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Frank Deford offers some nonsense about clutch hitting

Oct 23, 2013, 10:00 AM EST

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two Getty Images

Frank Deford’s weekly NPR hit deals with the clutch hit today. And of course it’s ridiculous. You can hear it all here. Here’s the intro:

As a child, your heart is broken when you learn that your grandfather really can’t pull real quarters out of your ear. And if you’re a baseball fan, that disillusionment happens once more to you in life when you first hear the numbers mavens tell you that there is no clutch hitter. None. No such thing.

Oh my, but if you have any romance in your soul, you do so want to believe that there are people in all walks of life whom we can count on to rise to the occasion. Don’t you want that?

He then goes on to cite the numbers about clutch hitting, acknowledging that no study has ever shown that players predictably and consistently — and those qualifiers matter — perform better in the clutch than they do in normal circumstances. Deford doesn’t dispute it. He just doesn’t like it and spends the next few minutes wishing it to not be so, citing “Faith, Benjamin Disraeli, and Derek Jeter” and the manner in which all three of those things discount statistics.

Which would be fine if he didn’t then set up a total straw man argument, calling statisticians “hard-hearted brutes”  and “zealots” who are dismissive of his romantic notions.  Biggest problem? No statistician ever claims what Deford says they claim: that all players respond exactly the same to pressure situations. Indeed, statisticians will tell you that they have no idea how players respond to pressure situations. They don’t have and can’t have the data. All they can day is what they do in terms of baseball production. Production that may come because of their response to pressure. Or may come despite their response to pressure. Or may be random chance.

More importantly, Deford makes the same mistake so many others do when it comes to talking about clutch hitting. And he does it knowingly, I believe, because he’s too smart to simply miss it. Specifically: he conflates the idea of clutch hitting as a skill and clutch hits as things that actually happen. Indeed, the latter happens all the time. Players come through in the clutch. It’s pretty fantastic when it happens too!  All the statheads say is that you can’t really predict when that will happen and who will do it, thus rendering the idea of clutch hitting as a replicable skill non-existent in the data.

Which does nothing to make statheads “heard-hearted brutes.” Indeed, in my view it makes them far more amenable to surprise and wonder. Knowing full well that, man, ANYONE could get that big clutch hit and not presuming at all to know it was coming.  Tell me: when David Ortiz hit that grand slam last week, did you think “HOLY CRAP!!!” Or did you think “Well, David Ortiz is a clutch hitter, so of course he did it. Knew it was coming.”

I, and all the statheads I know, felt the former. And it was anything but a dispassionate moment.  Too bad Deford, one presumes, had his heart set on that outcome already and would have had his romantic notions dashed if, instead, Ortiz struck out.

  1. andreweac - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    A clutch, gritty post by Craig that showed the will to win. Google Analytics numbers are false stats.

    • moogro - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      The most irritating thing about Joe Buck for me is the way he changes his inflections on the pronunciation of player names when they produce in big games. The “pre-game clutch narrative” players get one, and the rest get another. As if we’re all united in surprise and awe that a number 8 batter hits a home run in a close game in a team sport. That is pandering and insulting, and worse, it plays in our heads even with the sound off. Stupid pollution.

  2. stex52 - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Ah, Deford is all about the studied hyperbole. You miss half of the implied content if you don’t hear his ironic tone on the air. The key to the whole thing is his qualifiers at the start. The rest is filler.

    • yahmule - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM

      I just hope Craig can somehow pick up the pieces and carry on with his life after that “hard hearted brute” comment. I’m still stunned by Deford’s unprovoked savagery. He’s the “zealot,” I say!

  3. rickdobrydney - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Baseball is the most over analyzed sport in the universe —- Jesus Good Lord can we not COMPLICATE things so much . Guy pitches the ball, guy catches the ball, hits the ball — a team wins, the other team loses , we enjoy the outcome , or we don’t . That’s why I never watch any pre-game crap this time of year (or post-game, for that matter) — Just give me the GAME. And I will probably be turning the sound down occasionally as well…. do not need it. I can see what is going on.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:20 AM

      Yet, curiously, you clearly read a blog that analyzes baseball. Or, in this case, a post that analyzes baseball analysis.

    • paperlions - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      Yet, I am sure you regularly refer to many statistics as some proxy for what it is you think you are seeing go on.

      Analysis of the data leads to understanding. Yes, watching the game I can see the manager call a bunt with a man on first and no outs in the first inning….but based on analysis I know that is a dumb thing to do because he just gave away one of their outs for a small increase in the chance to score a run and a larger decrease the likelihood of scoring multiple runs. In short, I know that the manager just decreased his teams chances of winning.

      Feel free to enjoy the game in whichever fashion you desire, and fee equally free to let others do the same.

    • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      I don’t think anyone wants to take that away from you. Its just that some of us like MORE understanding of baseball, rather than less. I got a bit of a thrill when I told my girlfriend that “VMart hits this guy all day. He’ll single” and then VMart singled. Know how I predicted that? Because VMart had good numbers vs that pitcher. His stats indicated he had a more likely chance than the next guy did. The pitcher was terrible: his stats showed poor control and an awful WHIP. Knowing this really increased my enjoyment of the game. I can appreciate that you’d rather have held your breath and prayed for VMart (or that pitcher, its up to you). I won’t blame you. I hope this makes your awful pain about stats lessen and you can go on with your life in peace.

  4. gameover78 - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    What really ruins baseball is listening to the moronic duo of Buck and McCarver. How/Why these guys are still around and given contract extensions is beyond my comprehension.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:26 AM

      Out of curiously, why does everyone hate Joe Buck so much? Tim McCarver…I get it. He continually says things that are beyond stupid. Joe Buck is…boring? Sure. I agree, he often times sounds completely disinterested in the game. But why does that draw such ire? In a world of terrible announcers, he strikes me as very mediocre. Not rage-inducing lynch-mob-at-high-alert awful.

      • yahmule - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM

        I think people resent listening to a guy who doesn’t even seem to like sports very much. He strikes many people as entitled and unappreciative of the doors that he had opened for him by his father. Being saddled with McCarver, who is horrible beyond words, certainly does him no favors.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        …he certainly used to get excited. Wonder what happend?

      • paperlions - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        He’s boring and he comes across as a moralizing jackwagon.

      • atxjustin - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        My problem with Buck is that he doesn’t appear to have more than a basic understanding of the game and doesn’t know much about the players. He continuously sights pitcher wins / losses as if they mean a damn thing (other than TWTW, obviously!). Any time a hitter is up in a big situation, tying or winning runs on base, he’ll say how many home runs the guy has on the year. Give me something a little more in-depth! Maybe he is catering to the casual fan who only tunes in during the post season and doesn’t know much about the game? I don’t know, but it irritates the hell out me.

      • moogro - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:36 PM

        We hate them because baseball on TV is visually awesome, refined and improved to be about as good as can be done, and then this is thrown away with a commentary soundtrack that has so little effort into it put into it, so abrasive, so unresponsive to viewer complaints, and could be improved instantly with many available announcer alternatives.

      • 4d3fect - Oct 23, 2013 at 7:55 PM

        The expression “stentorian drone” could have been invented to describe Buck’s bored, synthetically passionate blaring.

  5. lyon810 - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Life isn’t a fairy tale, he needs to grow up.

  6. aceshigh11 - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    Craig is clearly incapable of writing blog posts in the clutch, and is taking it out on DeFord. [/sarc]

  7. grumpyoleman - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    The stories the past few days taking stabs at Deford and Albom actually kind of show what I and many other baseball fans love about the game and why we dislike statheads. You try to strip the games of all emotional involvement and won’t be happy until all umpires are replaced by some form of nonhuman element and we can no longer discuss “clutch” moments. There will be no water cooler talk other than discussing what a great job some programmer did in the modification of the strike zone for every batter and we can not talk about Ortiz’s homerun, just what his WAR was 20 years from now. Yes, “clutch” hitting is probably over-rated, but I would rather sit with a bunch of people high fiving each other after Ortiz’s homerun as they proclaim he is clutch and knew he would do it, than with someone sitting at their laptop looking up advanced stats and not even seeing the play happen.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      I think it’s time to get a thicker pair of glasses, considering most of what you ranted against Craig wrote how us “stat heads” are all about it! For instance, I’ll copy some of his last few sentences:

      Tell me: when David Ortiz hit that grand slam last week, did you think “HOLY CRAP!!!” Or did you think “Well, David Ortiz is a clutch hitter, so of course he did it. Knew it was coming.”

      I, and all the statheads I know, felt the former. And it was anything but a dispassionate moment

    • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      1. Clutch is not a skill. Yet, I still find David Freese’s game 6 triple to be fucking amazing. Instead of attributing it to “clutch”, I attribute it to “David Freese being good at hitting a baseball” in general. Nothing about “clutch” makes that moment better or worse.

      2. “here will be no water cooler talk other than discussing what a great job some programmer did in the modification of the strike zone”
      —What the hell? I love me some sabermetrics AND I’m a programmer, yet not once have I had a conversation about what a great job some programmer did to modifying the strikezone (how would that work?). I love Ray Lankford, and often talk about Ray Lankford bowling over Darren Daulton for a game winning run or hitting a home run in baseball’s first at-bat when coming back from the strike. I talk about Pujols v. Lidge, Edmonds’ game 7 catch, etc. Why do you think having more knowledge about how the game works would take away from this?

      3. “than with someone sitting at their laptop looking up advanced stats and not even seeing the play happen.”
      –I can almost guarantee that I watch more baseball than you. I don’t know you, but simply guessing. I go to about a dozen games a year, I watch in their entirety about 60 games on MLB.tv and watch part of(while doing work, catching 3 or 4 innings before going somewhere, etc), about 50 more games a year.

      People who are into sabermetrics don’t do it because they hate baseball. They do it and are fascinated by it because they love it so damn much they are working to increase their knowledge of the game. Put it this way: Bill James is the godfather of advanced metrics. He is also an astoundingly great baseball historian. Ever read the “New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract”? His most famous book is mostly a history book, filled with fun anecdotes and detailed histories of tons of players, there are hardly any stats in it!

      • blacksables - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        No one objects to the way in which you enjoy baseball.

        Why do you object so much when someone enjoys it in a different way?

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        I don’t object when someone enjoys it in a different way. I object when people continue to cling to things that are completely disproven and wear that ignorance like a badge of honor.

      • blacksables - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        If that’s the way they enjoy it, then that’s their right. What gives you right to tell them they are wrong for that, Big Brother?

        Rightly or wrongly, some of them feel the same way about the way you enjoy the game. It must be nice to spend all your life walking down a one-way street.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        If that’s the way they enjoy it, then that’s their right. What gives you right to tell them they are wrong for that, Big Brother

        Sorry, I think you may have missed the part where I responded to a quote by grumpyoleman complaining about how all of us who are interested in advanced metrics are ruining baseball for him by existing.

        I’ll explain how this works.

        1. Person writes talking about how sabermetrics takes the joy out of baseball.
        2. I respond saying that those who enjoy sabermetrics are being hugely misrepresented and in fact, take much joy in baseball.
        3. You respond basically calling me an asshole and attempting to try to take some weird moral high ground, thus becoming the by far the biggest asshole of the post.

        You can watch baseball however you want. When you then post about something, don’t get all butt-hurt when someone says it may be wrong.

      • blacksables - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:19 PM

        If I want to call you and asshole, I’m going to call you an asshole. I don’t feel the need to imply anything.

        “I object when people continue to cling to things that are completely disproven and wear that ignorance like a badge of honor.” – your quote.

        As I said, if that’s the way they enjoy the game, its’ their right. What gives you the right to object to that if, if that is their opinion. Unless you mean that our opinion means more than your opinion.

        By the way, sabremetrics are not facts. They are theories. Good ones, but not facts, and definitely not proven in any way.

      • cur68 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:11 PM

        Holy strawman, ‘sables. Way to invent an argument that is simply NOT happening.

      • Reflex - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM

        Gravity is just a theory
        Plate tectonics is just a theory
        Climate change is just a theory
        Black holes are just a theory

        etc etc

        I don’t even get what you think this proves. Furthermore, no, sabermetrics is not ‘just a theory’ unless you think ‘math’ is just a theory. Sabermetrics is a set of tools that lets you *create* theories if you wish, or simply measure results. I don’t look at a ruler and go “measuring things is just a theory”.

    • paperlions - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      Man, Deford and Albom are two of the most disingenuous writers around. Albom is simply horrible, regularly ignoring facts in favor of fiction presented as fact.

    • stex52 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      And here, ladies and gentlemen, is the winner for Straw Man Argument of the Century.

      Just who the heck do you know that actually does that stuff.

      Don’t be so afraid of the numbers.

  8. spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    While “hard-hearteded brutes”, isn’t very enlightening, “zealots” is often pretty accurate. As someone who both appreciates the vast improvements some advanced metrics have to offer and vociferous vocal critic of others, namely BABIP and UZR, and to a lesser extent WAR and K/9, I don’t find Deford’s concerns all that troubling.

    And Craig’s defense of “statheads” is pure poppycock. And all he needs to do is to read many responses to those who question the validity of any sabermetric factoid. The unbridled allegiance by adherents is not only only palpable it is dogma personified. And most importantly it creates an atmosphere that makes improvements to advanced metrics more difficult, because criticism is met with such scorn.

    RISP or similar “clutch” stats is a perfect example. And the Craig’s statement that “Deford makes the same mistake as “others”” reeks of the definitive certainty that is so abrasive to critics. Rather than examine the reasons for outliers like the 2013 Cardinals, and Allen Craig, in particular, their production is dismissed as “random”, or “unrepeatable”, when no one knows if that is true or not. And close examination of the approach of the Cards and Craig, that may very well be undermine the naysayers, who purport to remain open-minded, and yet respond in knee-jerk solidarity to anyone who suggests a statistic may be flawed.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      The unbridled allegiance by adherents is not only only palpable it is dogma personified. And most importantly it creates an atmosphere that makes improvements to advanced metrics more difficult, because criticism is met with such scorn.

      You could say the same thing for those who are anti-stat. For instance, the “clutch” moniker isn’t up for debate. When studies have been done that show people are no more adapt at hitting in the clutch than other situations, it’s still not up for debate as to whether a person is clutch or not (granted it’s been a few years since the study has been done, but the point stands). Saying that things shouldn’t be treated as ‘fact’ is doing the exact thing you rant against stat heads for doing, being dogmatic in their beliefs.

      It’s very possible that Craig has some ability to hit better in the clutch, but A, the sample size isn’t large enough, and B, he’d be so rare since no one else has been able to do it. I also caution you to be careful in lumping every “stat head” together. Far too often people conflate the follows of something with the experts in said thing. We don’t look at people who enjoy science and take their opinions at the same value of those with PhD’s.

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:31 AM

        The point does not stand when there exists significant “outliers”. And while many of your comments are accurate these aren’t. I am not anti-stat. And I clearly do not lump all stat-heads together, as careful reading illustrates. And your definition of “fact” is amusing. Somehow it becomes unchallengeable because “some” studies have shown otherwise.

        What I really do not understand is how Craig “might” be better in the clutch, but “facts” prove that he cannot. What!?

        No one is a greater champion of “science” than yours truly, but all the more reason to challenge it. Plus, while laboratory experimentation can lead to new hypotheses, arm-chair brain-storming can be just as helpful, and the recognition of different approaches is just such a challenge.

        I have explained this ad nauseum, but I will try again, in a much more simplified manner. Most Baseball analysts agree that a hitter becomes at least 50 percentage points better when the infield is in. Why wouldn’t a hitter, or a team that employs a particular approach when hitters are in scoring position, that takes advantage of defenders who are forced to play at less than optimal positions because runners are on, not be more successful. It is simple really, and hardly revolutionary, but lord only knows how ardently this “fact” is castigated.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        Okay, here we go on Allen Craig.
        For his career, he has 407 plate appearances with a 1.086 with runners in scoring position. A 27% increase.

        Now, we have mounds of data that shows virtually no players consistently hit better in “clutch” situations. Could Craig be an exception, or can we chalk this up to sample size. My challenge, which I am time. How long will it take me to find 5 players who outperformed their career norm in OPS by at least 20% in a span of 407 plate appearances.

        1. Davey Johnson– OPS of .742 from 1970-1972 and 1974. .1.010 OPS in 431 PA span in 1973. 36% increase.

        2. Dave Magadan–OPS of .738 from 1988-1992, sans 1990. In 1990, 425 PA stretch of a 23% increase

        3. Willie McGee– OPS average of .708 from 83-87 sans 1985. 454 PA span of .963 OPS. 36% increase

        4. Ralph Garr– OPS average .736 from 1972-1976 sans 1974. 419 PA span of .916 OPS. 24% increase

        5. Darren Erstad: 2nd career high OPS 839. 478 PA span in 2000 with a 1.040 OPS, a 24% increase.

        Time: 9 minutes, 40 seconds.

        In 9 minutes, I found 5 players who had spans of at least 407 PAs who topped their established OPS by at least 20%. Sample size is a factor here. The single largest factor in every case that isn’ Davey Johnson is…BABIP. These guys had a stretch where a much larger percent every ball in play fell for a hit than normal. And then they went right back to hitting like they always do. I find it telling that Allen Craig’s BABIP with RISP is .405

        BABIP is real, it matters, and it should be the first thing you look for when someone is having an unexpectedly good or bad season.

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Here is the errors I see in your thoughtful argument. First off, you create a norm or control that is wildly small. Unlike those you illustrate, Craig doesn’t have significant Big League numbers to establish that norm. So you are guilty of the same small sample size, that you rail against, only to a gazilionth degree more so.

        And while I didn’t state it above I have stated many times before, that certainly some of the reason for RISP success is indeed likely to be a result of fluctuation. However, other contributing factors might also include psychology, mojo/contagion, and learning. Most probably it is a combination of factors that created this perfect storm.

        Craig, and the Cards HR numbers are drastically down, a correlation I refuse to ignore. Plus, the influences of Mabry/Aldrete, shouldn’t be dismissed.

        But what irks me the most is the complete disregard and blatant ignoring of the argument I make regarding the defensive alignments, the analogy to “bringing the infield in”, and the Cards adjustments to it. If you want to make meaningful and constructive comments, explain to me how and why my “approach theory” is incorrect, and where the holes are, without resorting to some over-arching adherence to philosophy.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:55 PM

        1. “Here is the errors I see in your thoughtful argument. First off, you create a norm or control that is wildly small.”
        –My “wildly small’ control is 4 seasons for each player. Further more, I used that instead of career OPS to create a larger OPS control. See, if made my task MORE difficult, not less so.

        2. “Craig doesn’t have significant Big League numbers to establish that norm.
        –So…Allen Craig is actually a 1.086 hitter who has just been unlucky? Or are we talking about him performing in the clutch, like your post stated?

        3.”However, other contributing factors might also include psychology, mojo/contagion, and learning. Most probably it is a combination of factors that created this perfect storm.”
        –Yes, this is where you would cite proof of that. I showed several examples that I found in less than ten minutes that could attribute this to luck and sample size. You cite nothing! My question: Why is Allen Craig the only person in baseball to crack this?

        4, “the analogy to “bringing the infield in”, and the Cards adjustments to it. If you want to make meaningful and constructive comments, explain to me how and why my “approach theory” is incorrect, and where the holes are, without resorting to some over-arching adherence to philosophy.”
        –Because, in the entire history of major league baseball, no team has ever consistently performed that much better with runners in scoring position. Many, many teams have had a year where they performed great and then went back to normal. In fact, virtually this same team with .264 in those situations last year. If the Cardinals repeat this…yes, maybe there is something there. But you are clinging to one season, ignoring every other one and exclaiming “this time it’s real!!!”

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

        It isn’t one season for Craig. It is the second consecutive season he has lead the NL, and it is the second year the Cards have produced in like manner, which coincides with the Matheny era.

        And Craig only got 124 ABs in 2010, and 219 in 2011 so suggesting he has 4 Big League years is pretty lame. Even so his 2011 numbers hint that his 2012-2013 production was in the offing.

        Plus, you still continue to ignore the “approach hypothesis”, and explain to me why it doesn’t at least deserve some deconstruction that concurs with your philosophy.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      vociferous vocal critic of others, namely BABIP and UZR, and to a lesser extent WAR and K/9

      K/9 is an advanced metric now?

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Really, that’s the best you got? And, advanced doesn’t necessarily imply complicated. So yeah, maybe you are correct, it is hardly a product of intense statistical analysis, but it is championed by many who use other advanced stats, and is included here, cause it is a faulty stat that has become a dogma, and is extraordinarily unfair to many hurlers, including your fav, Joe Kelly.

      • cohnjusack - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        Alright Spud, here’s a challenge for you. Find me any pitcher whose K/BB ratio ranked in the bottom half of the league throughout their career who had consistently good seasons. Just find me one. Cause, buddy…I and a lot of other people have looked and come up with nothing.

        Numerous, countless, mind-boggingly large numbers of studies have shown the importance of Ks and K/BB ratio.
        As a starter in 2013, Kelly’s K/BB of 1.35 would have ranked dead last in the majors had he had enough innings to qualify. FanGraphs showed that his low ERA was largely due to stranding runners at an extradordinary rate. They then followed up with the fact that this has proven to be the least sustainable way to produce a low ERA.

        I will be you $10, if Joe Kelly produces an above average ERA in 2014, it will be because his K rate has increase and his walk rate has dropped fairly large degree. He won’t put up a good ERA with a 1.35 K/BB ratio again.

        http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/joe-kelly-and-the-trap-of-era/

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        Two points. First off, never ever would I disregard BB/9. In fact, I would place it on a pedestal of its own. So you wasted a lot of time, assuming that I thought so. K/9 not so much. And Kelly is one of those outliers.

        Yes, Kelly is young, so obviously he won’t have a large sample size, but this is his second year of producing like numbers, something that PL did the research on. And he showed some pretty significant progress in the walk department in the final 6 weeks of the season.

        Kelly is an odd guy, so outlier probably shouldn’t be surprising. He seldom gives up extra-base hits. Yes, the Dodgers did get to him to some degree in his second outing in the LCS, but that is the real outlier.

        My description of him goes something like this. He throws hard, with excellent late movement, and has a better than average breaking ball, and change, but his command is lacking but unlike most guys it is usually every other pitch. He doesn’t blow up and totally lose command, just can’t consistently repeat his delivery and/or release point. This causes higher pitch counts both to individual batters, and gamewise (sic). But he has the uncanny knack of making pitches when needed, stranding runners, and inducing batted balls which are seldom struck on the sweet spot of the barrel.

        He also seldom grooves pitches, which contributes to both his lack of consistency, and few well struck balls. So while he is a work in progress, remember he was a closer in college, his upside is high, and I believe attainable, and even as he grows, he continues to get hitters out, maintains a high degree of the much-maligned quality start stat, and I still think he is a better bet in high leverage games against good hitters, than either Miller or Lynn.

        And strikeouts are over-rated. Particularly as a goal.

      • Reflex - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        Joe Kelly isn’t unusual. He looks a hell of a lot like Joe Saunders, Jair Jurrjens and a whole host of other guys like them. They often start with a lucky season or two, get league average very fast, and then become piñatas as everyone around the league realizes they have a small repertoire and nothing else. Enjoy him while he lasts, but as pointed out without significant improvement the best fate for the Cards is to use him as trade bait to a team that does not learn from other’s mistakes.

    • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM

      Why doesn’t Allen Craig always hit that well? Seems like he has problems focusing when bases are empty

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        Not a bad question, but if you consider my theory of his RISP success, your question will be partially answered.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        *hypothesis. You are arguing against actual theories.

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        In my mind, theory is simply advanced staged hypothesis.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        Rigorous statistical studies have followed hypotheses on clutch performance. Clutch hitting likely does exist, but to an almost insignificant degree, and we often can only find it after the fact, meaning it has almost no predictive power.

        Finding one (or even a one dozen) player(s) and holding up his (their) season stats does nothing to advance the discussion.

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        I know the Sabermetric Talking Points. Do something valuable, and explain to me why my “Approach Theory” doesn’t make sense.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:36 PM

        Approaches do change, on offense and defense. But the numbers don’t reflect any meaningful differences in production. The studies have been done.

        Some people are going to handle pressure spots better than others. But the range is rather tight since all MLB players, by making it this far, have proven to excel in pressure situations. And we suck at finding out what is a real “clutch” talent. Maybe Allen Craig is clutch, but we need to regress heavily.

        Why don’t you do something meaningful and actual test your hypothesis?

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM

        The Cardinals and Allen Craig are doing that for me. I’d use mice but they are susceptible for going for the “Big Cheese”, and are notoriously nervous in the presence of felines, have trouble with “the curve”, and the base paths aren’t very “mazelike”.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        But you are not studying it. You are just pointing out its existence. Are there similar examples in baseball history? If so what happened in the third season? What are the odds we would see this occur randomly? What about teams/players that have consecutive seasons in the other direction?

      • spudchukar - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        Different people are good at different things. I happen to know this game inside out. If it is study you want, then take the last 55 years, assuming I was 7 when Baseball became my life, 3 of which were in the Cards organization as a middle-infielder in A and AA ball.

        As for comparative studies, while always a good idea, doesn’t apply, because nobody has done what the Cards have done in Baseball history, and the same goes for Craig.

        What I have done is try to bring light to a statistical anomaly. Some want to dismiss it as mere fluctuation. But when the norm is virtually shattered and has occurred in two consecutive years causing the status quo to implode, perhaps answers can be found outside of statistical analysis. That would seem to me to be an intelligent approach.

        So I have a theory. And to date, no one has addressed its substance, but ignored the possibility of its correctness. And until someone points out how and why it lacks credence, then I will assume, it has validity.

      • Reflex - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        Spud –

        One thing you do manage to consistently prove is that ex-ballplayers are some of the worst analysts of player performance. Sorry but its true. Your cop out on the last go-round I had with you about defense made me realize it is worthless to even discuss it with you. You wedded to an idea because you believe you experienced it, as such you heavily rely upon confirmation and selection bias to back up what you already believe to be true. Classic mental trap. But then you add persecution by alleged statheads (also known as ‘baseball fans’) to validate a war that only you seem to be engaged in.

        Your ‘approach theory’ as pointed out needs supporting evidence. You need to toss it out there and explain how it would work, and what data you are using to back it up. But you won’t do that, you don’t want to put any actual hard work into your ideas, you just want them to be accepted because “baseball is your life”. Good for you, but the rest of us require something called ‘evidence’.

        For the record I generally like your posts. On this topic though you are impossible to have a reasonable discussion with.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 4:58 PM

        Now you are just making stuff up. You very well could do a comparative study. Similar gains and losses have happened before. And even if had never occurred, seeing how far away these performances are from expected performances would give us an idea of the probability such performances would occur randomly. Just because you don’t understand how to create the study doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Also, considering the studies and actual theories (not hypotheses) available, the burden of proof is on you at this point.

        FWIW, what follows is the first person’s splits I examined, simply out of curiosity. Maybe I got lucky. But this shows you that yes, comparative studies can be done. Feel free to check out the rest of his career.

        Joey Votto, high-leverage wRC+ minus low-leverage wRC+, 2010: 85
        Joey Votto, high-leverage wRC+ minus low-leverage wRC+, 2011: 103

        Joey Votto, RiSP wRC+ minus bases-empty wRC+, 2010: 50
        Joey Votto, RiSP wRC+ minus bases-empty wRC+, 2011: 64

        Allen Craig, high-leverage wRC+ minus low-leverage wRC+, 2012: 81
        Allen Craig, high-leverage wRC+ minus low-leverage wRC+, 2013: -4

        Allen Craig, RiSP wRC+ minus bases-empty wRC+, 2012: 74
        Allen Craig, RiSP wRC+ minus bases-empty wRC+, 2013: 115

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM

        Maybe this article would interest you: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/on-allen-craig-the-magic-man/

        Jeff is hardly a sabremetrican, but he does see the value in the additional information provided by advanced statistics. And he is curious about Allen Craig too.

    • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      This might help answer some of your questions: http://books.google.com/books?id=FrUYdXKZFZwC&q=clutch#v=snippet&q=clutch&f=false

  9. happytwinsfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    i don’t like ortiz because he did little while with the twins, then he goes to boston and becomes mr. rbi. monster, therefore: ortiz didn’t do nuttin, the pitcher choked!

  10. alang3131982 - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    My question. How do you tell when a clutch hitters occurs that it wasnt the pitcher being incredibly unclutch? Or how when a hitter fails it wasnt that he was not clutch, but, in fact, the pitcher had more clutch skill than the hitter. These two things are interrelated. Just cause a pitcher wins doesnt mean the batter is unclutch, it could simply mean that the pitcher is more clutch….

    • happytwinsfan - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      or maybe somebody made a “clutch” defensive play

    • km9000 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:23 PM

      Given enough instances, I’m sure it’s the same with pitchers, in that they won’t be appreciably better or worse than their own “non-clutch” performance in the long term.

      It’s not a perfect analogy, but: If you get 9 heads out of 10 coin flips and quit, it might be an impressive story, but it doesn’t mean you’re really good at coin flips and will keep it up in the future. If you’d gone on 1000 times it would’ve balanced out.

      • alang3131982 - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM

        Well that’s sort of my point. If it requires enough occurrences and those take place over several years, the hitter or pitcher who you are looking at could be a different player. Take Frank tanana from 74-78, became a pretty different guy so waht may have helped him be clutch in 74 (heat) migth not be there by 78 and thus the clutch data you have from 74-77 is irrelevant now.

        Even if i’m a clutch person, if my skills erode, i might not be able to actually show that i’m clutch.

        It just seems impossible to me to get enough data on an individual player to ascertain whether he is clutch or not or whether in some instances it’s a pitcher being unclutch, a poor defender, a great defender, a different ballpark (i think i read that VMart’s single woulda been a HR in like 17-18 different parks)….does the fact that it was only a single make him less clutch than if it had been in a different park and it was a HR>

  11. psunick - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    No matter how thorough, and how extensive, statistical information is kept on any player…clutch, or not…none of the info can predict what a player will do.

    Clutch or not.

    It may be useful in setting handicapping odds, but no amount of statistical info can ever predict anything to a certainty.

  12. Francisco (FC) - Oct 23, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    Tell me: when David Ortiz hit that grand slam last week, did you think “HOLY CRAP!!!” Or did you think “Well, David Ortiz is a clutch hitter, so of course he did it. Knew it was coming.”

    Didn’t your girlfriend say something to the effect of it was preferable to walk Ortiz (thereby walking in a run) rather than pitching to him?

  13. wogggs - Oct 23, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    Let’s assume we define clutch hitting as BA with RISP. That statistic is kept. If there is no such thing as clutch hitting, then it does not matter who comes up in that situation.

    In light of that, I fully expect to see Farrel pinch hit for Ortiz with a relief pitcher with 0 major league at bats to his name, and Matheny to do the same thing with Beltran. Ridiculous, you say? Perhaps it does matter who comes up and perhaps there are people who do better in those situations than others. Yes, ultimately, they all fail a majority of the time, but that does not mean they do not do better than people who fail a larger majority of the time.

    • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:19 PM

      Good hitters are better than bad hitters, regardless of the situation. Pointing out that previous clutch performances are not significantly predictive for future performance in high leverage situations is not arguing against having the better overall hitter in that situation. But nice try with the asinine example.

      • wogggs - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        “Good hitters are better than bad hitters, regardless of the situation. Pointing out that previous clutch performances are not significantly predictive for future performance in high leverage situations is not arguing against having the better overall hitter in that situation.”

        Yes, but that is like saying a player’s batting average is not reasonably predictive of his ability to get a hit. Yes, each trial is independent. However, we can take a look at past performance to try and determine which player has a better chance of getting a hit. I’ll take Allen Craig (best hitter with RISP in both leagues this year) over other players. I don’t have a crystal ball, so I’ve got to go with what’s available to me, recognizing that more often than not, he will fail.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:22 PM

        Well it is not really like looking at BA because that is a much larger sample. And even then we have better metrics for estimating a player’s true talent level. I’ll take the best hitters – healthy M. Cabrera, Joey Votto, Mike Trout, etc. – over Allen Craig. And it should be reiterated that Craig hit worse (according to wRC+) in high leverage situations than he did in low leverage situations this year. Why doesn’t he show his clutch abilities in the high leverage situations.

        You are not going with what’s available. You are too heavily weighting recent results and results in a small sample size.

      • wogggs - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:48 PM

        I would take Cabrera, Trout and Votto, also, but they are not playing tonight. I’ll also take Beltran, who is playing tonight.

      • eightyraw - Oct 23, 2013 at 5:51 PM

        So there’s no problem. You should want your best hitter (according to true talent level) up in the most important spots. Using clutch as a tie-breaker wouldn’t be harmful, but it probably would make much of a difference either.

  14. km9000 - Oct 23, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    would have had his romantic notions dashed if, instead, Ortiz struck out

    He did hit .091 in the LCS, and an improvement on that might’ve resulted in fewer nail-biting one-run games.

    But as will no doubt be said on the broadcast today:
    “…But he will be remembered for that dramatic grand slam in game 2!”
    “Mr Clutch!”

  15. yahmule - Oct 23, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Can we agree that some guys are not clutch?

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=swishni01&t=b&post=1

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