A blog dedicated to the New York Mets with some other baseball thrown in.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

To Be Clutch or Not To Be Clutch

Wikipedia defines a clutch hitter as a baseball player with a knack for coming up with the "big" hit. The big hit is typically a game-deciding hit, sometimes a home run, often coming with two outs. Being known as a clutch hitter is a position of high honor and responsibility, as the clutch hitter is recognized as the "go-to guy" for the team, and his exploits in pressure situations are celebrated by both fans and players alike.

Pretty straightforward, right? Not really. I would tend to agree with Bill James and other statheads that clutch hitting does not exist. I will take it a step further to add another dimension and say that people can shrivel up and lose their ability to perform. While some people simply may not be able to take the pressure and perform up to their abilities during stressful situations, others simply perform at their established levels.

"How is it that a player who possesses the reflexes and the batting stroke and the knowledge and the experience to be a .260 hitter in other circumstances magically becomes a .300 hitter when the game is on the line? How does that happen? What is the process? What are the effects? Until we can answer those questions, I see little point in talking about clutch ability."

The thought process is that if someone really did play better in clutch situations, the GM would be pretty interested to know why said clutch player is not playing as well in non-clutch situations. Disinterested? Not likely. Needing the pressure to perform? Can someone really gain ability in this type of situation? Aren't the players most cited for being clutch in guys like Jeter, Mariano, Ortiz, etc. just better on a per-game basis than most others and continue to do what is expected of them which is perform? Last I checked, most clutch performers were superstars anyway. I'm not talking about guys like Scott Brosius or Kirk Gibson who certainly came up with big hits, but guys regarded for their clutch ability over a long period of time.

It's really a tricky question because of other factors like the pitcher maybe not being able to continue to perform at the same levels due to not handling stress as well. Also, I'm sure you can spew stats that prove that this guy has hit .500 in close late and .400 in the playoffs, but to that I would just point out sample size. Generally, if you go back long enough and look at a large enough body of work, you would assume that for the most part, a player's stats would be consistent with his career states whether you looked at when the bases were empty or whether there were bases loaded.

Why don't we take a look at Mr. Clutch and New York's own Derek Jeter. If we go use the always informative ESPN splits from '04 through '06 and isolate the situations we would typically deem as clutch, we can see how much he deviates from his three year average in each of those situations:
Overall              AVG   OBP     SLG
Bases Loaded 13% 25% 4%
Close and Late (8%) 1% (8%)
Men On, 2 out (3%) 5% (6%)
On Second (18%) (4%) (10%)
On Third 27% 12% 15%
Runners On 2% 4% (4%)
Scoring Position (2%) 5% (1%)
Scoring Posn, 2 out (4%) 8% (2%)
Second and Third (13%) (2%) (31%)
What do we see? For the most part, minor variances. There were more situations when he 'choked' and he technically performed under his true abilities (however so slightly) and there were less situations when he was 'clutch' and performed over his true abilities. In the ones where there are greater variances, you have to take into account sample size. If he had gotten two less hits with the bases loaded and four less hits with runners on third, he would be would be in line with his three year average of batting average. Maybe instead of proving a player is clutch, people should be more concerned with said player simply playing up to their abilities during times of stress rather than slinking away.

What is my point? One of the biggest problems with the Mets right now is getting guys hits when they need to. Basically, the Mets have had an extreme lack of clutch hits, but I am confident the Mets will be alright. The law of averages tells me so in conjunction with past performance. Baseball is a series of streaks both good and bad. Outside of Moises Alou, not many people give you the same thing day in and day out. While some guys have greatly underperformed when it counts for the Mets this season, it is hard to believe that things will not improve.

If you look at past performances, we know that the Mets team is not full of guys that shrivel in the face of high pressure situations. Reyes, Wright, and Beltran are the same guys who hit .414, .358, and . 310 with runners in scoring position with two outs last year. They have done it before and though they may not be 'clutch' for the rest of the year, I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty they will more likely perform to their abilities during those high leverage situations than continue down the path they are headed right now. If the Mets pitching can hold up and their bullpen can continue to perform like they have, something tells me this team will make a move and create some space.

* * *

  • The daily Pedro update and this time brought to you buy Steve Popper:

    Pedro Martinez was expected back a few days ago after taking a breather in the Dominican Republic. But according to a Mets official, he remained there to do his bullpen session Tuesday and is expected back in Port St. Lucie later this week.

    I know the buzz around is that Pedro's break from rehab raises red flags (another mention about it again today, but I'm too lazy to find the link again), but we cannot forget what Will Carroll had said back on July 6th.

    When a success is followed by ten days off, people get confused. Pedro Martinez threw a great simulated game and now moves into a new phase of rehab, one where he goes from strengthening for function to conditioning for action. Pitching is a very specific activity and while Martinez has certainly been preparing for that during his shoulder rehab, it's a different process to actually get ready to pitch—saying that he's "doing spring training" is a vast oversimplification. It's a different process altogether, so while it is counterintuitive for him to take off time to "recharge" (as the Mets are calling it), it's the accepted move. More than anything else, the Mets are making sure that they do this right.

    Do not buy into the sensationalism coming out of the media. Something could be wrong of course since his comeback has been mostly shrouded in mystery, but I'll side with Will Carroll on this one.

  • Speaking of clutch players, Darling said that The Duque seemingly needs the spotlight to perform and cited that as the reason he is thriving in New York and has thrived in the playoffs vs. places like Arizona. Now I do not necessarily buy into that, but I agree with Willie that The Duque is a competitor.

    "Not only the stolen base," Hernandez said through an interpreter. "Even at the plate. Anything you can do to help the team win a ballgame, you've got to do it."

    Said manager Willie Randolph: "He's just a competitor, man. I love his energy and his fight. He forces you to play the game. He just loves to compete. If you don't pay attention to him, it's almost insulting to him."

    Some guys are complacent and go through the motions but The Duque is 100% not one of those guys.

  • It seems like David Wells broke out a knuckle ball against the Mets.

  • Mr. Neyer goes over one of my pet peeves....retiring numbers. I get why teams do it as the ultimate way to honor players, but that should be their choice and not the league's. I think Jackie Robinson should be honored for what he meant to the game as should many players, but I'm not 100% sure the way to do it is telling another player they can no long wear that number. Great gesture, not sure it is the best idea. Jackie Robinson Day was an amazing event and the more appropriate way to go about raising awareness. But now since it was done for Robinson, the Clemente camp and the Ruth camp are asking for the same treatment and want #3 and #44 retired for all of baseball. If a team wants to do it, great. They Yankees retired 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 23, 32, 37, 42 (Robinson and soon to be Rivera), 44, and 49. On the way will be 46, 20, 2, 13 (if he stays), and possibly Clemens' 22.

    That's 21 numbers and that is a lot of numbers and they will be in triple digits soon, but the MLB should stay out of it and work on other ways to honor past greats. I truly think there are better ways to honor people...and don't ask me I have not given it much thought. Regardless, it should entirely be up to the team, but even then, I'm not a big fan. Why can't you simply hang numbers with names and still let the numbers be worn? Whatever, minor gripe here that has no large bearing on the game at all, but still a gripe worth mentioning.

  • Random thought...isn't it weird that a team that has been struggling all year to hit never went out for early BP? For that fact alone, Rick Down should have been let go. Way to think outside of the box Rick-o!

  • Keith Law says he would trade Hughes before Joba. The Yankees have two guys that look like potential #1's while the Mets supposed aces to be have been struggling. Humber gets a pass, but he should be straightening out in the second half if he wants to suppress some of the criticisms.

    Law also responded to his disappointing scouting report on Deolis.

    Lenny (Villanova, Pa): Keith, in an article following the future's game, you criticized Deolis Guerra. Two questions relating to that: 1) Was that the first time you've seen Guerra? 2) Your reports said his FB was a lot of 87-88, but BA had him at 93-94. Why the discrepancy? Thanks.

    SportsNation Keith Law: (1:16 PM ET ) Just to be clear, I didn't criticize Guerra. I gave a report on him, and it wasn't glowing, but that's not the same as criticizing the kid. That was the first time I'd seen him, yes. I have no idea where BA got its velocities; I didn't see anyone with them in the scouts' section, which is where I was sitting with the radar gun.

    Not sure who is telling the truth here.

    Mr. Law also likes Milledge.

    Lenny (Villanova, Pa): Have you seen Milledge play since he has been up? Do you think he is here to stay this time, and do you think the hype is deserved?

    SportsNation Keith Law: (1:29 PM ET ) I never understood how his stock fell as quickly as it did. He's going to be an above-average corner outfield bat, with good defense.

    He also said the top GMs were Dombrowski, Melvin, Shapiro, Minaya, and Beane (not necessarily in any order).

  • Jim Callis' chat was definitely Yankee-centric, but we did get a Brandon Efferson question.

    Greg (New York): Will the Mets sign Efferson?

    SportsNation Jim Callis: (2:40 PM ET ) Wow, a Brandon Efferson question. He's a little pitcher from Louisiana with big stuff, and yes, I bet he signs before the deadline. Call it a gut feel.

    As I stated before, even if they have to overpay, they need to get this kid. They need some live arms and his upside is huge.


    Mike(NY): Lightning round- Martinez, Gomez, Milledge, Tabata?

    SportsNation Jim Callis: (2:42 PM ET ) I'll be difficult and still say Milledge.

    Looks like Milledge is getting some love from the chat people today. I still see a .300+ batter with 20+ homers, 20+ steals, and solid defense during his peak.

  • The Red Sox agree with me and believe Lowell would be the wiser pickup for the Red Sox. Not because Lowell is better or even in the same universe as A-Rod, but it just boils down to Lowell's production, glove, and oodles of extra money to spend elsewhere. Fiscal responsibility is not exactly a bad thing.

  • I can see Dye being a little upset up when Vazquez was extended while he was not, but after sucking for a half a season in a big way he was upset when Buehrle was extended and he was not. Interesting...

  • Vick deserves to go to jail for a long, long time. No matter how rich you are, you apparently cannot buy intelligence.

    The government's case includes evidence that Vick and his cohorts "tested" pit bulls for ferocity. If the dogs failed the test, the indictment charges, they were executed by hanging or drowning. In one case, with Vick present, the indictment says a dog was slammed to the ground until it was dead. In another incident, a dog was soaked with a hose, then electrocuted. Those aren't the sort of transgressions that lead to probation and community service. It's the kind of behavior that results in punishment, and the punishment will be jail time.

    I know killing animals is not on par with humans, but that type of behavior should be held in serious regard. I have not read anything about projected time in the klink, but at this point, five years would not be nearly enough and he should be banned from the NFL for life. Of course, I'm not saying he is guilty, but he has been indicted and the prosecution percentage is 95% according to another ESPN article and said they would not be indicting him if the case was not strong. He is still innocent at this point, but it is not looking good. I wonder what happens to his $130 million contract if convicted?

  • The Braves confirm everyone's suspicsions that they are going for it by signing Julio Franco. Lookout...he might weakly pepper whoever is playing second base with plenty of double play balls. We are all quaking in our boots here above the Mason-Dixon Line.

  • Anytime the Mets defense wants to start helping out John Maine, they can feel free to begin.

  • Check out Toasty's site as I have some prospect talk going on over there....but I shouldn't have to remind you to check his site, right?

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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Not that I know this, but it wouldn't shock me if there was some sort of opt out clause for the team should Vick be convicted of a criminal offense.

    11:49 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    I did wonder about that...if teams leave themselves some sort of clause that voids the contract should they get convicted of a crime. I'm sure we'll know soon enough.

    11:51 PM

    Anonymous DG in dial up hell said...

    Just thought I'd send a word from the alt universe known as dial up:

    I'd trade Gomez to the Astros if that helped bring back Oswalt. Add Humber and stir....

    I'm happy to see the Efferson quote from Callis, and as you know, I've been harping on this one.

    No surprise to see Franco go back to the Braves. Consider that the beginning of the competition between the Mets & the Braves for his coaching services.

    12:27 AM

    Anonymous benny blanco from da bronx said...

    Clutch hitting is all small sample size. You don't even have to go far for an example. Alex Rodriguez!
    He was a piece of shit that Yankee fans coudnl't wait to get rid of because he was "Choke-Rod" or whatever stupid names they gave him but now, none of them can't stop sucking his dick.
    And like you said, guys that are considered clutch like Jeter and Ortiz are already good hitters!

    As a latino, I do NOT think Clemente's number should be retired all over baseball. Its ridiculous. Jackie Robinson did it for all colors and races, not just the black people. Jackie Robsinson may not have been latino but he was sure as hell responcible for "letting" the latino's play as well. NOT Clemente who was just another latino player who happened to be good. He didn't open up any doors for anyone, please, lets be real here. They should cut the crap. Jackie Robsinson is more than JUST baseball, he transcends it.

    Braves and Julio Franco, heh. Wanna have an over-under on how long he lasts?
    BTW, I love what John Delcos reported on his blog about Franco being a big douchebag. Good stuff.

    The Mets lost tonight, it sucks no doubt but you know what, that game was lost on poor managerial decisions. Smith should not have been out there. BUT whatever, I actually have a positive feel from the Mets these past few days. They're not "giving up" like last year. Slowly but surely the Mets from last year is coming back.
    The starting pitching has been great.
    The bullpen is slowly but surely getting it done, I'm not as confident as last season but the bullpen is getting better.
    And well the offense is atleast kinda sorta hitting, and they're not giving up.
    THey're not quite there but these past few games have me feeling better against the Mets. Lets see how they do against Los Dodgers. Hopefully they can build on it.

    1:14 AM

    Anonymous benny said...

    Oh and I just want to mention that I been watching some Rangers games and I been watching Eric Gagné. He's been throwing between 90 and 92 and reached 93 mph once.
    He has a very nice ERA but to be honest I don't know how he's doing it. His stuff deffinitly isn't as nasty as it once was.
    His stuff used to be jaw dropping but now its just meh. You know what, the best comp I can think of is Guillermo Mota. No joke, Eric Gagné is pitching like Guillermo Mota is this season.
    Byut whatever, what do I know? I'm no scout and Gagne does have a purty ERA...

    1:21 AM

    Anonymous sidd finch said...

    Clemente wore 21, not 44.

    8:29 AM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    Gomez + Humber is not enough for Oswalt, which is the problem. For it to make sense for the ‘Stros, it would could a large bounty. Not that he is even in the table, but I think he should possibly be jettisoned for the betterment of the team. But it’s a larger issue of GMs just not being realistic or doing the right things overall. Look at the Marlins…they blew things up twice and it worked out. Not that they necessarily should have, but manage to rebuild and bring in some nice pieces.

    Do we even want Franco anymore? I mean, there are plenty of good coaches in house when you toss in Carter and Oberkefell.

    Benny, good point on Jackson being a huge player for all minorities, but that is not the way everyone looks at it. Also, forget just minorities, it made the game better for everyone..minorities…players..fans…

    I didn’t read that…I’ll have to check it out. Franco sounded like a douchebag about thinking he was still good so I can certainly see where that is going. The Mets wanted him as a coach, but he wants to play for another two seasons. He’s useless….

    RE: Smith…I’m not really upset that Willie left him in. Would have Feliciano been the smarter choice against Blum? Yes, but I’m not really thinking that was egregious. The problem is that the Mets have just not played well behind Maine and that has buried him. I was pumped after Wright went deep, but it wasn’t to be. They need 3 of 4 against the Dodgers, but if they split, is a 3 and 4 trip bad against the pitching they had to see? Fuck no.

    I wonder how much Gagne and Dotel are going to cost? Dotel’s throwing hard, but his WHIP is like 1.4

    Clemente wore 21, not 44.

    I was referring to Aaron for some reason. I don’t know why I had him stuck in my head while I was writing down numbers, but I even google imaged him to double check his #…maybe I was assuming he would want it done as well.

    9:00 AM

    Anonymous sidd finch said...

    I think 6 will go as well, that's Torre's number. The yankers will be the first team to use letters, because they will run out of numbers at the rate they have been going.

    The yankers have retired 16 numbers since 1939, but 9 in the last 34 years. Does anyone really think that Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Elston Howard, Ron Guidry, and Reggie Jackson really deserve their numbers to be retired?

    I'm not so sure that the Red Sox will even retire Roger Clemens' number. They've retired 5 numbers. Compare that to the Padres, who have done nothing in their history, and have 5 numbers retired. In contrast, the Mets have retired 3 numbers, only one player.

    What was that ole play at first base by Delgado? That was a real stinker, and really put Maine in a hole. Now that he's hitting again, he doesn't have to put in the effort in the field?

    Mike, I agree with you on Lowell. The Red Sox made two blunders this off-season. The first was to let Alex Gonzalez go (he has 11 HR in Cincinnati) to sign Lugo, who is around the Mendoza line. The second was to not sign Trot Nixon, a $7 million per season outfielder who is always injured, in favor of a $13 million per season outfielder who is always injured (JD Drew). In light of their other shortstop signing that they are still paying the Braves for (Edgar Renteria), they would be wise to seek value in this case.

    I believe that you are innocent until proven guilty, but if Vick did what he's accused of doing, he should never play football again, and go to jail for a long, long time. It will be interesting to see how the Falcons handle this, in contrast to the way the Duke Lacrosse players were treated.

    9:09 AM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    Sidd…they’ll be cresting 30 retired numbers soon with like one single digit number. Crazy man…

    Munson died…so that was inevitable.
    Mattingly is a god to them….so that’s not a surprise.
    Reggie was Mr. October…and you know how much they value October, so that is not a surprise (I’m shocked Brosius’ is not retired)

    The others not so much.

    I don’t think the Red Sox will either unless they want to make some PR move…not sure what type of PR move they would be making that would necessitate that, but it is clear they have a fractured relationship with him. Shit, Toronto might retire his number and so might Houston! Some teams just retire a # because a guy that was great was great there for a year or two. Pathetic really…how many people even remember he was on Toronto! I’m glad the Mets are tight with theirs.

    Do you think Piazza should be retired? I’m guessing the consensus would be yes since he after all is going to the Hall, but what did he really do here? Yes, he made games watchable for us Met fans and built Hall of Fame career as a DH impersonating a catcher, but is that what it is all about? I know people want Keith’s # retired too….but I cannot condone that one.

    9:24 AM

    Blogger bmc said...

    Killing pets is on par with infanticide.

    Taking advantage of another creature's inability to care for itself - and this includes fighting pitbulls- to kill it for sport in cruel and inhumane ways is fucking barbaric.

    p.t. The Mets should retire 17 and put a moustache on the banner.

    11:11 AM

    Blogger bmc said...

    The Met should retire numbers for any player inducted to the HoF as a Met.

    I would sooner bet on Piazza going in as a Bum rather than a Mutt. So the next numbers they retire should be 5 and 7.

    11:15 AM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    p.t. The Mets should retire 17 and put a moustache on the banner.

    That would be classic. I would almost be ok with doing it so I can see it...

    As of now, 5 and 7 are the only ones it could happen to. That is of course predicated upon them staying past 2011 as well. If either jets after that, the Mets should pass. IF it gets gone and that's a big IF, it should still be reserved for guys were Mets and were the identity of the Mets over a looooong period of time. Five really good seasons and two mediocre are just not enough.

    11:21 AM

    Blogger BookieD said...

    I think going into the Hall with the team on your cap is enough, considering the Mets presently have a total of 1 player in the HOF. On the other hand, they could really cash in on big ceremonies by retiring Glavine, Jeff Kent, Eddie Murray and Nolan Ryan. Can you imagine the discomfort if Howie Rose or Gary Cohen had to MC a celebration of the achievements of Eddie Murray or Jeff Kent as members of the Mets?

    11:52 AM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    Time heals all wounds my friend....

    Imagine someone retiring a number for money...Who knew baseball was even a business?

    12:01 PM

    Anonymous seattle steve said...

    being on the left coast all i get to see is the box scores but i knew a glaring weakness of this team was timely hitting and manufacturing runs ( we should of never lost to the Cards last Year, I realize with the type of hitter we have at 3,4 and 5 Willie is trying to follow the Earl Weaver mantra( waiting for the 3 run homer)... if we do make trades Humber and Pelfrey would be my chips ... I know the arguments but overall they have the most value and what i have seen and heard so far they are at least 2 years away, what we would get in return will be up to Omar.

    1:04 PM

    Blogger mr. met said...

    I don't think much out there to even bring in...Only Tex, but he's useless to us with Delgado at first.

    The Mets have to do it with what they got, but I do not think they are as bad as they've shown with RISP as they have been so far.

    1:54 PM

    Anonymous sidd finch said...

    Red Sox criteria for retiring numbers is 10 years with the team, and making the HOF.

    I hope the Mets do something like that eventually. Is there a Mets hall of fame? I seem to remember that Tommie Agee and Gary Carter were inducted. That's the way to cash in on having a day for players that you want to recognize, not retiring a number.

    I wear 42 on my hockey helmet in Jackie Robinson's honor. My dad made some golf clubs for him, said he was a nice guy. People should be allowed to wear 42, that's why Mo Vaughn wore it...

    Earl Weaver's 'big bang' theory worked cuz of Frank and Brooks Robinson, and Eddie Murray. The players proved the theory in that case.

    3:40 PM

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Good stuff Benny:

    I'd merge your comments and interject that Sho, Joe, and big-G have their records as much because of role mis-management

    6:37 PM

    Anonymous Two-By-Four said...

    If you recall the Tom Seaver trade the Mets received mediocrity that helped further the franchises descent towards rivaling the early ‘60’s Mets. If the Astros trade Oswalt and follow it by trading some of their other veterans they could follow those Mets path. They don’t appear to be a very well run franchise to start with. They would be smarter if they replaced their FO with competent personnel and build around people like Oswalt. Of course the Tom Seaver trade turned off the fans who boycotted the team forcing ownership to sell. That was the only positive.

    It’s hard to quantify clutch. You might be able to work around the sample size using a regressive algorithm modeled after observable events. But so much of it depends on the psychological and physiological changes in the individual when under stress and how it affects the person. A Psychiatrist may be better able to gauge a players’ performance in clutch situation than Bill James. It depends on how people perform under extreme pressure. This goes beyond just the subject of baseball. There are people that collapse from the pressure while other people thrive under it. Under dire conditions some people develop additional physical strength or alacrity or the ability to focus better while others become inept.

    The Mets ownership is as one columnist puts it is a “notoriously image-conscious organization.” They are quick to rid themselves of players that are not 1st class citizens. There is a premium placed on chemistry in the clubhouse. The danger there is that you end up with passive individuals that scatter when they see the reporters and melt when things don’t go well and the pressure mounts. It helps to have some star players that have an edge to them even if they are not the most agreeable individuals. The Mets could use someone equivalent to what Ray Knight gave them in 1986.

    9:18 PM

    Anonymous ossycocotaso said...

    donny baseball had 222 career hr. 4 seasons of 25+ hr.

    jackson too? 5 years!!

    how do you retire that?

    you can go either way with piazza if u ask me.

    i like the red sox standards for retired numbers. i think rocket should go in as a sox. i hope he doesnt do the scumbag move and do it in pinstripes. that will wipe away the tiny bit of respect i have left for him. (btw i think his ass was on roids too)

    i cant wait til glavine is done as a met. this game should be over.

    id trade for oswalt. give the stros whatever they want. he'd win a cy young in shea. you cant beat that price.

    i dont think the triples record will ever be touched.

    the mike vick dog pics are circulating online. gross. he needs to get locked up

    11:13 PM

    Anonymous ossy said...

    can glavine get to the 5th inning at least?

    11:26 PM


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