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One long debated question in sports is whether clutchness exists — do some athletes consistently win in key moments of maximum stress because they rise to the occasion above their normal level of performance? Or is everything merely probabilistic results stemming from the interaction of different levels of ability at the moment with random luck?

Clearly, there are athletes who can’t handle pressure. But most jocks we see on TV are guys who have thrived in a long series of pressure-packed moments from childhood onward to get to play on TV.

Or clutchness could be a manifestation of athletes not trying very hard most of the time and only bearing down in the big moments. No doubt there are some examples of this, but in modern big money sports, players seem to try pretty hard most of the time. Team sports are particularly not conducive to a lackluster effort much of the time.

Late in his career with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan would arrive late for training camp, skip exhibition games, and use the first month of the regular season to work himself into shape. But that wasn’t Jordan goofing off, that was Jordan strategically saving his body for the long playoffs after the regular season.

It was not easy to be a teammate of Michael Jordan, but his teammates tended to adjust.

Jordan also made many famous game-winning shots on the last play of the game. Was that because he was clutch or because he was the best player on the court when everybody is trying their utmost?

If any baseball pitcher could be said to be clutch, it would be the L.A. Dodgers’ 1960s hero Sandy Koufax, who in his prime had an unbelievable record in games when the D0dgers scored no more than 2 runs. If your team only scores 2 runs, you are very likely to lose, unless you were Sandy Koufax in his glory days.

Before then, however, Koufax pitched from 1958 to 1961 for the Dodgers in the Los Angeles Coliseum, a football and track stadium repurposed, awkwardly, for baseball while Dodger Stadium was under construction. It was only 250 feet down the left field foul line and 320 to left center. So visiting teams would load their lineups with right handed hitters who would get cheap extra base hits off lazy flyballs to left.

This was a very bad setup for the lefthanded Koufax. In his Coliseum career, Koufax was 17-23 with a 4.33 ERA.

Also, until 1961, Koufax pitched in a knuckleheaded fashion, throwing ultra-hard but walking a huge number of batters. The most famous Jewish pitcher ever, Koufax was strikingly lacking in cleverness and guile. He was kind of a little boy’s vision of a cowboy hero in a white hat, just matching strength-against-strength. Unlike his ultra-WASPy teammate Don Drysdale (the namesake of the banker in “The Beverly Hillbillies,” who led the league in hit batsmen four times as part of his strategy of intimidating batters through terror and who was widely suspected of throwing a spitball, Koufax never did anything ethically edgy on the diamond. (E.g., in his last season, 1966, Koufax threw a huge 323 innings without ever hitting a batter.)

Finally, in 1961 he took the advice of Norm Sherry and took a little bit off his fastball to throw more strikes. It worked, and he went 18-13.

The next year, the Dodgers moved into vast Dodger Stadium with Willie Davis in centerfield to track down anything not hit over the 410 foot centerfield fence. Koufax went 57-15 with a 1.37 ERA in Dodger Stadium.

In 1963, baseball foolishly expanded the strike zone at the top and bottom, ushering in the pitcher’s era that culminated in 1968. The tall strike zone was perfect for Koufax’s combination of sailing high fastball and dive-bombing curveball.

The downside was that the Dodgers didn’t hit much either.

But Koufax was a great pitcher’s duel pitcher. Across his career, when the Dodgers scored zero to two runs in a game, his record was 31 wins and 51 losses, a .378 winning percentage.

His 1960s National League Hall of Fame peers weren’t close. Koufax’s teammate Don Drysdale’s record when the Dodgers gave him 0 to 2 runs was 31 – 109, a .221 winning percentage. Juan Marichal was 27-87 with no more than 2 runs. Bob Gibson was 37-111. Jim Bunning was 27-124.

In the American league, pitching in a pitcher’s park, Yankee Stadium, Whitey Ford was 25-64 at .280.

But in his 1962-1966 prime, Koufax went 25-24 in games when the Dodgers were either shutout or scored only one or two runs, which is nuts. Drysdale, a Hall of Famer, pitching alongside Koufax went 12-44 over those same five seasons.

Koufax’s record when the Dodgers scored no more than 2 runs:

1962: 4 wins – 4 losses, 1.93 ERA

1963: 6 – 3, 1.29

1964: 3 – 4, 1.48

1965: 7 – 5, 1.20

1966: 5- 8, 1.94

A classic illustration of Koufax’s clutchness was during the September 1965 pennant race when the Dodgers got 1 hit against the Chicago Cubs, but won 1-0 because Koufax pitched a perfect game (no hits or walks) with 14 strikeouts against a Cubs team with 3 Hall of Fame batters (Santo, Banks, and Williams).

In the Dodgers’ two world championship years in the Sixties, he shone. During the 1963 regular season, he was 6 – 3, and then 1-0 in the World Series.

1965, a year when the Dodgers’ best hitter was Drysdale, Koufax was 7-5 in regular season games in which the Dodgers scored no more than 2 runs, then 1-1 in the World Series, including a 2-0 win in the 7th game on two days rest (a short schedule necessitated by his having sat out game one because it was Yom Kippur).

Among contemporary pitchers, Dodger Clayton Kershaw is 27-53 for a .338 winning percentage when the Dodgers score no more than 2 runs in regular season games, which is really good, although his postseason record is 1-7.

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, now in the World Series, is only 13-58 in the regular season. Justin Verlander, pitching in the higher scoring American League, is 14-80. Zack Greinke is 19-79.

So, was Koufax a clutch pitcher? Or was his performance simply what you’d expect given his great ability in those low-scoring circumstances?

One thing to keep in mind was that Koufax suffered terrible arm pain during those five seasons, finally walking away from baseball after going 27-9 at age 30 in 1966 because the pain was so bad. So, the idea that Koufax might have gone on cruise control more in games where the Dodgers were scoring well, but bore down hardest in games when they most needed him could make sense because for him pitching hard hurt so bad.

 
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  1. Anonymous[375] • Disclaimer says:

    Kershaw isn’t just bad in the postseason, but seems to blow games in spectacular fashion. He allowed the Nationals to come back in the division series by giving up 2 homers on back to back pitches.

    I feel bad for the guy because he always seems to blow it and that’s what most people will remember him for.

    • Agree: RadicalCenter
  2. Let’s go Nats! (Who, BTW, ushered the Dodgers into their off season…)

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  3. Enough with baseball facts and forensics — the hurt feelings of female sportswriters must be given center stage at this year’s Fall Classic

    https://www.vox.com/2019/10/23/20928466/houston-astros-roberto-osuna-domestic-violence-sports-illustrated-controversy-explained

  4. Sports = I. Don’t . Care.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
  5. Steve, it’s interesting that Anon 375’s first word in the first comment to this post was a name you avoided mentioning in your whole post: Kershaw.

    The question really is, did Koufax have ‘something’ that Kershaw lacks? As you put it:

    So, was Koufax a clutch pitcher? Or was his performance simply what you’d expect given his great ability in those low-scoring circumstances?

    One way to look at a pitcher’s ‘clutchness’ is to see how capable he is of avoiding big mistakes. That’s the essence of pitching, really: a good pitcher has to serve up a theoretically hittable ball, i.e. one right in the area a hitter can best see and connect with it, while preventing that hitter from doing his job well.

    In this a pitcher is very different from a quarterback or a basketball player: he’s playing defense, not trying to score himself. A pitcher’s greatness therefore can’t be self-executing; it always depends on an opponent’s reaction.

    I’ve put up a number of posts in the past few years suggesting that Kershaw’s big problem in the postseason is that he gives up lots of home runs. In pretty much every other aspect of his game, he’s just as excellent in the postseason as he is in the regular season — his WHIP is great, his strikeout/walk ratio is trememdous, etc. He just can’t avoid the gopher balls.

    So is Kershaw ‘not clutch’ because he can’t keep his focus, and he therefore grooves extremely inopportune meatballs?

    Or is his problem that he’s facing opponents who are ‘clutch’, i.e. they’re ‘locked in’ more than they would be during the regular season?

    Or is it just (year after year after year) bad luck?

  6. So, the idea that Koufax might have gone on cruise control more in games where the Dodgers were scoring well, but bore down hardest in games when they most needed him could make sense because for him pitching hard hurt so bad.

    This is of course the theory of ‘clutch pitching’ that lies behind the Hall of Fame arguments for pitchers like Jack Morris. Morris was actually not that impressive if you look at his ERA and other peripheral stats, but he had that reputation as a ‘gamer’ who would ‘pitch to the score’, i.e. he’d take it easy and might allow 2 or 3 runs if he had a 4-run lead, whereas he’d consciously try (and succeed) to pitch better if he were up 1-0 or 2-1. This theory’s linchpin, of course, was Morris’s 10-inning, 1-0 shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when he was pitching for the Twins.

    All the saber guys have used Morris as a punching bag in the nearly three decades since that game, suggesting that this brand of ‘clutch pitching’ is a myth (perhaps not least because Morris wouldn’t have won that game if Lonnie Smith had run the bases competently).

    But I do think there’s something to the theory in cases such as Koufax, and other pitchers who were good enough to have long careers, and to be able to still get outs even when not throwing their absolute best stuff.

  7. robot says: • Website

    So is clutch hitting easier to disprove? When batters try too hard, it seems like they usually strike out.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  8. Anon[369] • Disclaimer says:

    The opposite of clutchness is chokeness. There is a whole library full of books about how musicians should deal with performance nerves. Practice, practice, practice has a lot to do with it, since performers have often not mastered material as well as they think they have. Overpractice, however, with any physical activity can cause real injuries, or psychogenic injuries.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  9. @The Last Real Calvinist

    Ah — you did mention Kershaw’s 1-7 postseason record under these circumstances. Mea culpa.

  10. @robot

    I was looking at some ranking of clutch hitting among Hall of Famers. Frank Robinson came out as just about the least clutch hitter of all time. He was certainly not seen as a choker: 2 time MVP, first black manager, managed on and off from 1975 to 2006. So I dunno.

    There was a view that Eddie Murray was a clutch hitter and he was near the top of this clutch metric. So maybe he cruised along and then worked harder in important situations? He criticized Cal Ripken for his 2600 game playing streak. Said it would be better for team for Cal to take a few days off here and there, which kind of fits with the idea that Murray didn’t think it was wise to give 100% for every minute of 162 games per year.

    • Replies: @Barnard
    , @Danindc
  11. @Anon

    Are there famous musicians known for choking in big moments? Or are they weeded out earlier?

    My late mother-in-law might have had professional level Chopin playing skills, but her stage fright was so bad that she never got close to the big time.

  12. The basic premise of Steve’s argument is flawed. Probabilities change depending on the situation (if you’re a Bayesian, but I hear there’s no difference). High stress situations are, by definition, different than regular stress situations. You can’t gsther aggregated statistics and apply them to specific situations.

    Disregarding the statistics, there’s the biological mechanisms at play; how can you measure the performance impact of a burst of adrenaline? Can some athletes sustain higher levels of adrenaline than others? Does adrenaline impact some athletes differently than others?

    I’m not so certain you can impute these relationships from aggregated statistics.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  13. OT

    Donald J. Trump
    ‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

    The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!
    10:48 AM – 23 Oct 2019

    [MORE]

  14. @al-Gharaniq

    There are lots of disaggregated statistics available nowadays, such as the Splits page from Baseball Reference, where I got the Koufax statistics from.

  15. I saw Pete Rose rise to the occasion more than a few times.

    Do closers like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage count?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @istevefan
  16. “So, was Koufax a clutch pitcher? Or was his performance simply what you’d expect given his great ability in those low-scoring circumstances?”

    Perhaps he was able to take advantage of both nature and nurture.

  17. Old Prude says:
    @Steve Sailer

    I read of a band highlighted in Rolling Stone in the late eighties who couldn’t perform in front of a live audience because of the singer’s nerves. Any live performance was in a radio studio. Must have sucked for the rest of the band.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  18. Brutusale says:

    “If I had to choose a player to take a shot to save a game I’d choose Michael Jordan; if I had to choose a player to take a shot to save my life…I’d take Larry Bird.” – Pat Riley

    • Replies: @slumber_j
    , @Marty
  19. @The Last Real Calvinist

    I tuned in very late in the 7th game of the 1991 World Series and I can recall Jack Morris coming out to pitch his 10th inning of 0 to 0 tie game. Morris threw his warm up pitches about 45 mph because he was saving his arm for the real inning to come. I remember thinking, “This guy is SERIOUS.” Morris retired Jeff Blauser, Lonnie Smith, and Terry Pendleton (all big league hitters) in a row and the Twins won in the bottom of the 10th.

    Jack Morris is now in the Hall of Fame.

    And that’s okay with me.

    • Replies: @Hapalong Cassidy
  20. @Old Prude

    XTC had major problems with touring in the 1980s because band leader Andy Partridge had stage fright.

    • Replies: @Hodag
  21. slumber_j says:
    @Brutusale

    Jordan also made many famous game-winning shots on the last play of the game. Was that because he was clutch or because he was the best player on the court when everybody is trying their utmost?

    The book The Jordan Rules recounts an exchange between I want to say Bulls GM Jerry Krause and MJ over Jordan’s tendency to hog the ball at key junctures. MJ’s interlocutor boringly says “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.”

    Jordan replies: “Yeah, but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Win’.” Which if you’re Michael Jordan is pretty incontrovertible…

  22. @Steve Sailer

    It’s not ok with me, as maybe my Braves would have started out on the right foot in the 90’s and not be known today as the historical chokers that they are. I read somewhere that the Braves have lost 8 straight post-season series where they were one game away from victory. What are the statistical odds of that happening?

  23. @Hapalong Cassidy

    The Chipper Jones Era Atlanta Braves were pretty awesome.

  24. @slumber_j

    The Jordan Rules were pretty much, “Scottie Pippen will feed me the last shot, and if, in the unlikely event I miss, Horace Grant/Dennis Rodman will get the offensive rebound so I can take another last shot. Which I will make.”

    Which worked for 6 NBA championships.

    • Replies: @Brutusale
  25. Personally, I think it’s all a state of mind.

    “How Dock Ellis dropped acid and threw a no-hitter”

    https://nypost.com/2014/08/31/pitcher-dock-ellis-dropped-acid-then-threw-a-no-hitter/

  26. Feryl says: • Website
    @Steve Sailer

    Some musicians might develop substance abuse problems in response to their discomfort with publicity and exposure. Artistic talent has no correlation to agreeableness or social grace. Ted Nugent is about as well-adjusted as you would expect for a famous rock star, but he has an unusually upbeat and energetic personality. James Hetfield just went back to rehab for alcoholism, and sans booze he typically has a shy and downbeat personality. Kurt Cobain hated being a “MTV” act and made his 3rd album intentionally abrasive. Word on the street is that Cobain was going to shift Nirvana toward lighter pop on the planned 4th album in order to defy public expectations. Most musicians with issues do seem to get develop worst problems after attaining lots of success; some of this could be ego and ennabling, but a lot of it probably stems from the discomfort of being in the public eye.

    Actors seem to be more naturally out-going, and do tend to live longer and happier lives than musicians. Also, young actors who are prima donnas typically will cost themselves a lot of gigs, whereas musicians who act like childish brats often don’t face any penalties.

    • Replies: @Hapalong Cassidy
  27. saltmine says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Ashlee Simpson pretty famously couldn’t come up with a better option than dancing a goofy jig and rushing off stage when the SNL’s tech team played the wrong backing track. It pretty much ended her career.

  28. @slumber_j

    The interlocutor was assistant coach Morice “Tex” Winter.

    • Replies: @slumber_j
  29. The pitcher that comes to mind is another Dodger, Orel Hershiser. Not only in his prime with the 1985 and 1988 Dodgers but later on with the Indians and even at the very end with the Mets. I remember him outpitching Mike Mussina in the ALCS for Cleveland in 1997. Mussina was in his prime and struck out like 18 batters, but the Indians got across a run while Hershiser, who was 38 or so at the time, kept getting strikeouts and double plays and held the Orioles scoreless for 7 and Tony Fernandez won it for Cleveland with a suicide squeeze off the Oriole closer. He also outpitched Greg Maddux, who’d allowed like 25 runs all season, in game 5 of the 1995 Series and I remember him coming in for the Mets in relief late in his career for a few scoreless innings.

    Another one that comes to mind is Dave Stewart for the As and Blue Jays teams in the late 80s and early 90s.

    Neither of them were usually the ace on their rotations…Stewart never won a Cy Young and Hershiser had only the one from 1988…but in the postseason they usually started game one or two without fail, well past their respective primes.

    • Replies: @Danindc
  30. It is probably the case in most sports that there are certain players who have a superior mindset that enables them to demonstrate “clutchiness”.

    One obvious example would be prolific goalscorers in soccer.

    There are many players who are promising strikers, but the majority, when promoted to a higher level of play, like the English Premier League, the European Super League, or the World Cup are unable to reproduce their prolific scoring at the higher level, or require a long period of adjustment before they start to produce again at the higher level.

    Clearly scoring a goal in front of tens of thousands of screaming spectators and millions of TV viewers is rather different from doing it in practice games, yet there are some players who can do it on the biggest occasions for years against the best defenders in the world.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz5XIjNSXjk

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dD3SjN1_Hds

  31. Bugg says:

    Famous story is that Koufax, long retired , was given the chance to pitch batting practice to the Dodgers before a World Series game in 1977. It was supposed to be a typical batting practice, easy, not looking to do much more than give the Dodgers hitters some work and have a feel good story about Koufax. But reality was Koufax was still so good that they could not hit him.

  32. JM says:

    Hi Steve,

    I was an obsessed internet stat geek in the comunities that Moneyball wrote about. Your feelings about clutch play mirror mine. Twenty years ago sports narratives would often be about using the results of clutch situations to morally judge athletes. I hear that a lot less now.

    One point I’d like to add is that some players naturally have relatively poor or strong performances against the great players they more often face in clutch situations. In baseball, pitcher quality is largely based on their ability to control walks, strikeouts and home runs. So a batter like Ichiro that puts everything in play and then runs fast, will tend to suffer less when facing a great starting pitcher or closer, regardless if it’s a big moment or not. But he’ll also tend to not beat up on the worst pitchers too much. Three true outcome sluggers will tend t have their play degrade more as pitcher quality increases.

    You can see this effect when the statistical projection systems judge minor leaguers – the Jason Giambi of A ball is expected to struggle a lot more as he climbs up the ladder than the guys who never strike out.

  33. I’ve seen a lot of youth sports.
    In both boys’ baseball and girls’ softball (I guess this is true for men’s fast pitch as well), at the beginning most of the good players want to try their hand at pitching. Most will either quit the game or convert to position players. Many of the best catchers at the HS level are former pitchers. They understand what a pitcher needs, and the kids who started out catching are all injured by HS.

    The crucial moment is what happens to a pitcher when he or she gets into a jam. Every pitcher gets into jams, especially when first learning the craft. Some fold under the pressure. I have seen a few leave the field in tears. Some try to muddle through.

    A few will take a few deep breaths, and throw their best pitches. Those are the ones who are still pitching in HS.

    I imagine by the time one gets to the Majors, pretty much every pitcher can handle a tremendous amount of pressure. But the pressure of a Major League playoff game, on TV, and a full house in the stadium, is far more pressure than many of these guys have ever seen before.

    [MORE]

    I suspect there are a select few who can ignore the pressure, or even thrive on the pressure. There are some who can get total concentration and throw their best pitches. That is clutch.

    And, that is true of any sport. I remember watching a Sixers vs Lakers NBA finals game with my father many decades ago. Dr J was on the free throw line in LA, with the crowd going nuts. The TV showed Dr J’s face as he was making the free throws. My father remarked: “Look at the concentration on that face!” Yeah, the shot went in.

  34. Anon[369] • Disclaimer says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Although there is plenty of video of a young Brian Wilson playing live and being interviewed, where he comes across as well adjusted, he famously had a breakdown and stopped touring. He productively stayed home, recording songs with the “Wrecking Crew” studio musicians, and had the other members pop in for vocals when they were in town.

  35. Spinoza says: • Website

    In clutch situations you have to deal with adrenaline, and have the opportunity to benefit from it. some athletes are better at it than others.

  36. Clemsnman says:

    All athletes know there is “clutchness”, or more accurately not choking. Choking is failing at a normally doable thing, such as missing an easy putt, or a free throw, when it really matters. It’s decently clutch to maintain performance level in crucial situations, but really clutch to elevate it. There are many examples of this in Olympic history.

    This argument is the result of stat nerds trying to prove they are smarter than everyone else.

    They’re not.

    • Replies: @John Redcorn
  37. Barnard says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Wasn’t that openly discussed the last few years of Ripken’s streak? I remember reading multiple articles pointing out the general consensus among players and managers was that Ripken’s streak was hurting his production.

  38. @The Last Real Calvinist

    Year after year after year, Dave Roberts finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with odd relief-pitching decisions.

  39. @Laurence Whelk

    Said otherwise, you revel in your anti-intellectualism.

  40. Think clutch is real thing:
    Jordan, Isaiah,Bird, Magic
    Altuve, Springer, Correa
    Bench and Perez
    Catfish, Gibson, Koafax ,Rivera
    Brady, Montana

    Not:Wilt, Lebron ,Malone
    Kershaw,Verlander ,Kluber
    Marino

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    , @Old Prude
  41. Yes, clutch exists because the opposite exists—people who continuously fall apart when the game is in their hands or when facing great competition or simply when the pressure is on. Anti-clutch players.

    Anti-clutch were superstars like Wilt Chamberlain and Roger Clemens. Both were physical marvels and hall of famers with great numbers. They racked up great numbers—but only against subpar competition. Wilt scored his 100 points against a pathetic Knicks squad (29-51). Clemens notched his 20-K games against the 86 Mariners and the early 1990s Detroit Tigers, both franchises below-crap at that point (and those Tigers led the league in striking out for that year).

    But put them against competition they couldn’t physically dominate or when the playoff pressure was on and they folded. Chamberlain was Bill Russell’s fool for many years when they faced off; it wasn’t till Chamberlain could rely on Jerry West to be the star that Chamberlain saw himself a champion. And hungry Willis Reed matched Wilt so well Willis got the Knicks a title in a very famous sports moment of return.

    Meanwhile, Clemens time and time again choked in the playoffs with the Red Sox and Astros when he was the ace. He only got titles when other pitchers and players were relied on instead of him. Famously, Clemens’s # of hit batters dropped precipitously when he went to the National Leage (where he would have to bat), while other greats (such as Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez) never stopped brushing dudes back despite having to pay for it at the plate. In other words, Clemens was afraid of reaping what he sowed, Ryan and Martinez were not.

    Anti-clutch players are best thought of as bullies who fold just when someone challenges them on equal footing. So anti-clutch exists, so clutch players must exist.

    • Replies: @John Redcorn
  42. How about the correlation between the number of 4th quarter and overtime game winning drives and overall quarterback greatness?

    Look at the quarterbacks who are in the top 10-12 on the list of most 4th quarter and overtime game winning drives. Is it some kind of coincidence that Brady, Manning, Favre, Elway, and Marino are at the top of the list?

  43. @The Last Real Calvinist

    Hard to argue against Morris, a good pitcher who was outstanding in the post-season. He has a doppleganger in the NFL named Eli Manning. One of the arguments made in favor of Eli Manning going to Canton is that he was a “good” regular season qb who, in the post season, rose to the occasion not once but twice in spectacular fashion , both times against the best team NFL who happened to have arguably the best qb. In the Eli-led Giants first championship year they won all their playoff games on the road. And how he avoided getting sacked on that miracle pass to David Tyree in the first Super Bowl win continues to amaze. Eli, unlike his brother whose regular season numbers speak for themselves but who lost one Super Bowl and was really at best ordinary in the two victories, seemed to be able to turn it up when he had to.

  44. The idea of “clutch” is that certain athletes have some special ability to perform better in high leverage “big” situations that they don’t have in normal situations.

    One problem with the idea of “clutch” is just that: why are they slacking off in all the other “non-clutch” situations? If they have an extra ability that they can activate at will for big moments, why not just activate it always and keep it on and never turn it off? Don’t the team and the fans deserve their best effort always?

    Another problem is that stat nerds have looked pretty extensively at this. What they have found is that once we define “clutch” situations, given large enough sample sizes, players perform at the same level in clutch as they do in non-clutch. That is, the variations that we do see look indistinguishable from statistical noise. I’m not sure they have proved that “clutch” doesn’t exist. But it is safe to say that lots of pretty sophisticated researchers have looked for it and haven’t found it.

    Bill James is agnostic on the question, but this is because he knows well that the absence of evidence is not the same as the evidence of absence.

  45. @Hapalong Cassidy

    What you have there with the Braves is a combination of bad luck (there’s a lot of luck in all sports including baseball!) and the fact that some of those years they just weren’t quite as good as the competition. A combination of bad luck and inferior talent can keep you from winning for the very long time. Just ask the 20th century Cubs and the Red Sox.

    It’s not some moral failing on the part of the team. Frankly Braves fans should be happy that they have a team that is in the hunt every year.

    Look, I’m a Washington Nationals fan. We heard the same song and dance after we were eliminated in four straight game fives of NLDS’s. But this year they won game 5 against the Dodgers when they could easily have lost it.

    Sooner or later the Braves will win it too.

    • Replies: @Marty
  46. peterike says:

    Since, as the saying goes, 90% of baseball is half mental, then of course there are both clutch players and choke artists. This is perfectly evident to any normal person watching sports over time, and only gets disputed by spergy stat nerds.

    This reminds me of all those dopes who insisted that dogs were not really loyal or loving, but only acting on instinct and to “get a reward.” Every dog owner in the world knew that was baloney, and as more studies have been done, they are in fact proving what dog owners knew all along.

    Some day we may isolate the physical processes behind clutch/choke. Though maybe not, since it would probably require something like wiring up real athletes during game situations. Maybe they can put sensors in football helmets and see how Tom Brady compares to [insert name of quarterback known to be a choke artist, because I don’t know enough about football].

    • Replies: @John Redcorn
  47. @The Last Real Calvinist

    The SABR guys are almost certainly right. What looks like “clutch” is just a combination of talent and good luck.

  48. @slumber_j

    The book The Jordan Rules recounts an exchange between I want to say Bulls GM Jerry Krause and MJ over Jordan’s tendency to hog the ball at key junctures. MJ’s interlocutor boringly says “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Team’.”

    Jordan replies: “Yeah, but there is an ‘I’ in ‘Win’.” Which if you’re Michael Jordan is pretty incontrovertible…

    From “Beautiful Teams: Inspiring and Cautionary Tales from Veteran Team Leaders”:

    “It was crunch time at the end of a basketball game — this was when K.C. Jones was coach. They’d come to the huddle, and Larry says, ‘Just give me the ball and everybody get out of the way.’ And K.C. says, ‘Larry, I’m the coach so shut up! OK, everybody? Let’s get Larry the ball, and everybody get out of the way’”

  49. Thomm says:

    “Does Clutch Pitching Exist?”

    Well, Pearl Clutching certainly does.

  50. Marty says:

    Jordan also made many famous game-winning shots on the last play of the game. Was that because he was clutch or because he was the best player on the court when everybody is trying their utmost?

    It was because the refs let him get away with stuff. Like the time in the finals when he moved the Jazz’ Bryon Russell, who had him blanketed, with his left arm as he went up for the game-winning shot.

    Oh, and Pete Rose said Juan Marichal was the best pitcher he ever saw.

    • Replies: @RAZ
    , @Liberty Mike
  51. So is Trump clutch?

    Or just random and a lucky beneficiary of
    — being a celebrity
    — borrowing Jeff Sessions immigration program to separate himself from the Republican field
    and
    — getting to run against the corrupt, incompetent and deeply unpleasant gynowhale Hillary?

    • Replies: @Pericles
  52. Prior to the rise of the relief pitcher and pitch counts, every pitcher needed to pace himself. 9 innings and >100 pitches is a real strain. In this scenario, the best clutch pitcher was the guy who could get through 7 innings using 85% of his stuff, and bear down on a handful of at bats. The usual suspects would be Feller and W. Johnson. Burlie Grimes also had a reputation for letting a lot of batters on or going to 3 balls before bearing down.

    OTOH, Kofax was averaging a strikout per inning and <2.0 ERA overall those last four years. While there have been a handful of better seasons, I'm not sure there was a better 4 year run.

    So he was pretty clutch even when the situation wasn't clutch. I personally saw him win and loose a couple 1 run games, and getting to 3 runs was an accomplishment.

  53. Marty says:
    @Brutusale

    Broadcaster Tom Tolbert, ex-Warrior, has a funny Larry Bird story. In one of his rare starts, he was assigned to cover Bird. Bird walked over to Don Nelson and said, “You can’t guard me with a white guy.”

  54. @slumber_j

    A true clutch player always wants the ball when the game is on the line. Not for money or fame, but for the win. That’s why Jordan was clutch.

  55. Marty says:
    @John Redcorn

    I’m from SF and I’m rooting for the Nats. You guys on the east coast might not realize it, but out here the lefty sportswriters and talk show people keep plumping for Dusty Baker to get another managing job, and it just just kills them that he hasn’t won the Series. If the Nats do it under their 2d year mgr., just further proof there was something wrong with Dusty.

  56. @pepperinmono

    You are wrong on Marino.

    How do you square your assertion that Marino was not clutch with the FACT that he, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, ranks third, ALL TIME, in most 4th quarter and overtime game winning drives?

    Get your facts straight before you emote.

  57. @slumber_j

    I’m not really a basketball fan, although I know the basic rules as I played in high school, so I don’t watch it much. My Dad loved MJ and so I happened to watch one NBA final game with him, one which MJ won with a last second shot. It seemed to me that the refs were very tolerant about MJ’s adherence to the rules. I thought he traveled a lot, pushed off before many of his “clutch shots” and committed other fouls which were not called.

  58. To your query:

    “…do some athletes consistently win in key moments of maximum stress because they rise to the occasion above their normal level of performance? Or is everything merely probabilistic results stemming from the interaction of different levels of ability at the moment with random luck?”

    I’ll go with my old tried and true method of threading the needle and answer: a bit of both.
    – Its clear that many human traits have a fairly large range, and that the best athletes are at the right tail outlier in all the key big ones: eye-hand coordination, endurance, strength, quickness, etc. Even within those big traits, there are many sub-traits that feed them, such as oxygen conversion efficiency during intense physical exertion, almost super-natural calm under intense pressure, et al.

    – But its also clear that any number of variables lie completely outside the control of the top athlete, most obvious, weather conditions, condition of equipment, condition of the playing surface, state of mind of officials/referees/umpires, etc. Its challenging to tease out which of these variables have a greater or lesser impact to a great athlete’s performance at crunch time, let alone how they interact together (synergistic effects; single/multi-variate analysis). That’s where your idea of the randomness of luck (really just the unpredictability of random entropy).

    That’s why we don’t have a single final answer, and what makes discussing it so fun…

    In my mind, among the three hardest activities to perform consistently well over and over are:
    1. The golf swing
    2. Delivering a forward pass to a receiver in motion
    3. Setting up, winding up, and delivering a pitched ball to a small target area, without the batter making contact.

    • Replies: @Dr. DoomNGloom
  59. It looks like my earlier comment was lost.

    Two clutch pitchers that immediately come to mind are Orel Hershiser for the Dodgers and Indians, and Dave Stewart for the A’s and Blue Jays. Hershiser is famous for his scoreless innings streak in 1988, but his performances in the NLCS and Postseason that year were incredible. Seven years later, post Tommy John surgery and a very different pitcher, he pitched the 1995 Indians through the postseason and even beat Greg Maddux in game 5 before the Indians fell to the Braves. In 1997, I remember him outduelling Mike Mussina (in his prime at the time, when Hershiser was almost 40) in game 3 of the ALCS. Mussina was striking out everybody, but Hershiser kept Baltimore scoreless through seven, and kept getting double plays and striking out batters with a lot of movement on his sinker and slider. Ultimately the Indians went on to win in extra innings.

    Stewart was similarly dominant in his prime for the A’s, but in his later years for the Blue Jays, when he was no longer winning 20+ games each year, he continued to deliver clutch starts in the playoffs.

  60. @Captain Tripps

    “In my mind, among the three hardest activities to perform consistently well over and over are:
    1. The golf swing
    2. Delivering a forward pass to a receiver in motion
    3. Setting up, winding up, and delivering a pitched ball to a small target area, without the batter making contact.”

    4. Making solid contact against that pitch, but not toward one of the 8 guys in front of you.

  61. @Marquandian Hero

    The funny thing about the Indians of that era is that they were so comically bad that they were protagonists of the movie Major League and everyone understood why. They were literally the only team in AL East history to NEVER win the division, and to top it off, they never even finished in the top half of the division. Then, upon creation of the AL Central, they started to shine. In the first eight years of the division they won it 6 times, plus missed out on a wild-card birth because of the strike. Add 2 AL pennants into the mix and they were obviously a dominant team. Yet, because they could never put it together and win the World Series, that era doesn’t have the stamp of approval to make themselves part of peoples’ memories.

    • Replies: @Marty
  62. RAZ says:
    @Marty

    John Roseboro probably thought Juan Marichal was also good with a bat. Only old baseball guys like me would know what I am talking about. Marichal got a surprisingly short suspension for this. Have to think it would now be at least a year.

    • Replies: @Brutusale
  63. Sideways says:

    I tend to think clutch isn’t really a thing in high level pro sports because everyone there pretty much has to be playing at near their peak potential.

    On the other hand, I can easily believe it’s a thing with kids, sort of the equivalent of stereotype threat vanishing under high stakes

  64. peterike says:

    OT: More exciting noose noos out of New York, via offensive Halloween decorations.

    This one is worth it for the picture. How any sentient white person in 2019 would think these decorations would be ok is simply amazing to me. The white person in question of course caved and grovelled and all the usual. But how did this ever happen?

    Really, check it out. Cosmic level fail.

    https://nypost.com/2019/10/23/hanging-noose-halloween-decorations-outrage-bed-stuy-neighbors/

  65. @Marty

    Nats fan here, happy to have the support. Dusty did in Washington what he did in his other stops: figure out who does what well, and ask them do that. He’s also a very good communicator, knows which guys respond to yelling and which respond to pats on the back, etc. He’s a very good regular season manager (I lived in the Bay Area when he managed the Giants and he really did manage to get the most out a team that aside from Bonds and Kent, wasn’t that talented). However in the 2017 postseason he repeated the mistakes he made in the 2016 postseason, which was to manage as if it was still the regular season. You lose 3 out of 4 in the regular season, nobody remembers. Do it in the postseason and you’re done.

    Three moves in particular sealed his fate in DC. 1) Starting Jason Werth in LF all 5 games, despite more than 2 years of hard data that showed he could no longer hit right-handed pitching. His logic being Werth was a veteran, has been out there all year, blah blah. Werth rewarded him by going 3-18 with no RBI in the series; 2) giving well-known head case Gio Gonzalez the game 5 start, then leaving him in after he melted down in the first inning but somehow only giving up 1. The Nats scored 4 in the bottom of the 2nd, then Gonzalez opened the 3rd with a double and 2 walks. Baker just sat and watched him give the lead right back. Gonzalez finished the series with a 6.75 ERA, walking 6 and with multiple wild pitches; 3) didn’t ask the umpires to review an obvious catcher’s interference call late in the game that helped the Cubs take the lead.

    The regular season is a marathon, postseason is a sprint. It’s baffling more managers can’t understand that. Davey Martinez this year is managing as a sprint, using starters in relief and only trusting 2-3 guys out of what has been an awful bullpen.

    • Replies: @Jane Plain
  66. Anon[581] • Disclaimer says:

    OT: Rather surprised at all the stuff our Democratic Congresswomen like to get up to:

    “Shocking photos of Congresswoman Katie Hill are revealed as she’s seen NAKED showing off Nazi-era tattoo while smoking a bong, kissing her female staffer and posing nude on ‘wife sharing’ sites.”

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7609835/Katie-Hill-seen-showing-Nazi-era-tattoo-smoking-BONG-NAKED.html

    For notoriety, she’s got AOC, uh, licked.

    Is there something about the Democrats that attracts pols with the mentality of Caligula, or what? They’re all about self-indulgence decadence.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
  67. It doesn’t matter because they are all on steroids and it is all fixed.

  68. Id like to invite the college football fans among you to visit http://www.lawrencepoints.com the objectively awesome plan which fixes many of the shitty things about the current playoff system which encourages scheduling weak non cons humiliating them and at the end of the day is still a subjectively biased system which is way too exclusive leading to far too many meaningless games.

  69. eah says:

    How many relievers are in the HoF for “clutch pitching”?

    OT

    More from Unscientific American.

  70. There is unquestionably clutch combat. Soldiers surrounded, and fighting literally for their lives (American examples: Chosin reservoir, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, maybe Alamo..Germans on the Eastern Front of WW2, British at Rorke’s Drift) fight harder and endure more hardship than those fighting ‘run of the mill’ battles. Presumably, if one has a place to run away to, one is more likely to do so. With nowhere to run, and no choice but to fight, soldier sometimes fight (I won’t say always or often).

    Whether that is psychologically related to clutch sports I don’t know.

    joe

  71. @Marty

    Not only did he foul Byron Russell, he also fouled Karl Malone, a few seconds earlier, on the other end of the floor while making a steal.

    Jordan should have been fouled out of nearly every game he played as he was allowed to get away with slapping and grabbing and holding opposing players.

    The NBA and the NFL should go out of their way to make sure that the great players do not get preferential treatment.

  72. @R.G. Camara

    Roger Clemens career ERA 3.12, WHIP 1.17, in 4916.2 innings pitched.

    Roger Clemens post season ERA 3.75, WHIP 1.221 in 199 post season innings pitched.

    Sorry, but you’re just wrong. You remember cases of Clemens failing spectacularly in the post season but your memory is not reflective of the totality of what happened. This is not a statistically significant difference.

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
    , @kaganovitch
  73. @Clemsnman

    “This argument is the result of stat nerds trying to prove they are smarter than everyone else.”

    No, it’s about subjecting folk wisdom and intuition based on half-remembered anecdotes to analytical rigor.

    Most people including me (who is not smarter than anyone) intuitively accept the idea of clutch performance often to the point of unfairly crediting or maligning the performance of professional players. Teams in the past have made enormously expensive mistakes in under and overvaluing certain athletic talent as well based on anecdotes about “clutch performances” in the past that are unlikely to be repeated.

    It’s useful to know that the concept of “clutch” seems to be a statistical mirage.

  74. @peterike

    I love this post.

    No examples of what you regard as “clutch” just handwaving assertions like “of course clutch exists, who denies it but spergy stat nerds”

    And yes, of course there are clutch performances ie. good performances in high pressure situations. But no evidence thus far of clutch athletes who have some special ability to perform in such situations that they lack in other situations.

    Also irrelevant analogy to dogs and canine affection–which actually has been documented empirically.

  75. @The Last Real Calvinist

    Perhaps the secret of Sandy Koufax was that Yahweh was behind him?

  76. My father pointed out something with which I agree: a number of star pitchers who have an anti-clutch label attached to them also have a general biography of never facing any serious professional or personal adversity.

    They tend to be players who were not only early bloomers talent-wise, but were always treated as such. They are guys where everything had come naturally to them and they don’t have any experience with persevering, and nothing to draw from psychologically in those moments when it is needed the most. (Some famous examples being Roger Clemens and Clayton Kershaw, or Matt Harvey when he still had his arm and was the media darling of the NY press.) These are guys I would not hand the ball to in a big moment, because something’s gonna go wrong, and 9 times out of 10 they won’t know how to cope.

    The difference in baseball though is that while there are some clutch, big-game pitchers out there; the value is with the work-horse types. In baseball, those guys sometimes give the appearance of being clutch performers. More importantly, they tend to create a team wide psyche that with them on the mound, the team always has a shot- which is as beneficial as having someone who is a clutch performer to begin with.

    Justin Verlander is that type of pitcher. He’s not clutch. He’s now 0-5 over four World Series with a 5.73 ERA; and he’s now made two silly errors in two separate ones. But he’s also the guy you want over a six month period to get you to that world series and, outside the world series, he’s not going to put your team in a hole after you hand him the ball in an important game.

  77. MC says:

    Surprised no one has mentioned Madison Bumgarner, a very good regular season pitcher who turns into the best pitcher on Earth in the playoffs and WS.

  78. @William Badwhite

    I enjoyed last night.

    Please don’t take that the wrong way.

    What was the mistake pitch Verlander served up to Suzuki? I’m not good at identifying pitches.

    “weeded out”

    No one gets to any level of prominence in classical music without conquering stage fright, if they had it in the first place.

  79. Altai says:

    OT: Another example of the hate hallucinations.

    Naked pictures of congresswoman Katie Hill have emerged from a wife swapping website with her holding a bong. But crazy people are saying the real revelation is her ‘Nazi tattoo’. Of course, all WASP swinger bisexual Democratic congresswomen from California are secret neonazis. It looks like a pretty normal Maltese/Iron cross or even an attempt at a Celtic cross to me. Fairly common tattoo motifs.

    • Replies: @Pericles
  80. @The Alarmist

    Rose is interesting because he played hard all the time because he was obsessed with breaking Ty Cobb’s seemingly unbreakable record for career base hits. I can recall a Letter From the Editor in National Lampoon that was signed:

    Pete Rose
    Somewhere in the National League, looking for my next base hit

    So I was thinking that Rose’s clutch stats wouldn’t be that great because he was always Charlie Hustle, 162 games per year. He had 10 seasons playing at least 160 of the 162 scheduled games.

    But, it turns out, his clutch stats are very good. Rose hit even better in the postseason than during the regular season, and in clutch situations in the regular season he was better than in average situations.

    Yojimbo/Zaitochi can jump in here and attribute this to his all-around Pete Roseness, and I won’t demur.

    So, Rose would appear to be statistically clutch. Maybe that was just luck, but Rose’s sample sizes are the biggest in baseball history. He played 24 seasons and he was almost never out of the lineup. But we don’t really understand a mechanism for it, because he sure seemed to be playing all out all the time and still rose to the occasion.

  81. @Marquandian Hero

    Yeah, Hershiser and Stewart are great examples of pitchers who, for whatever reason, were clutch performers when the playoffs came around.

    Dave Stewart, over his whole career, was the definition of a league average pitcher. He had some excellent years where he was better than that, and some terrible years…but come playoff time, he was like a whole different pitcher.

    Then there is a guy like El Duque Hernandez, with his dodgy backstory and being several years older than his official age, he would bore of regular season baseball and take a few months off with phantom ailments. But come playoff time, he was the 1st guy you wanted to hand the ball.

    • Replies: @John Redcorn
  82. @Mister.Baseball

    Verlander is 8-1 in the first round of the playoffs and 0-5 in the World Series: character flaw or randomness?

    • Replies: @Mister.Baseball
    , @Ian M.
  83. @Steve Sailer

    I’ll jump in with waxing on about his Pete Rose-ness.

    A guy like Rose is such a rare bird that I’m not sure it can be quantified beyond him having top tier eye sight, quick reflexes and a sharp, if extraordinarily compulsive, mind.

    In a world of ultra-competitive macho men, Pete Rose is an apex predator.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  84. Off Topic: Jail time imposed for pretending to be a minority on college application. Apparently, the theory of the crime is that the fake-minority kept a real minority from taking a spot from a more qualified non-minority. Or something.

    Prosecutors had sought four months behind bars and a fine of $20,000 for Klapper, arguing that lying about her son’s race “increased the likelihood that her fraud would come at the expense of an actual minority candidate.”

    “Ms. Klapper thereby not only corrupted the standardized testing system, but also specifically victimized the real minority applicants already fighting for admission to elite schools,” US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a statement.

    In addition to jail time, she was ordered to pay a $9,500 fine and complete 250 hours of community service. https://nypost.com/2019/10/17/mom-who-lied-about-sons-ethnicity-on-college-apps-gets-3-weeks-in-jail/

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  85. @Steve Sailer

    I’m not buying it Steve.

    Pete Rose had in his career 15,890 plate appearances. In those PA he hit for a .784 OPS (which is on base % plus slugging) and a .375 on base percentage.

    In the post season Rose had 301 plate appearances. He posted in those an .828 OPS and a .388 OBP.

    Is this not data noise?

    If I take a random 301 sample plate appearances of a pool of 15890 would this not be a pretty likely sampling error? (And this sample is not quite random due to the fact this his post season appearances were during the prime of his career when he was a better hitter in the regular season too).

    This doesn’t quite prove he isn’t “clutch”. But we can say his “clutchness” looks more noise than signal.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @res
  86. Does Clutch Pitching Exist?

    It does in Philadelphia.

    Everything exists in Philadelphia.

  87. @Interested Bystander

    Let’s go Nats!

    Yes. Back home.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    , @Lot
  88. @Steve Sailer

    My guess is that most are either weeded out earlier, or kept so drugged up they don’t notice. Carlos Santana said at Woodstock he was so drugged up on LSD he thought the guitar was attacking him. That explains some of the very strange looks on his face.

    Of course, there is the famous case of Loretta Lynn having a nervous breakdown on stage.

    Not just musicians. Kate Moss said the pressure of modeling, especially modeling topless, when she was young (I think her first topless photo shoot was at about the age of 14) put her under a lot of pressure, so she was constantly drugged up or boozed up during the shoots to get through.

    Then there was the case of the Beatles, at the very height of their popularity, deciding to completely stop touring because the pressure was getting to them. George Harrison was convinced that one or more Beatles would be killed by fans. Turns out he was correct. Lennon was shot, and decades later someone broke into Harrison’s home and almost killed him and his wife.

  89. @Jane Plain

    I enjoyed last night. Please don’t take that the wrong way.

    So did I. I’m not sure what is the wrong (or right) way to take it though.

    What was the mistake pitch Verlander served up to Suzuki? I’m not good at identifying pitches.

    Fastball up, out over the plate (looked outer half). Suzuki later in his career mostly looks inner half for stuff he can pull but he ambushed Verlander there.

  90. @Mister.Baseball

    Nah. Hershisher was awesome in the late 80’s and even awesomer in the post season for the Dodgers.

    But somehow the “clutch” went away when he pitched for Cleveland in the 90’s and did worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. But as Steve would say “who can remember that?”

    Dave Stewart was dominant for basically the time he was at Oakland from 87 to 92. His ERA during that time was 3.56 in the regular season in 1487 innings pitched. His ERA in the post season was 2.38 in 105 2/3 innings worked. Good clutch performance no doubt.

    But is it very unlikely I’d get this result I’d get if I pulled any 106 innings at random from the larger pool of 1487 and calculated an ERA on that basis? Put differently, this seems well within the normal range of performance of Dave Stewart in that period of time…some good innings, some bad.

    This is why statisticians question the whole idea of clutch players. The phenomenon looks indistinguishable from statistical noise.

  91. @Feryl

    Actually, I’ve heard that a fair number of actors are painfully shy. Jon Voight was supposedly one of those. I can see why acting might appeal to the shy. Losing yourself in a role and becoming someone else could be very therapeutic. Of course, shyness and stage fright are two completely different things. Metallica’s James Hetfield is an example of that. Very shy and socially awkward in person (while sober at least), yet obviously doesn’t have stage fright or he would be able to get on stage night after night.

  92. @Steve Sailer

    Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilminster had an effective way of dealing with stage fright; he positioned the microphone several inches above his head, so that he was always looking up and not at the audience while he was singing. It sort of became his trademark.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  93. @John Redcorn

    What did I say about Clemens? I said:

    He only got titles when other pitchers and players were relied on instead of him.

    When Clemens was the man, he failed. IN 1986 in Game 6, he could have gone for the complete game (and thus won the World Series). Instead, the coward ASKED OUT. The Red Sox bullpen failed and the Mets made a great comeback. Why? Because Clemens was a coward.

    In 1988 and 1990, he choked against the A’s.

    Only on Yankee teams where he wasn’t the ace—where Cone, Wells, etc. were ahead of him—did he win.

    Much like Wilt could only win when Jerry West was the guy relied on.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  94. @MC

    I’m even more surprised no one has mentioned the clutchiest pitcher of them all, i.e. one Curt Schilling.

    Is the sporty-SJW quest to pretend he never existed succeeding?

    • Replies: @Captain Tripps
  95. Pericles says:
    @AnotherDad

    Trump definitely had a game plan that his opponents couldn’t handle. He seems to thrive under pressure, I guess that’s a good sign.

    The other candidates rapidly knuckled under to the media, remember those days? After the election, my SJW-aligned colleagues were reduced to repeating “but he’s so stupid … he’s so stupid …” as Trump ran rings around the rest of the field. That’s a nice blinking sign they got utterly outplayed.

  96. Pericles says:
    @Jane Plain

    Terrible terrible collapse in that game. Now both Gog and Magog have been defeated, how about that?

    I’m not a baseball expert by any means but I thought AJ Hinch should have pulled Verlander after the HR and then Pressly basically right away when it was obvious he was out of it. It’s the playoffs after all, use your powers and crush their precious feelings.

    Verlander has more or less seemed to be tiring a bit here in the last couple of his games so keeping his pitch count somewhat down would probably have been smarter. (You just had to listen, AJ!) Pressly, who did an incredible job during the season, was as white as a sheet and looked like he was going to faint. Painful to watch. It might have been better if he had fainted. Scherzer and Strasburg by contrast did their jobs solidly without any huge drama.

    • Replies: @Jane Plain
  97. Pericles says:
    @Altai

    Lol, clearly a worthy representative of the people of America. The Mail couldn’t even fit into the headline that her nude bong nazi picture furthermore was from a wife swapping site. All I wonder is, what sort of wife did she get swapped for?

  98. Danindc says:
    @Marquandian Hero

    Hersh user is in a separate category. He was the reason the Dodgers won the WS In 1988. Took clutch to another level. Bumgartner is comparable. Not many others. Jack Morris. Andy Pettite was really clutch. Schilling is in the Hershiser category as well.

  99. Danindc says:
    @Mister.Baseball

    Interesting points but I disagree. Verlander has been clutch many times in huge games. As was Clemens and yes even Kershaw.

    David Price was definitely a choker but came though big time last year for Boston. Matt Harvey pitched well in the WS but they left him in too long. He’s no choke.

  100. @John Redcorn

    Clemens also pitched one of the best games in playoff history in the ALCS in 2000. A 1 hit complete game shutout of Seattle with 15 Ks. ill James Game Score , it’s the third best postseason game ever.

  101. Corvinus says:

    “Also, until 1961, Koufax pitched in a knuckleheaded fashion, throwing ultra-hard but walking a huge number of batters. The most famous Jewish pitcher ever, **Koufax was strikingly lacking in cleverness and guile**. He was kind of a little boy’s vision of a cowboy hero in a white hat, just matching strength-against-strength. Unlike his ultra-WASPy teammate Don Drysdale (the namesake of the banker in “The Beverly Hillbillies,” who led the league in hit batsmen four times as part of his strategy of intimidating batters through terror and who was widely suspected of throwing a spitball, Koufax never did anything ethically edgy on the diamond. (E.g., in his last season, 1966, Koufax threw a huge 323 innings without ever hitting a batter.)”

    Mr. Sailer, you marred an otherwise fine article with those references. You just couldn’t help yourself, huh, Sarah Jeong.

    **AND, you really should do some NOTICING. Clearly, he had those two traits.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Sandy_Koufax

  102. @Danindc

    Kershaw has pitched very well in all sorts of high pressure regular season situations, but he’s gotten lit up a large number of times in the postseason. There is no obvious reason why.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Kershaw is no longer a physically dominant pitcher, his arm is no longer as strong, he’s more of a #3 starter, wily veteran type. So his failure in relief this year against the Nationals heart of the line-up was less unexpected than his failures in the past: Anthony Rendon in 2019 is a better at hitting than Clayton Kershaw in 2019 is at pitching.

  103. @R.G. Camara

    Actually, Jerry West was suddenly terrible in the 1972 NBA Finals and Wilt stepped up and dominated.

  104. Hodag says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Bob Stinson had no problems with stage fright. Because he was constantly wasted.

    I started a Great Courses audio lecture series on Mesopotamia today. The lecturer used to be in The Bangles when she was an undergrad at UCLA and before they hit it big.

  105. @Hapalong Cassidy

    First time I saw Talking Heads, in early 1978 for $2 in Houston, David Byrne did the whole staring at the ceiling thing to deal with his stage fright. When they back a few months later for $5, he was suddenly a real showman.

  106. @John Redcorn

    Orel Hersheiser was a god for about 2 months in the fall of 1988. Ended the season with a record 59 straight scoreless innings and then dominated in the postseason, even hitting well.

    I see that as more of an example for an argument over The Hot Hand rather than Clutchness.

    In general, something was going on in the latter half of the 1988 baseball season with hitting stats dropping severely, and Hersheiser was the beneficiary of a bigger trend. Maybe the rabbit balls used in the 1987 season ran out and were replaced with deader balls? Maybe the umpires decided to change the strike zone?

  107. Danindc says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Big O’s fan. Eddie was looked to as clutch but he struggled in postseason for the Orioles. Likely would’ve beat Pirates in 79 if he hit

  108. @Danindc

    Okay, that would be a good statistical study: make up a list of guys with good or bad regular season clutch statistics and then see if their postseason overall statistics positively correlate. That two distinct measures of clutchness. If clutchness is a thing, they ought to be positively correlated.

  109. @Danindc

    Okay, that would be a good statistical study: make up a list of guys with good or bad regular season clutch statistics and then see if their postseason overall statistics positively correlate. That two distinct measures of clutchness. If clutchness is a thing, they ought to be positively correlated.

    15 years ago people would point to how young Tom Brady had won 3 Super Bowls without having great regular season stats like Peyton Manning had. But then Brady started to have great regular seasons stats (although the Super Bowl wins weren’t coming as quick), even playing outdoors in Massachusetts.

  110. @John Redcorn

    Rose also had good clutch stats during the regular season: e.g., he hit better with Runners In Scoring Position with 2 outs than he did on average.

    It could all just be random luck, although with Rose the sample sizes are pretty big.

    Anyway, I cited Rose because I had predicted to myself that his postseason and clutch situation stats wouldn’t be better than his average stats because he played so hard every inning of every game, so that he wouldn’t be an Eddie Murray type easing through the routine situations and then using the energy he’d saved up for the clutch situations. But it turns out his stats don’t look like that, they look kind of like he still had something in reserve for the big moments.

    Also, his postseason appearances were from age 29 to 42, while his peak was ages 27-28. Although offense was lower in the Sixties. Rose’s .335 batting championship in 1968 at age 27 is probably like a .375 in a more normal year like 1975. So Rose had a pretty normal career arc, although his decline phase was less steep than most. He usually managed to do something pretty eye-catching each year all the way through 1981 when he hit .325 in a short season.

    • Replies: @Lot
  111. @Mister.Baseball

    Rose is like Michael Jordan, if Jordan were a white guy with only above average general athleticism.

  112. istevefan says:
    @The Alarmist

    Do closers like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage count?

    Back in the 1980s the best bullpen guys were called firemen.

    As late as 1989, a team’s ace reliever was called a fireman,[16] coming to the rescue to “put out the fire”, baseball terminology for stopping an offensive rally with runners on base.[2][17][18] They were occasionally referred to as short relievers, stoppers and closers. By the early 1990s, the top late-inning reliever was called a closer.[16] The firemen came in whenever leads were in jeopardy, usually with men on base, and regardless of the inning and often pitching two or three innings while finishing the game.

    Firemen by definition had to be clutch because they seemingly came into the game in a tense moment with runners on base. Nowadays most closers get clean innings. In other words they get to start an inning with no outs and no one on base. I think that has less pressure than trying to put out a rally in progress late in the game.

  113. @Reg Cæsar

    That was three homes ago in Parc Jarry. Montreal really conned the National League on this one, as the Expos played in this ballpark for 8 years before moving to Stade Olympique in 1977, although the ballpark is attractive. It just lacked amenities and size.

    Of course, I would remiss if I didn’t point out that the 4th player from the right is none other than iSteve Hall of Famer Rusty Staub.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  114. @Anon

    While I have no personal issues with what Hill did, it should be pointed out that according to modern liberal orthodoxy, someone in the campaign worker’s position isn’t able to give meaningful consent.

    Also, why do we need a British website to break this story?

  115. @Steve Sailer

    Part character hang-up, part genuine exhaustion. His weak performances in the world series have been in the back of his mind since the first, when he was a wunderkind- I know he’s made mention of it before. Yet as a key component of every one of those four teams making the World Series, he soaks up a lot of very stressful innings. I don’t think he’s made it to a World Series where he had anything left. And he’s not a pitcher who improvises all that well with lesser stuff.

    But being the work horse that he is, I don’t believe any of his Astros teammates (or former Tiger teammates) feel disadvantaged with him on the mound in the World Series- so there is no mental hit to the team, even if Verlander is at less than zero.

    Contrast that with, I dunno, Yu Darvish of the last few years, whose teammates performance was probably effected by Darvish being a lesser pitcher come playoff time.

    Or Luis Severino- all the talent in the world, but he’s so erratic, the Yankees players look panicked when he starts a playoff game.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  116. Lot says:
    @Steve Sailer

    To properly compare his regular and playoff stats, you’d want to only use regular season stats on years that also include playoff stats.

    You could also adjust for opponent quality being higher in postseason games by comparing his OBP with average Reds OBP (or whatever other metric) in each individual game.

    But the raw data difference is so large that it is easily statistically significant even without these adjustments.

  117. Lot says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    I have no opinions about the actual team, but in general will always root against anything representing our Imperial Capital.

    One day I hope to see DC too small and poor to support a major league team in any sport other than WNBA.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  118. @Mister.Baseball

    Trying to understand Kershaw’s problems in October, I guessed they might be from him wearing down over the course of a long season. But his September numbers are fine.

    • Replies: @Mister.Baseball
  119. res says:
    @John Redcorn

    1. Those are pretty big sample sizes. A real statistical significance test would be worthwhile. I would not be surprised to find that difference significant at p < 0.05
    2. How does the typical player compare between regular and post season? Is parity/decline/improvement normal? My guess is some decline is typical. Which would increase the significance if true.

    • Agree: Lot
  120. Danindc says:

    Can you turn this into an article. Golfer Johnny Miller was always fascinated with pressure and what it does to people. I find it interesting as well as do other readers by the # of comments.

  121. Absolutely clutch playing is a real thing. I don’t know baseball well enough to say about pitchers.

    But it exists for every other sport I can think of, so I don’t see why not.

    Some people get a big boost from high pressure situations. Others look for a way out.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  122. @John Redcorn

    Stewart from 87 to 92 had a ERA+ of 107, an FIP higher than his ERA and averaged a 3.1 WAR over those years. That’s a good middle of the road pitcher.

    Hershisher is a bit of a different case considering his injury history. But I remember an old Hershisher being the best of those junk pitchers on the powerhouse Indian teams. I’m not gonna hold his old age performances against him.

    It’s like Pedro Martinez in the 2009 World Series with the Phillies. He lost both games, and his numbers don’t look so hot but I remember him weaving through that almost all of that Yankee line up with absolute slop and a fastball which registered in the low to mid 80s. His downfall was having to pitch to Hideki Matsui.

    As for Tom Gilovich and pals pooh-pooh’ing the idea of a hot hand- which is ultimately what we are talkin’ about- I am not very impressed with the arguments; too much reification for starters.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
    , @John Redcorn
  123. @Not My Economy

    Joe Montana was always the guy I’d want as my quarterback with the ball on our own 20, down 6, two minutes to go.

    But he was very good the rest of the time too.

    Jim McMahon won a lot of games for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s without being all that good most of the time. I don’t have any stats to validate that impression, but in the years after their Super Bowl win, when the team was not firing on all cylinders most of the time (as they had been in 1985), they’d still win a lot of games, often by McMahon doing something big late. So McMahon might be an example of a player who was better in the clutch than the rest of the time.

    • Replies: @Steve Johnson
  124. @Steve Sailer

    For Kershaw, I do think it’s all in his head. And at this point, it’s probably more troubling for the Dodgers because it’s in all their players’ heads too; as well as the opponents. Someone else said this already but playoff baseball is a sprint compared to the season’s marathon pace. Not all players know how to switch from one to the other.

    I can’t recall the exact year [maybe 2014, his MVP year?], but I remember him going into a NLDS against the Cardinals in a year where he had not given up a single homer to a left-handed batter for the whole season, or maybe even two seasons at the point. In Game 4, he promptly gave up the game winning shot to the 1st basemen/fake outfielder Matt Adams. Adams was at his peak and did have some power, but even then, he wasn’t the reincarnation of Lou Gehrig. He was a good enough to be on a playoff team player who has trouble hitting lefties (as I recall it).

    Here he was facing peak Kershaw with the season on the line, and Kershaw hangs his curveball.
    And that seems to be the story every year with Kershaw.

  125. Marty says:
    @ScarletNumber

    But the Indians did produce one of the great quotes of all-time. When Sam McDowell heard he’d been traded for Gaylord Perry, he said, “The Giants traded Perry for me? They really screwed up – he’s way better than I am.”

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
  126. @Mister.Baseball

    Kershaw has pitched 158 innings of post season baseball, about 3/4ths of a full regular season. His regular season career ERA is 2.44 but his postseason ERA is 4.43.

    He gives up homers in the playoffs twice as often as in the regular season.

    Most of his other stats are pretty similar in the postseason as in the regular season, he just gets hammered by big homers in October. So it could just be a random fluke. He’s given up 24 homers in 158 postseason innings, whereas he’d give up about 12 homers an average regular season 158 innings over the course of his career. So, could 12 homers just be bad luck, especially considering the superior hitting talent in the playoffs? I dunno. It’s out pretty far on the bell curve of possibilities, but somebody has to suffer extreme bad luck.

  127. Danindc says:

    Steve,

    What athlete had the most pressure on him at any point in time? I say Rumeal Robinson, Michigan’s point guard in the 1990 NCAA final. Missed the first they lose the title…He made them both…so much pressure

  128. @Mister.Baseball

    They tend to be players who were not only early bloomers talent-wise, but were always treated as such. They are guys where everything had come naturally to them and they don’t have any experience with persevering, and nothing to draw from psychologically in those moments when it is needed the most.

    Your post is really interesting, but I wonder: doesn’t the excerpt I’ve quoted above describe pretty much every major league pitcher? Are there really any Rudy-like cases among MLB players at any position? My impression is that just about all of them would have been obvious outliers at every level of competition they passed through — i.e. stars from moment they picked up a ball.

  129. @Marty

    Dusty Baker is an excellent litmus test for stat informed baseball fans vs. casual or earlier era ones.

    Almost no one who appreciates the SABR revolution in baseball thinks Baker was a good manager. Horrible at lineup construction, bullpen management and in game strategy especially in playoff games. Also totally fails to appreciate the importance of basic things like having a high ability to get on base. In terms of measurables he’s demonstrably awful

    OTOH he does seem to do “intangibles” pretty OK. Players like him. If we ever figure a way to measure the impact of “clubhouse presence ” on a team, maybe Dusty will rate better.

  130. Ian M. says:
    @Steve Sailer

    There’s also the fact that some of those WS games might have occurred in 40 degree weather (in Detroit). I’m not going to blame someone for performing poorly in 40 degree weather. Baseball is not meant be played in near-freezing temperatures.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
  131. Ian M. says:
    @Steve Sailer

    The parallel extends even to their love of gambling!

  132. @Pericles

    “Terrible terrible collapse in that game. Now both Gog and Magog have been defeated, how about that?”

    Made me happy.

    Still, it’s never over till it’s over. The Astros have a lot of good players.

    I’m waiting for a Steve Sailer analysis of the overwhelming Teutonicism of both teams’ starting pitchers.

  133. @Danindc

    Verlander has been clutch many times in huge games.

    WRONG

    Verlander stank up two starts so badly he cost Detroit two WS.

    • Replies: @Danindc
  134. @Danindc

    In golf, I’m guessing the most pressure ever was the last putt of the 1991 Ryder Cup where the German golfer had a 6 footer that would win for Europe, but if he missed, USA would win. In golf, most pressure putts are either to win or to tie but not to win vs. lose. This was a rare exception.

    He missed.

    • Replies: @Danindc
  135. @Steve Sailer

    In general, something was going on in the latter half of the 1988 baseball season with hitting stats dropping severely, and Hersheiser was the beneficiary of a bigger trend. Maybe the rabbit balls used in the 1987 season ran out and were replaced with deader balls? Maybe the umpires decided to change the strike zone?

    Yes, that year might have seen a confluence of factors that favored Hershiser’s pitching style suddenly coming together in his favor. Hershiser was a lot like Greg Maddux, in that he had no overpowering pitch to fall back on; he depended on keeping hitters off balance, and getting plenty of ground balls. Both had good control/command, although in this area Hershiser wasn’t as good as Maddux.

    Maddux was only 22 in 1988, but interestingly, it’s the year he became GREG MADDUX. In 1987 he went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA; in 1988 he went 18-8, 3.18.

  136. Danindc says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Yes, Bernhard Langer but it was a missable putt and only on for 3 day golf contest. Granted Ryder Cup is a big deal. Hoch had 3 footer to win masters. It was side hill and fast though. Felt bad for him. Rumeal was representing long suffering Michigan basketball after 6 games and 64 teams. He was supposed to make them and he did. Free throws are huge clutch indicators. Maybe the best single indicator…

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  137. Ian M. says:

    I have a suspicion that those who insist that clutch performance is an illusion have never played competitive sports in their lives, let alone were they ever the best player on the field/court.

    And it has nothing to do with intentionally coasting in other situations: adrenaline is real, and it affects how you perform, whether for good or ill.

    The musical analogies that people have brought up are good: performing in a high-pressure situation can obviously affect how you perform.

  138. @Steve Sailer

    Most of his other stats are pretty similar in the postseason as in the regular season, he just gets hammered by big homers in October. So it could just be a random fluke.

    The consecutive homers Kershaw gave up in that crushing loss to Washington provide a good case study of his current woes.

    The first one, to Anthony Rendon, was (according to MLB’s game information) hit off an 89.4 mph four-seam fastball. Kershaw keeps it low — it’s actually below the strike zone — but right out over the middle of the plate. Rendon golfs it out.

    You could ask why Kershaw’s trying to locate a four-seamer down low like that, and Kershaw definitely got too much of the plate, but Rendon’s a superb hitter, and he barely cleared the left-field fence with this one, so I wouldn’t blame Kershaw too much.

    But the next pitch Kershaw throws to Juan Soto — an 89.3 mph slider — is a disaster. Kershaw, who’s rightly lauded for throwing one of the best sliders in baseball history, hangs it so badly it’s hardly recognizable as a slider, and leaves it way up in the zone out over the plate. Soto absolutely destroys it; it’s such a no-doubter that Kershaw doesn’t even look up at it; he crouches down like he’s been gut-punched the instant it leaves Soto’s bat.

    So one big problem revealed here: what other pitcher in MLB has a four-seam fastball and a slider that are exactly the same speed? I’ve never seen anything like that. Most pitchers have something like a 6-10 mph gap between their fastball and slider; the change in speeds makes both pitches more effective. I don’t see why Kershaw would sustain this. Can’t he at least take something off his slider, to provide a change in speed, and maybe to give it even more movement?

    Second, that pitch to Soto was thrown by someone who’s been beaten down. It was not a random fluke. It was a sad, sad sight.

    I hope Kershaw can find some kind of playoff redemption down the road. I like him as a player.

  139. Danindc says:
    @The Wild Geese Howard

    NLCS2017 shuts down a good Yankee team twice. MVP of the NLCS

    That’s a pretty big deal.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  140. @Danindc

    Verlander’s career regular season ERA is 3.33 and his career postseason ERA is 3.35. That’s not exactly a Kershaw-like gap.

  141. @Danindc

    Yeah, free throws are tough under pressure. You are supposed to make them but they aren’t that easy either.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  142. Anonymous[113] • Disclaimer says:

    In rock and roll Chrissie Hynde is a clutch player, she’s there to rock and on her terms and if she faces a tough room will up her game, but if in her judgment they “are a bunch of cunts” will walk off.

    Debbie Harry is, sadly, a choke artist. A tough room and she’ll phone it in for the rest of the night. OTOH Blondie has done some superb gigs. (The post JHS/Farndon Pretenders are consistently good but never truly magnificent, unlike the band I saw completely devastate The Who in St. Louis 1980.) In that they are a little like the Grateful Dead. So does that mean the GD were choke artists too? I think Jerry kind of was. The new outfit with John Mayer doesn’t choke from what my jam band loving fellow workers say.

  143. @Steve Sailer

    Rose is like Michael Jordan, if Jordan were a white guy with only above average general athleticism.

    Who is the best player to spend his career in his hometown? Rose, Gehrig, or someone else?

    I mean actual hometowns, not nearby ones as with Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken, jr.

  144. @Steve Sailer

    Yeah, free throws are tough under pressure. You are supposed to make them but they aren’t that easy either.

    They are if you do them correctly. According to physics.

    • Replies: @RAZ
  145. @ScarletNumber

    Of course, I would remiss if I didn’t point out that the 4th player from the right is none other than iSteve Hall of Famer Rusty Staub.

    Le Grand Orange! Long before Donald!

  146. @The Last Real Calvinist

    Good point; I was going to mention Schilling too. Amazingly good when it mattered most. 11-2 in the post-season with a 2.23 ERA. 2 WS titles including MVP in 2001, and of course the “Bloody Sock” game 6 of the 2004 ALCS helping the BOSOX on their way to overcoming their 86 year WS title drought.

    • Replies: @MC
  147. klesko says:

    It’s just normal randomness that seems significant because people pay more attention in the playoffs. Look how long it takes before you can draw any meaning from stats. BF = batters faced.

    “Stabilization” Points for Pitching Statistics:

    70 BF: Strikeout rate
    170 BF: Walk rate
    640 BF: HBP rate
    670 BF: Single rate
    1450 BF: XBH rate
    1320 BF: HR rate
    630 BF: AVG
    540 BF: OBP
    550 AB: SLG
    630 AB: ISO
    70 BIP: GB rate
    70 BIP: FB rate
    650 BIP: LD rate
    400 FB: HR per FB
    2000 BIP: BABIP

  148. For a bit of trivia- there is such a thing as a “clutch” formula:

    Clutch= (WPA/pLI) – (WPA/LI)

    on a scale of -2 to 2, anything above zero “clutch” and anything below “unclutch” -the vast majority of players fall between -1 and 1.

    Kershaw is at -0.22 during the regular season, but -0.88 during the postseason.

    Verlander sits at +0.68 during the regular season, but -0.22 during the postseason.

    The retiring CC Sabathia holds a career -0.11 during the regular season, but turned up at +0.72 during the postseason.

    How the later rounds with fatigue and tougher competition effect the numbers, I couldn’t say.

    Verlander has pitched in 4 World Series to Kershaw’s 2 and Sabathia’s 1.

    While, technically, Sabathia has pitched in the most championship series, 5 with the Yankees and 1 with the Indians, counting this year is stretching it. I don’t think Verlander has ever been on a team which has lost the ALCS which has him at 4. And Kershaw has been in 5. They have all logged a lot of innings in division series, too; with Sabathia leading the way as things currently stand. Kershaw will likely pass him before all is said and done; and possibly Verlander too, unless he or the Astros turn into pumpkins in the upcoming seasons.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Ron Mexico
  149. @Lot

    Agreed. Congressman Harley from Missouri is pushing a bill to move major federal agencies from DC to actual States.

    Some people felt about employees who won’t want to leave dc for Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. I say, that’s exactly the kind of person you don’t want living and voting in your State, so good, such people should stay in dc or New York or whatever self-satisfied unaffordable unfriendly shithole they live in.

    • Replies: @Lot
  150. @Ian M.

    MLB should reduce its regular-season schedule from 162 games back to 154 games.

    That would allow the playoffs to start and end about eleven days earlier, reducing the number of games played in unduly cold weather.

    It would also MLB to make the Division Series a best-of-seven rather than best-of-five series. (And not just because I’m a dodgers fan whose team blew a best-of-five series to a team they “should” have beaten, LOL.)

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    , @Reg Cæsar
  151. @Steve Sailer

    And if Rose were allowed to regularly break the rules.

  152. RAZ says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Malcom Gladwell claims Wilt had better free throw stats while shooting underhanded, but that Wilt couldn’t deal with it looking less than manly, so he went back to shooting overhanded.

  153. @Danindc

    People in Northern New Jersey still think that was a lousy call. Also, it was 1989. 1990 is when UNLV was at its most dominant and steamrolled Duke by 30 to win the title.

    • Replies: @Danindc
  154. @RadicalCenter

    I’m not so confident that the Nationals would have lost to the Dodgers in a 7 game series. The Nationals are really good.

    • Agree: John Redcorn
  155. peterike says:

    I don’t think a comparison of batting between regular season and post season is a valid indication. All at-bats aren’t clutch situations just because it’s post-season.

    If your team is up 6-2 in the sixth inning, and you’re lead off batter, that is NOT a clutch situation, even if its the final game of the World Series. And it shouldn’t count as a clutch at-bat.

    If your team is behind 6-2 in the sixth inning, and you’re lead off batter, that is at best a semi-clutch situation.

    If your team is behind 6-4 in the sixth inning, and you come to bat with two men on base, that is a VERY clutch situation. And it’s extra clutch if there are two outs.

    As a general rule, I would say it’s only a true clutch at-bat (in order of clutchiness) if you have the chance to (1) meaningfully close the run gap, (2) tie the game, (3) take the lead, (4) win the game out-right (walk-off hit, the clutchiest of all hits). The clutch factor goes up with number of outs, the 2-out hit adding a huge amount of clutch to the situation.

    Conversely, this is also a chart of chokeiness. The worst choke of all being making an out with the winning run(s) on base, in the bottom of the final inning, with two outs, in the deciding game of a series. How many of these scenarios have there been?

    Not being the greatest baseball follower I’m likely missing some scenarios, but this is a general outline. A player’s clutch ability should only consider these scenarios.

    I suppose you could do something similar for pitching.

  156. @Mister.Baseball

    I can’t recall the exact year [maybe 2014, his MVP year?], but I remember him going into a NLDS against the Cardinals in a year where he had not given up a single homer to a left-handed batter for the whole season, or maybe even two seasons at the point

    The Dodgers were winning 2-0 going into the bottom of the 7th, and Kershaw gave up singles to Holiday and Peralta before giving up the 3-run HR to Adams. The Dodgers lost 3-2 to lose the series.

    However, your memory was slightly fuzzy on how he did for the season, as he gave up one lefty HR that year, to Bryce Harper on September 2. The previous year he gave up two lefty HR, both on September 8 to Jay Bruce.

  157. @John Redcorn

    “But somehow the “clutch” went away when he pitched for Cleveland in the 90’s and did worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. But as Steve would say “who can remember that?”

    That’s not true, I can remember well. He did not do worse. He pitched extremely well in the playoffs in 1995-97. He beat Maddux in game 5 of the 95 WS. He faced one more than the minimum against Mussina in the 1997 ALCS. His two poorer starts were late in the 97 playoffs, but then he came back with the Mets and kept it scoreless in his remaining postseason appearances. He was consistently good in the postseason throughout his career even when he was sometimes only fair during the regular season.

    Stewart was similar in that even after 1990, when he was no longer dominant, he still pitched well in the postseason in 1992 and 1993 even though his regular season numbers were nothing like they had been several years before.

    • Replies: @John Redcorn
  158. Ian M. says:
    @Mister.Baseball

    …too much reification for starters.

    Exactly.

  159. @Marty

    It’s amazing how bad that trade was for the Giants. Perry won 70 games for the Indians in 3½ years, while McDowell won 11 for the Giants in 1½ years. And the Indians got Frank Duffy in the deal as well, who ended up as their starting shortstop for 6 years.

    My favorite Gaylord Perry story may not be true, but I choose to believe it anyway. Perry was such a bad hitter that his manager Herman Franks said that Perry would hit a home run when man walked on the moon. Sure enough, Perry’s first home run was July 20, 1969.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    , @Marty
  160. Danindc says:
    @ScarletNumber

    Yes, of course. It was a call that probably shouldn’t have been made. That would have left…Loy Vaught with a mid range jumper to win the NCAA title. I don’t think he would’ve made it.

    Those NCAA finals last seconds of close games are so thick w pressure. Yi7 saw what It did it Fred Brown for Georgetown in 1982. That was worse than Buckner. He was so eager to not have the pressure on him he threw the ball to James Worthy…of North Carolina. Worst thing I’ve seen in sports.

  161. Danindc says:

    Jim Kelly drove the Bills down the field with very little time giving his team a good sho5 at winning the Super Bowl. That was clutch.

    • Replies: @RAZ
  162. @RadicalCenter

    MLB should reduce its regular-season schedule from 162 games back to 154 games.

    That would allow the playoffs to start and end about eleven days earlier, reducing the number of games played in unduly cold weather.

    No, it would allow them to dispense with bogus “playoffs” entirely. You would have eight-team leagues as in 1960, but four instead of two. Followed by a two-round World Series, four teams all with the best records in their leagues. After real pennant races. (1967!)

    Note that MLB has called its postseason “League Championship Series” for 50 years. They could be sued for fraud should they call those “playoffs”, because they aren’t.

    • Replies: @Dtbb
  163. @ScarletNumber

    Sure enough, Perry’s first home run was July 20, 1969.

    Six months after the Santa Barbara oil spill, which inspired Sen. Gaylord Nelson to get Earth Day adopted by the following spring.

    1969 was peak Gaylord.

  164. @Danindc

    Virginia’s Kyle Guy needing to make 3 free throws to force OT against Auburn?

  165. @Mister.Baseball

    “I don’t think Verlander has ever been on a team which has lost the ALCS which has him at 4.”

    2013 loss to Red Sox, even though Tigers SP were Scherzer, JV, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello. Leyland and the Bullpen effed that team over.

  166. Anonymous[354] • Disclaimer says:

    Clutchness is not falsifiable, however, Clayton Kershaw somehow contributes important, novel work toward pushing the limits of chokeness

  167. MC says:
    @Captain Tripps

    3 WS titles; 2001, 2004, 2007.

  168. RAZ says:
    @Danindc

    Yep. If not for a missed field goal at the end the Bills beat the Giants.

    Kelly should be remembered more for 4 trips to the SB than for losing there.

    • Replies: @William Badwhite
  169. “Worst thing I’ve seen in sports.” Dunno… Neil O’Donnell did connect with a wide open Larry Brown twice in SB XXX instead of his intended receivers who were also wide open. O’Donnell was paid for those decisions, Fred Brown not

    • Replies: @Danindc
  170. @RAZ

    One argument against Kelly is that when he was hurt and they plugged in Frank Reich, the offense kept on humming.

    In term of his clutchness, he contributed greatly to their losing the Super Bowls. He played just ok in SB 25 with no turnovers but also no TD’s; then threw 4 interceptions against Washington in SB26 and also lost two fumbles; he threw 2 more in SB 27 and lost a fumble (to be fair Frank Reich played badly in that game as well); in SB 28 he “only” threw one interception.

    10 turnovers in 4 games is pretty bad.

  171. Marty says:
    @ScarletNumber

    Not Franks, Alvin Dark. Franks is the guy who made Willie Mays a millionaire.

  172. Lot says:
    @RadicalCenter

    Moving fed agencies out of DC is good on principle, fairer to taxpayers, and reduces costs since DC is reaching NYC/SF cost of living levels.

    Even Aspie-technocratic-leftist Matt Yglesias supports this!

  173. @Steve Sailer

    But in Verlander’s WS with Detroit he managed an ERA of 5.73 in 2006 and an utterly vile ERA of 11.25 in 2012.

  174. @Anonymous

    Debbie Harry is, sadly, a choke artist. A tough room and she’ll phone it in for the rest of the night. OTOH Blondie has done some superb gigs.

    I highly enjoy the modern Blondie + Fleetwood Mac mashup known as Sunflower Bean:

    Other than that I have no idea why bassist/vocalist Julia Cumming (who comes up with these names?) is trying to look like a heroin-addicted transsexual.

  175. Danindc says:
    @Ron Mexico

    I am a MD grad and defend a fellow Terp…those receivers ran the wrong routes

    • Replies: @Ron Mexico
  176. Dtbb says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Where would you put the two new teams?

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  177. @Dtbb

    Where would you put the two new teams?

    Take a cue from association football: promote the International and Pacific Coast League franchises with the best record.

    In 2019, that would have been Columbus and Round Rock. The year before, Lehigh Valley and Memphis. In 2017, Scranton (Or Durham) and Memphis.

    However, bush league names like Express and IronPigs would have to be upgraded.

    Oh, to have seen the Yankees “relegated” in 1967 or 1991!

  178. @Danindc

    LOL. The throws were so bad that they inspired plenty of “game fixing” speculation.

  179. @Mister.Baseball

    Pedro’s body wearing out by October was the issue with him. In his later years he couldn’t maintain his effectiveness for the whole season. Clemens had that problem too. It’s a very long season.

    It’s probably unfair for that reason to call them post season “chokers.”

    That’s the weird thing about pitchers. If a major league pitcher can make his pitches he will be effective against any major league lineup and if all his pitches are working well (moving a lot, falling for strikes) he’ll be dazzling. Look at the lost of perfect game throwers. Some famous names but many journeyman pitchers who just put together a great performance (and got unusually lucky that batted balls that would have normally gone for hits, didn’t). There’s a very fine line between being bombed and being brilliant.

    Probably the difference between a Pedro Martinez at his prime in July vs. tired in October is losing just a little velocity or a tiny little bit of command and he’s suddenly only an average pitcher.

  180. @Marquandian Hero

    I’m too tired to look it up, but yeah he did well in 95 and a lot less well in 96-97….not awful but just meh… But again, part of his reputation for “clutch” was already cemented with his awesome 1988 performance.

    People tend to overlook the later mediocre showings of established “clutch” performers. The remember things that are memorable and those were the amazing performances.

  181. @Anonymous

    Blondie never choked in their heyday, indeed they were a better live band than the Cars.

    Debbie and Chris always regarded the whole thing as a Pop Art project, and never really aspired to mainstream success. I think that’s their “problem”, or rather, their fans’ problem with them. It can be miserable to be thought of as something you are not, didn’t ever aspire to be and would prefer not to have done. The rest of the band wanted to be a successful touring and recording outfit and did not empathize much with their art-band ethos. Which is why all but Clem have been kicked out.

    Now, however, just to live in Manhattan you have to make rock star money, which keeps them on the treadmill. Chris has been the passive one all along in this-despite being a superb “coloratura” or “condiment” guitar player and pretty decent at lead work despite foregoing a flatpick in favor of a basic thumb-and-two-fingers Lester Flatt right hand, he’s never done much on his own.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  182. Brutusale says:
    @RAZ

    Roseboro shouldn’t have buzzed Marichal with his throw back to Koufax, which triggered the whole incident. He later admitted that his throw was intentional; as Koufax didn’t like throwing at hitters, Roseboro wanted to send his own message.

    For any Dodger (or Dodgers fan) to complain about hit batsmen in that era is ludicrous.

    Why?

    Don Drysdale

  183. @Steve Sailer

    Those Bears teams had all time great defenses and NFL coaches tend to do very stupid things late in games with small leads – like play prevent defense. Without digging out the specific numbers a lot of QBs look much better late in games.

    • Replies: @The Wild Geese Howard
  184. @Steve Johnson

    Those Bears teams had all time great defenses and NFL coaches tend to do very stupid things late in games with small leads – like play prevent defense.

    Michigan football loves to play prevent with a small lead.

    They are the definition of anti-clutch.

    I wonder what new embarrassment Barfhaugh and company will foist on the fanbase this evening.

  185. Anonymous[427] • Disclaimer says:
    @donvonburg

    Chris has been the passive one all along in this-despite being a superb “coloratura” or “condiment” guitar player and pretty decent at lead work despite foregoing a flatpick in favor of a basic thumb-and-two-fingers Lester Flatt right hand, he’s never done much on his own.

    I think Chris only bothered with the whole thing for Debbie and other than that would have just been content to be a scenester. He has shown remarkably little ambition otherwise, although he has done a couple of photo books and had his own record label, Animal, before he got really sick.

  186. Anon87 says:
    @Steve Sailer

    Don’t forget that the playoff teams are a higher caliber, so having consistent stats is actually impressive.

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