The Clutch Label is Not Necessarily Good

With the post-season nearing its end, quite a bit of talk exists about which player or team is clutch or not clutch. The Cardinals were clutch in the regular season. Shane Victorino was clutch Saturday night. Carlos Beltran was clutch in Game 1 against the Dodgers. MLB.com even has clutch performance videos. Heck there has even been a mid post-season clutch team. With all the talk of clutch, some writers have examined how the concept and numbers behind clutch don’t exist or idea of clutch raises to many misconceptions and half truths. The problem with all clutch based arguments, the idea of clutch is a positive trait. I believe the complete opposite. — being clutch means the player is distracted and lazy and only cares if the game is on a big stage.

To start out here are two main assumptions about a player:

  1. When a player is at top physical form and locked in mentally they are at 100%.
  2. A player can only give 100%, nothing more.

So if a player is able to turn it up to 100% when a game is on the line or in the post-season, they bring their game up from a lower level. So at what level were they playing at the rest of the time. 90%? 75%? 50%?

It may seem that MLB players didn’t get to the majors by being lazy. How could some reach the top of their game and not be giving it 100% a 100% of time? Well, a couple of the top post-season clutch players admit they didn’t go all out all the time.

How about starting with Mr. Work Ethic, Derek Jeter (source):

Says Jeter, “I’ve always enjoyed the big spots. Especially in the post-season, your focus and concentration sharpen. Over a long season, early in games, your mind has a tendency to wander. But not with the game on the line. And once you’re successful in those spots, you know you can do it and look forward to it.

Now, how about the greatest clutch hitter in playoff history, Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson (from Sixty Feet, Six Inches by Bob Gibson and Reggie Jackson with Lonnie Wheeler):

A hitter should be in his elements when the game is close. That includes the first inning. In the early going, I was always sharp and bright-eyed, bearing down to see what the pitcher had and trying to set a tone – maybe take advantage of him right of the bat, before he could find his rhythm. And late in the game, when the action had built to a crescendo and the crowd was screaming, I’d be in a zone. In those moments, all the distractions would fade away and the task would become more distinct. It would come into focus.

 

What’s hard is concentrating in the fourth inning when the score is 7-1.

and

The World Series was everything I wanted it to be. Come October, it was all you heard or read about. That put it front and center in my world. It was innate for me to be hundred percent zoned in and primed for the World Series. I wish I could have done it during the regular season.

People don’t want to believe the pair’s minds were wandering and distracted the rest of the time. How often did they wander? What effects did it have on the team? Could the team have scored more runs and won more games with little more concentration? People want their heroes to be heroes all the time, just not when the hero thought it mattered.

The truth is good players in non-clutch situations are good players in on clutch situations. Name one player who was considered clutch in the post-season who wasn’t good in the regular season. I just wish people would stop labeling players clutch. All I keep thinking when I hear a person is clutch, Why are giving it 100% the rest of the time?

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One thought on “The Clutch Label is Not Necessarily Good

  1. I tend to agree with the quotes, but I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation of them. It seems to be that Jeter and Jackson both have an easier time in clutch situations, not because they don’t give it their best at all times, but that clutch brings out the best in them. Some people thrive in pressure packed situations and use it to fuel being the best they can. I don’t think any player ever tries not to give 100%, I just think sometimes players have an easier/harder time giving their all and in Jeter and Jackson’s cases it happened to be in the clutch.

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