Captain Clutch?

“Clutch” as used on FanGraphs is defined as the following:

Clutch – How much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.

Does anyone have a problem with that as a non-mathematical definition for what people mean at the highest level when they talk about being clutch? Generally, they actually mean “players that do well,” but generally those are good players. Good players doing well are not “clutch,” they are just good. To truly measure the ideal of “clutch” you would have to compare the person’s performance against what you would expect normally. That’s what gets done here.

With that in mind, check this out.

Alex Rodriguez, postseason clutch score 2002-present: 0.73
Derek Jeter, postseason clutch score 2002-present: -0.80

I only included 2002-present because that is what FanGraphs currently has and I don’t have historical postseason WPA. That being said, here’s some numbers covering the years not mentioned above.

Derek Jeter postseason batting line 1995-2001: .304/.377/.448/.825
Derek Jeter regular season batting line 1995-2001: .321/.393/.471/.864

Alex Rodriguez postseason batting line 1994-2001: .340/.375/.566/.941
Alex Rodriguez regular season batting line 1994-2001: .311/.378/.571/.949

That A-Rod, boy he sucks in the postseason. If only he were more like The Captain.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

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Rob in CT
Rob in CT

Easy pickings, of course.

I think Jeter is actually worthy of some praise, because in a ton of plate appearances (basically a full season’s worth), his playoff numbers are basically dead even (actually a little better than) with his regular season career stats (hell, take out the little-boy-aided-HR and it’s probably dead even). The playoffs feature better competition, therefore that’s pretty good. But it’s not OMG CLUTCH!! either. He’s had a number of awful series, just like ARod. But this was never about informed commentary. It was about a relatively unlikeable player with a massive contract being a magnet for negative attention.

Rob in CT
Rob in CT

I should add that I think this really started with the “slap” play. Jeter had gotten on base (single or a walk, IIRC). The Yanks were down by 2, and staring down a game 7 in which they would start Kevin Brown, having blown a 3-0 series lead. It was a huge spot. We all know what happened. It was very disappointing, and furthermore it was very awkward. I think the ridiculous blame ARod stuff stems from that moment.


I do agree that Jeter should get credit for putting up even numbers in the postseason and regular season – like you said, the competition is clearly better in the playoffs. And I’m not much of a fan of Jeter for all the overly ridiculous praise he gets from Yankees fans…