I was all set to be blown away like the day I found out Jim Fouratt was Lester Bangs’ AA sponsor. Alas, not to be.
But when I first put forth this idea of a relationship between clutch hitting and a pitcher choking in a Wall Street Journal column several years ago, I got a call from Jim Bouton. Before writing Ball Four, Bouton was a 20-game winner who pitched in the World Series. He’s also a student of the game, a guy who watched other pitchers work to Yankee hitters like Mickey Mantle.
And Bouton, I’m happy to report, told me that I hit it right on the head. Pitchers do sometimes think too much in pressure situations. They’re intimidated by the hitter, by the situation, even the venue. After all, as Bouton’s Hall of Fame teammate Yogi Berra once explained, half of this game is 90 percent mental.
The problem is that no one, from the manager to the broadcaster to the pitchers themselves, wants to use an ugly word like choke. The hitter-as-hero story line is much easier for everyone to stomach.
So watch carefully this post-season, and you’ll see many instances in which pitchers rise to the occasion. But also plenty when they don’t.
And when a hitter turns a hanging slider or a not-so-fastball into a line drive, you can call it clutch hitting. But you don’t have to.
Posted: October 10, 2012 at 01:04 PM | 5 comment(s)
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