Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

St. John: Baseball Mythbusting: Was That a Clutch Hit? Or Did the Pitcher Just Choke?

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.

Repoz Posted: October 10, 2012 at 02:04 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 10, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4261952)
I think that St. John's thesis, on the surface, is more plausible than the alternative interpretation, in that it makes more intuitive sense that players would cave under pressure than that they would rise to the occasion. However, it's still hard to get the right set of data to test this hypothesis - is a late-season game between the Royals and Twins any more or less pressure-packed than Game 1 of Orioles/Yankees was?

-- MWE
   2. BDC Posted: October 10, 2012 at 02:47 PM (#4261960)
is a late-season game between the Royals and Twins any more or less pressure-packed than Game 1 of Orioles/Yankees was?

Yes, and it depends on the player, too. If you're a 25-year-old callup trying to get on a roster next year, Twins-Royals is probably a lot more pressure than Derek Jeter taking his 700th playoff at-bat.
   3. Bob Tufts Posted: October 10, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4262061)
Choke is truly an ugly word - and since there is no accurate definition for it (other than being the antithesis of clutch, something else that is not defined), sportswriters should stop using it as filler during games.

It's not a problem with thinking too much, it's about trusting your abilities to execute a pitch and knowing your limits.
   4. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: October 10, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4262075)
And when a hitter turns a hanging slider or a not-so-fastball into a line drive, you can call it clutch hitting.


You very rarely hear anything about a hanging slider (or curve) other than when the batter hits it a mile. I wonder how much of the hanging slider concept is post-hoc analysis.
   5. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: October 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4262088)
I wonder how much of the hanging slider concept is post-hoc analysis.

All of it is post-hoc analysis.
Willie McCovey and Luis Gonzalez both ended World Series Game Sevens: McCovey with a line shot, Gonzalez with a little dunker over the infield.
Was Gonzalez somehow clutchier than McCovey? Was Rivera suddenly un-clutch?
Was Prince Fielder un-clutch in the second inning last night? Did Crisp's clutchitude - missing in the last game - elevate him over the fence?

You'd think the guys who played the game would know BETTER than most: sometimes the hits just drop in.
And sometimes the batter swings at a good curveball, when what he got was a hanging curveball.

Bouton's right, too - sometimes players are just thinking too damn much. But most of the time, it's more "That's how baseball go."

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Randy Jones
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 2 OMNICHATTER
(118 - 9:00pm, Oct 22)
Last: Roger McDowell spit on me!

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(3160 - 8:51pm, Oct 22)
Last: David Nieporent (now, with children)

NewsblogJay set for surgery — and for CF in 2015 : Sports
(3 - 8:43pm, Oct 22)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogSielski: A friend fights for ex-Phillie Dick Allen's Hall of Fame induction
(179 - 8:36pm, Oct 22)
Last: baudib

NewsblogJerome Williams re-signs with Phils
(7 - 8:33pm, Oct 22)
Last: Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama

NewsblogCardinals proud of fourth straight NLCS appearance | cardinals.com
(60 - 8:29pm, Oct 22)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(340 - 8:07pm, Oct 22)
Last: steagles

NewsblogHunter Pence responds to Royals fan signs with monster Game 1 | MLB.com
(54 - 7:50pm, Oct 22)
Last: JE (Jason)

NewsblogStatcast: Posey out at the plate
(11 - 7:49pm, Oct 22)
Last: Merton Muffley

NewsblogMike Scioscia, Matt Williams voted top managers
(43 - 7:45pm, Oct 22)
Last: catomi01

NewsblogHow Wall Street Strangled the Life out of Sabermetrics | VICE Sports
(5 - 7:40pm, Oct 22)
Last: Merton Muffley

NewsblogRoyals are not the future of baseball | FOX Sports
(28 - 7:11pm, Oct 22)
Last: Belfry Bob

NewsblogDealing or dueling – what’s a manager to do? | MGL on Baseball
(39 - 7:10pm, Oct 22)
Last: bobm

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(873 - 7:02pm, Oct 22)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogHitting coaches blamed for lack of offense - Sports - The Boston Globe
(18 - 5:40pm, Oct 22)
Last: Bhaakon

Page rendered in 0.1008 seconds
52 querie(s) executed