with 72 hits for a batting average of .266 - modest, but way above that of Cano (.226), Granderson (.242), Swisher (.167) or Teixeira (.227). A-Rod had, by the way, just 13 home runs and 41 RBIs. Projected over the same 618 postseason at-bats as the other four had combined, he would probably have come up with 30 home runs and 93 RBIs. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible, and his numbers were made a whole lot worse by his dreadful hitting in the last two weeks.
I’m still not sure I believe in clutch hitting or that the postseasons of all five of the Yankees’ regular season big boppers really reflects that they can’t hit in the clutch. But it certainly doesn’t provide any evidence that they are clutch hitters. At the least, though, it suggests that the dreadful batting performances we’ve endured over the last seven games aren’t that much different than what the five of them have done over their entire postseason careers. Think about that.