October 28, 2003

"Derek is really, really cute" (Part Two)

In yesterday's entry, I looked at Derek Jeter's post-season performances over the last four years, and found that his hitting in "Clutch" situations didn't quite match his reputation for being "Mr. Clutch."

The reason I only looked at the last four years was because the detailed data from previous post-seasons wasn't available. Or so I thought.

Turns out Retrosheet has post-season stats galore. I should have known better. I was trying to find the post-season stats on ESPN.com, and their database only dates back to 2000. But, as Tangotiger from Baseball Primer told me yesterday, "when in doubt, Retrosheet saves the day."

For those of you who missed yesterday's entry, here is a little piece from it:

"The situations one would want to look at in trying to determine the Clutchness of a player would seem to me to be the following:

- Runners in scoring position

- Runners in scoring position with two outs

- Close and late

The first two are self-explanatory. "Close and late" is defined as "results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck."

In other words, how does someone do when the game is on the line? When the going gets tough and the tough get going. When the s--- hits the fan. When the men are separated from the boys. When (insert your own cliche here).

Here are Derek Jeter's post-season numbers in those situations from 2000-2003, combined...

Runners in scoring position: .214/.421/.357

Runners in scoring position with two outs: .188/.381/.375

Close and late: .176/.263/.323

Again, those numbers do not include what he did from 1996-1999. Even with that disclaimer, I think that if you are looking at the same stats I am looking at, the whole "Jeter is Clutch" theory has a David Wells-sized hole in it."

Unfortunately, while Retrosheet has Jeter's complete post-season record, it does not include his numbers in "close and late" situations, or his numbers with "runners in scoring position and two outs."

Those are two situations that are obviously important when discussing whether or not someone is a "Clutch Player," so it's a little disappointing to not have those numbers. But, what Retrosheet does have is Jeter's numbers with men on base and with men in scoring position. And, unlike ESPN.com, they have those numbers for his entire, 99-game post-season career.

Here they are...

Runners in scoring position: .210/.355/.306

Runners on base: .245/.345/.329

In his entire post-season career, a total of 99 games spread over eight seasons, Derek Jeter is a .210/.355/.306 hitter with runners in scoring position and a .245/.345/.329 hitter with men on base. Take that and add in the fact that, over the last four post-seasons, he is a .176/.263/.323 hitter in "close and late" situations, and I think it is safe to say that my sarcastic response to Jeter constantly being hailed as "Mr. Clutch" is completely justified.

One of the things that I enjoy most about having a website that a lot of people read is that just about every day, some sort of "message board" or "forum" or "chatroom" discusses what I've written. It's a nice boost to the ego to see that people care about the things you say, and it's always interesting to see your opinions discussed.

I stumbled across a NYYFans.com "Forum" where the subject "Does 'Clutch' really exist" was being debated.

Someone going by the name of "Hawaii Yankee Fan" commented that "anyone who voted 'no' clearly has never seen Derek Jeter play."

Someone else, going by the name of "YankeeNut18," said, "Look no farther than Derek Jeter."

About midway through the discussion, a reader of this blog going by the name "Luke2003" added a link to yesterday's blog entry to the discussion and commented that "there's one problem with this...the numbers say the opposite."

The resulting responses were incredibly interesting. Here are a few of the highlights:

ACPS: "The postseason is all about being clutch, and I don't need some Sox fan's blog to tell me that a guy with a .314 postseason average and the most postseason hits ever to tell me otherwise."

It was later pointed out to this person that I am, in fact, a Twins fan. He didn't really care.

It is interesting that the implication seems to be that Jeter's numbers being shown on a blog and being shown by what "ACPS" thought was a "Sox fan" makes the numbers less real. It's also interesting that this person wants to dismiss Jeter's offensive numbers in specific "Clutch" situations, but then immediately brings up Jeter's overall post-season batting average.

Hitman23: "I hear ya. And we're not even talking about what he does defensively which is just as important and no one ever mentions."

So, in this person's opinion, not only do the stats that say Jeter has performed poorly in "Clutch" situations not matter, Jeter's defense is something that "no one ever mentions." I'm not the first person to say this, but Derek Jeter's defense is awful. Horrendously bad. It strikes me as incredibly funny that a Yankee fan would dismiss Jeter's actual numbers in Clutch situations because they are bad and then bring up the subject of defense as something in Jeter's favor.

OilCan: "I have to admit I was surprised by these numbers, though."

That response is basically what I was hoping for. In showing Jeter's sub par numbers in Clutch situations, I did not intend to imply that I thought he was a "choker" or some other such nonsense. I simply was shocked by the actual numbers I found after I stopped trusting Tim McCarver and looked them up for myself. And I figured most everyone else would be just as shocked as I was.

Luke2003: "You're absolutely right. If you don't like what the numbers say, just ignore them."

Luke2003 is the guy who posted the link to the entry. I am not sure if this comment was said sarcastically or not, but it's a funny line either way. I wonder what the response of some of these Yankee fans would be if the numbers showed Jeter to have been a .350 hitter in Clutch situations?

Bakntime: "Geeze, you really get around with this "Gleeman" propaganda, don't you?

Stats=who cares.

I know all I need to know by WATCHING Derek Jeter play. He's a postseason powerhouse. Anybody who doesn't think so or has "stats" that say otherwize aren't really watching him play."

I'll let that comment stand on its own and just say that I am fairly sure I have seen Jeter play every single one of his post-season games during at least the last three or four seasons. Oh, and I think "Gleeman propaganda" has a nice ring to it.

I have found, in the 15 months or so that I have been writing this blog, that many people are extremely reluctant to accept anything they feel is related to or based on statistics. I can understand that feeling, because I absolutely despise math when it comes to anything except baseball.

At the same time, I think baseball is the sport that lends itself to statistical analysis more than any other sport. During my freshman year here at the University of Minnesota, I took a prerequisite math class and struggled through the whole semester. There was absolutely nothing about it that interested me and no matter if something was complex or simple, I became bored and frustrated by it. But when it comes to baseball, something clicks and I enjoy using numbers to enhance my experience as a fan.

It strikes me that many people also feel the same way that I do about math in general, but unlike me, many of those people continue to hate numbers even when it comes to baseball. This is one of the things that really frustrates me.

Every announcer calls Derek Jeter "Mr. Clutch" and the majority of fans (particularly those in New York) take this "information" as fact, and it becomes part of Jeter's persona as a player.

Then, someone looks up Jeter's actual numbers and points out that he has not been particularly Clutch at all, and has in fact been very poor in most "Clutch" situations.

Those same fans that bought into the "Jeter is Clutch" idea revolt against the person who pointed this out, solely because he has used "statistics" and "numbers" and all that other scary stuff.

I am one of the most anti-math people in the world, and yet I will never understand the extreme unwillingness to accept something just because it involves numbers. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have written something on this blog, only to get an email from someone that says, basically, "Who cares about the numbers, I watch the games" or "Get your head out of a spreadsheet, I don't need numbers to tell me..."

It's as if some people think that because I say Derek Jeter has hit just .210 with runners in scoring position in his post-season career that I spend my days and nights in some laboratory someplace, working on complex statistical formulas. Meanwhile, the fact is that I watch more baseball games than most people think is humanly possible, and my mathematical abilities stop right after being able to calculate someone's batting average.

I guess I will just never understand how someone can be persuaded into thinking Derek Jeter is a Clutch Player, find out that his actual performances in Clutch situations have not been very good, and respond by dismissing that information, because it involves statistics.

If we learn nothing else from this little exercise in futility, at least we know that the words of Tim McCarver carry a lot more weight than actual numbers when it comes to baseball. And that, my friends, is a scary, scary thought.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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