I have been reluctant to write this post, because most people who will read my blog could probably care less. For the few that do care, this is a debate that has raged on since "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis took the world by storm. I am not going to post stats here because that is boring, what I will do is post my angle on the debate, and why I think "Moneyball" works, especially in this case.
I feel that clutch hitting does not exist because the idea of clutch hitting is an emotionally driven concept. Baseball more than any other sport is a numbers driven game. When fans argue baseball they talk about batting average, homeruns, slugging percentage, On Base Perecentage, etc. This is all easily quantifiable information. If David Wright hits 32 Homeruns in 2008, it would be pretty disappointing if he wasn't in the same neighborhood in 2009.
With all the stats that fly around in a baseball debate, the idea of a hitter being clutch always enters the argument. Is David Wright clutch? This is the question being debated after the World Baseball Classic winning hit against Puerto Rico. A lot of sports writers in the past, have written Wright off, saying he is not clutch. My question is, what does that even mean?
My argument against clutch hitting is that it is a completely emotional concept. If you are watching a great game, and a guy comes up and belts a game winning homer, you are going to say, "Wow, what a clutch hit!" Now if you see a guy do that 3 or 4 times in a season, he is considered a "clutch hitter." But how do you really quantify that? I looked at David Wright's stats, and last year he had 79 "high pressure AB's" which I believe is defined as trailing after the 7th inning with runners in scoring position. 79 AB's is not really a lot of AB's and honestly how many of those games are really important or against division rivals? The idea of clutch hitting is based on such a small sampling of a baseball players season that I don't think you can judge a player based on those stats.
79 AB's represents about 20 games worth of a player's season. Would you call David Wright a bad hitter if he hits .220 in his first 20 games? Probably not, but if he hits .220 in "clutch situations" then he is a bad clutch hitter. Logically that makes absolutely no sense, that is why clutch hitting isn't based on logic but the pure emotion of a spectator, that is why I believe clutching hitting does not exist.
Lastly, baseball more than any other sport should be analyzed by logic and numbers. If you watcha basketball game, it is possible for one star to take over a game and lead his team to victory. In football the same offensive players have a shot every down of making a big play. In baseball, you have to wait your turn to make a difference, and it is considered great to succeed 30% of the time. That is why "Moneyball" works so well. Fans love to pretend it is not about the numbers, they say Derek Jeter has "intangibles" or David Ortiz is "clutch." Those are emotional concepts, and it is not smart to mix emotion and baseball.