I like facts…tangible numbers and arguments that have a basis in verifiable reality. As a kid, I bought into clutch hitting. I knew Derek Jeter would kill the Orioles. I knew Armando Benitez or Jose Mesa would spell the Orioles doom.
As I matured, I began to realize that baseball has undertones of history that belie some of the empirical evidence. As we all know, you can’t trust what you see, right Descartes?
Let me put this out of the way first, Don Zimmer was not a very good ballplayer. In 1,095 career games, he batted .235 and posted a .290 OBP. He didn’t hit for much power (just 91 HRs) or steal bases successfully (45/80 in his career). So what helped him stick in the majors for 12 seasons? Perhaps it was his ability to cover a lot of ground, or perhaps it was the timely hitting he exhibited that drove the Dodgers to the pennant in 1955 (only not really).
He was a young guy full of promise in 1955, so you can’t blame whoever wrote this for trying to make Zimmer’s season seem better than it was. However, in the grand scheme of things, his year was pedestrian just like the rest of his career. In 1955, Zimmer batted .235 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and two outs. In late and close games he would hit just .262. With the game tied, Zimmer batted .196. He hit .286 when he came to the plate in the first – third innings, yet just .209 in the fourth through sixth innings and .217 in the seventh through ninth innings. He did bat .600 in extra innings but that included just six plate appearances.
I don’t mean to pick on Zimmer. I simply wanted to rant on whether “clutchiness” is as prevalent as people think. The card above is very pretty and a great backdrop for this discussion. Thoughts?