FanDuel - WFBC

July 07, 2008

Sports announcers already know it, and now Elan Fuld has proven it: clutch hitters really do exist. : For the science-lovers, it's nice to see proof...

posted by bobfoot to baseball at 11:12 PM - 11 comments

After reading the FPP, I was hoping for juicer stuff in the article. I'd like to see a list of all those players and how they rank as the tension builds. Interesting that the article is about clutch hitters, and then a mention of Buckner's FIELDING error, but no mention of choke hitters at all. I do think that there is a difference between being a "clutch" player and hitting in a clutch situation. Sure, I'd want Pujols in the bottom ninth, two out, needs a hit to score the runner and win. He's "clutch" all the time, pressure or not. But hitting in a clutch situation can be a bunt by the pitcher or a PH getting on base, so I'd like to know the criteria used to select the 1075 players. "What I found was that, when I included sacrifice flys in the analysis, there was overwhelming evidence that there were clutch hitters," Why wouldn't there be? Sac flies are an important part of the game, some players do that very well. I'm not sure you'd need to study all those players to figure that out.

posted by BoKnows at 12:47 AM on July 08

Wasn't any more interesting a study than when I first read about it 3 years ago...... Phil Birnbaum recently did a round-up of clutch hitting studies on his blog, including one new one that was presented a couple of weeks ago.

posted by spira at 02:47 AM on July 08

But I thought clutch hitting didn't exist for the simple reason that in any bell curve distribution, even if the distribution isn't a bell curve, the distribution of distribution curves is itself a bell curve. Er, for example, that even if say one town exhibits unusually high levels of say cancer, there are other towns that exhibit unusually low levels, and that the distribution of such towns is itself a bell curve. In other words, the fact that some hitters are "clutch" while others are not is itself a bell curve distribution, and thus nothing more than statistical chance. That some of the 1,075 hitters examined were "clutch" is just a statistical anomaly. Ted Williams hit .200 in his post-season, while Billy Hatcher (I believe ) holds the record with something like a .700 post-season mark in one particular year. That hardly makes Hatcher a better hitter than Williams, nor the small sample size meaningful.

posted by hincandenza at 04:47 AM on July 08

It'd be nice to see his work rather than a simple assertion that he proved something (thanks, spira). And it would be nice to know if he used the Leverage Index for the study or invented his own.

posted by yerfatma at 10:54 AM on July 08

Ted Williams hit .200 in his post-season, while Billy Hatcher (I believe ) holds the record with something like a .700 post-season mark in one particular year. I'm probably in over my head here, but I think it turns on the size of the data set. So if Ted Williams had gotten as many postseason at-bats as he did regular season, you would simply compare the two averages and know whether he was good, bad or average in the postseason (leaving out for a moment the definition of "clutchiness" and just assuming every postseason AB is clutch). As it happens, he only got 25 postseason AB. ISTR Barry Bonds had very poor numbers with about that many AB until his breakthrough against the Angels a few years back. Derek Jeter has had 495 postseason AB -- or about 75-80% of a typical 162 game season for him -- and has hit .309/.377/.469, not much different than his .316/.387/.459 lifetime regular season averages. I don't know what they breakdown is with RISP or two outs or when trailing vs. leading or late in the game vs. early, but with enough data you can probably make a good guess as to whether he's "clutch." Of course, all this needs to be weighed against the pitching matchup. Presumably Jeter faced better pitchers on average in the playoffs than during the regular season. Like I said, over my head.

posted by drumdance at 04:47 PM on July 08

Drumdance, I think you make some very valid points, the sample size of playoff AB's is just too small for most hitters to determine conclusively whether or not they are a clutch playoff hitter. He determined the situational importance of a player's at-bat based on a team's lead, which bases were occupied, how many outs there were in the game and which half-inning it was How about when in the season the game was? A late September AB might be much more of clutch situation than an April AB with the same game situations. How about the post season implications? Is it really a clutch situation if a team is 25 games out of 1st? Leading off the 6th inning in a scoreless game in late September when your team is tied for the division lead with two games to go, might be more of clutch situation than batting with two on, two outs, down by 2 in the ninth inning of a game in May. I did chuckle at the reference to his being a "life long baseball fan", the kid is 21.

posted by dviking at 06:58 PM on July 08

"Sports announcers already know it" but do they have any idea who the clutch hitters are? No. They invariably refer to one or two memorable situations in which someone got a meaningful hit, without having any idea how many times the same guy FAILED to get a needed hit, or how many times someone else hit clutch in a less prominent game. All anecdotal.

posted by hexagram at 11:51 AM on July 09

Derek Jeter has had 495 postseason AB -- or about 75-80% of a typical 162 game season for him -- and has hit .309/.377/.469, not much different than his .316/.387/.459 lifetime regular season averages. Actually, it's WORSE than his regular season numbers (since he is likely to get a hit or get on base). Jeter is a (minimal) post-season choker! Not that Tim McCarver, FOX or NYY fans would ever want to hear that...

posted by grum@work at 02:07 PM on July 09

If clutch hitters do exist in the major leagues (as opposed to clutch hitting, which exists by definition) 1) We have no way of identifying them 2) Their clutchness would have to be of little importance because we can't find it. It's impossible to improve that clutch hitters don't exist, but we can prove that we have no meaningful way of figuring out which hitters are clutch hitters if they do exist. So I really don't care. It's certainly legitimate to add the value of a hitter's clutch hitting when you measure his past performance, because hitting in the clutch can provide extra value (though, of course, some of that value is negated by inferior performances the rest of the time). You just can't reasonably consider clutch hitting as a special skill that player has that is different than his overall hitting. (None of that applies to clutch pitching, by the way, which I'm not really sure about. And i would be extremely surprised if clutch fielding did not exist; I think it more or less has to.) The worst thing about talking clutch hitting though is that it has become a way of announcers telling the audience "Well, this players stats aren't very good, but i like him a lot, so he must be a clutch player." Clutch is used to express personal likes and dislikes. Since it's not easy to measure, announcers feel safe in saying whatever they want about the clutch hitting abilities of a batter. Greg

posted by spira at 01:22 AM on July 10

I did chuckle at the reference to his being a "life long baseball fan", the kid is 21. - posted by dviking He'd be 24 now. That press release was written in May 2005. The author did write up his study. You can read it here: Clutch and Choke Hitters in Major League Baseball: Romantic Myth or Empirical Fact. Since only Bill Buckner and Eddie Murray show up as 'clutch' at the .001 significance level, I think that practically shows that 'clutch' doesn't exist. There are a bunch of other clutch articles on Cyril Morong's site.

posted by Steve-o at 05:33 PM on July 10

is...was...whatever

posted by dviking at 02:46 PM on July 11

You're not logged in. Please log in or register.