Sunday, September 21, 2014

Derek Jeter's Swan Song and Clutch

There's no such thing as clutch.  I know of at least two people who think some variation of this statement: A professor I had in graduate school who writes for a well-known and well-respected sports web site, and Bill James, who said there is no such thing as clutch hitting according to a Joe Posnanski blog post I read recently.  I don't want to take anything away from my professor or James, because both are incredibly intelligent individuals, but I respectfully disagree with the idea that clutch doesn't exist.

Think of the following four athletes:  John Elway, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Derek Jeter.   They bled and practically lived clutch throughout their careers as professionals.  Granted I'm not using any advanced statistics, but it seems like when the chips were down, these players always came through.  

And with Jeter, you can look at what he's doing right now as evidence that clutch is real.  

Jeter's career is coming to a close.  He knows this.  I don't know him personally, but he must know this.  He's spent years and years (and likely even more years before that) playing the sport of baseball, and he's guaranteed just seven more games before he rides off into the sunset for good.  And it's showing in his hitting.  Jeter's triple slash for this weekend's 4-game series with Toronto, including today's game, was .471/.471/.765.  Entering play against the Blue Jays Thursday night, he had had 2 hits in his last 34 at bats.  His slugging percentage for the season, including today's game, is just .311.  

Jeter's performance this weekend is a testament to the fact that clutch exists.  A 40-year-old baseball player whose time is just about up suddenly starting to put up great numbers again after what's probably been the worst offensive season of his MLB career. He's performing well because there's pressure on him now, pressure, perhaps, to make the fans happy, get the team to the playoffs (as unlikely as that may be), to just play well at the end. Derek Jeter over the last four days is putting together a fantastic performance just as the curtain is about to close.  That's makes me think clutch exists.  

**Statistics used in this post came from, with most being calculated with a combination of baseball-reference stats and stats from's box score of today's Blue Jays-Yankees game.

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