Clutch: the word that is tattooed into every idiotic baseball fan's vocabulary, and into the ears of every intelligent baseball fan during an argument regarding a player's talent.
Why is it that we assign more value to performances in the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings as opposed to the previous six innings?
Why is it Joe Crede can strike out three times, leaving nine men on base, but if he hits a solo home run in the ninth inning to send the fans home, he is glorified for his performance?
My thesis regarding the word "clutch" is not only that it does not exist in any sport, but also that any person who has ever been tagged as clutch in baseball is nothing more than a great hitter.
The word needs to be wiped out from sports.
Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Chase Utley: These men are considered clutch—partially thanks to ESPN replaying performances of the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees over and over again, but that is beside the point.
Why are these men considered clutch? Because they get important hits late in the game? What people seem to forgot is that these players get important hits throughout the entire game, not just in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.
These men are great baseball players—they are not clutch baseball players. It is impossible to find a baseball player who is considered clutch who is not a great player; therefore, clutch is not the word to describe them
Growing up a Chicago White Sox fan means having to deal with not only idiotic Chicago fans in general, but idiotic White Sox fans as well.
Fans who believe Aaron Rowand's "grit" was more valuable than Jim Thome's talent. Fans who believe the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 with "small ball" when they had the fifth most home runs in baseball and the most in the American League. Fans who believe Joe Crede is clutch and Alex Rodriguez is not.
Why do they believe that? Because they see Crede get a lot of walk-off hits—but what they do not see is how many runs he cost throughout a game with his bad hitting or, in the case of clutch, his awful hitting with runners in scoring position (a stat no one seems to remember when claiming a player to be clutch).
Lets take a look at the numbers.
I must mention, none of these numbers are accounting for the fact pitchers are going to actually give Crede strikes to hit and not pitch around him, as is the case with Rodriguez. Even with this in mind, Alex Rodriguez is still the hitter you want in your team's last at-bat, even though Joe Crede is considered clutch and Alex Rodriguez is not.
Because Rodriguez is a great player, and clutch does not exist. Crede is a mediocre player who happens to have hits in the ninth inning of games.
Two Outs and RISP: .273 BA, .406 OBP
Tie Games: .297 BA, .396 OBP
One-Run Games: .303 BA, .398 OBP
Two-Run Games: .298 BA, .390 OBP
Innings Seven Through Nine: .286 BA, .373 OBP
Extra Innings: .303 BA, .422 OBP
Two Outs and RISP: .267 BA, .350 OBP
Tie Games: .275 BA, .314 OBP
One-Run Games: .258 BA, .298 OBP
Two-Run Games: .245 BA, .294 OBP
Innings Seven Through Nine: .268 BA, .337 OBP
Extra Innings: .261 BA, .294 OBP
Rodriguez has essentially the same numbers as David Ortiz—or Mr. Clutch, as ESPN has so biasedly named him—in these "clutch" situations.
So why do people give Rodriguez such a hard time, besides the fact ESPN constantly talks about him? Because of his playoff performances?
Rodriguez is a .279 hitter with a .361 OBP and seven home runs in 10 playoff series. Ortiz is a .293 hitter with a .401 OBP and 12 home runs in 13 playoff series.
Yes, those numbers for Rodriguez are not as good as he usually is, but they are not as bad as people attempt to portray them. Let Manny Ramirez bat in front of him and see how he hits in the playoffs.
This is not a plea for Alex Rodriguez to be loved by any means. This is simply proving the biggest person who people have labeled as "not clutch" is actually a great hitter in pressure situations.
Because he is a great hitter in every situation.
Guys like Joe Crede, Jim Leyritz, and Aaron Boone are considered clutch for single hits because those hits are remember more than their many failures, whereas the failures of guys like Alex Rodriguez are blown up and put under a microscope.
We can't judge a hitter based on when he gets hits, whether early in the games or late in the games, or early in the season or late in the season—or even worse, completely judge them based on a two-week span in the playoffs. They can only be judged on their entire catalog.
If players come through early in a game, then "clutch" hits should never be needed because runs in the first inning count for the same amount as runs in the last inning.