Mr. Clutch?

Much to my dismay, a seventh inning 3-run homer by Alex Rodriguez put the final touches on the sixth edition of the Red Sox–Yankees Tuesday night.  Given the beating he has been taking in the New York tabloids for failing to produce when it matters most, Rodriguez must have felt more than a little redemption.

The interesting thing for me is that for some unknown reason, at least unknown to me, the view by fans -probably all fans – is that Rodriguez’s teammate Derek Jeter is Mr. Clutch, while Rodriguez is Mr. Not Clutch

There are two aspects to this:  the first is whether there exists such a thing as clutchness; while the second is whether Jeter and/or Rodriguez are clutch.

As to the first, consider that sabemetrican David Grabiner found in his Clutch Hitting Study states: “I still don’t have evidence that clutch hitters exist, and if they do, they cannot be very important.”

Or from statistician Jim Albert, who in Hitting with Runners in Scoring Position argues that:“…there appears to be little evidence that players have different abilities to perform well in clutch situations.”

Other than the classic “I know he’s clutch,” there appears to be little support for the belief that the ability to perform in the clutch is some trait that exists in some baseball players. 

As to the second, consider this from Aaron Gettleman:

“The situations one would want to look at in trying to determine the Clutchness of a player would seem to me to be the following:  Runners in scoring position; Runners in scoring position with two outs; Close and late.

The first two are self-explanatory. ‘Close and late’ is defined as “results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck.”

Here are Derek Jeter’s post-season numbers in those situations from 2000-2003, combined…

Runners in scoring position: .214/.421/.357; Runners in scoring position with two outs: .188/.381/.375; Close and late: .176/.263/.323

Again, those numbers do not include what he did from 1996-1999. Even with that disclaimer, I think that if you are looking at the same stats I am looking at, the whole “Jeter is Clutch” theory has a David Wells-sized hole in it.”

Could A-Rod’s be that much worse?

– MBS