I am a staunch supporter of statistical analysis, as I'm sure the vast majority of our readership is aware. While I played baseball for nearly two-thirds of my life and watch around two hundred games each year, there is quite literally no way that I am capable of comprehending everything that goes on on the field. I am willing to state that I may be more knowledgeable of the game than a sizable percentage of fans, but that does not free me from my own personal biases, nor does it make up for the fact that I see less than five-percent of the regular season games in any given season. Those factors, however, does not seem to preclude most fans and members of the mainstream media from making sweeping, often baseless assumptions.
The notion of clutch is, at least in my opinion, the most-discussed yet least understood aspect within Major League Baseball - and fear not, this isn't a diatribe on whether or not clutch exists. Rather, with the exception of fielding, clutch may be the single most volatile aspect of the game, as it is incredibly prone to hindsight, fan biases, and a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mindset. Put simply, people tend to recall the highest of highs (such as Thames' walk-off home run on Monday), the lowest of lows (such as Winn's game ending strikeout on Tuesday), and not much in between. To many, Rodriguez will never earn a 'clutch' label, despite his consistent production. Likewise, Jeter will forever remain 'clutch,' regardless of the last half or two-thirds of his career.
With that in mind, it was very refreshing to read this article on ESPN.com, written by blogger and researcher Mark Simon. Here, Simon utilizes WPA (win probability added) as a means to distinguish the most clutch performers in the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry over the last fifteen-plus years. The article is very well written and researched, and I urge our readership to take a few minutes to read it - it's incredibly worthwhile. Most importantly, perhaps, it offers a glimmer of hope for those of us that are hopeful that the mainstream media will eventually realize that numbers are not the enemy, that our eyes, hearts, and minds are far too easily swayed, and that nothing less than a better understanding of the game we all love can come of the utilization of these numbers.
I, for one, would like to thank Mr. Simon for stepping outside of the norms of ESPN.com.