Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I Can Make the Joke Because I Can

I don't know how to feel about this article by Mark Kriegel from Foxsports.com. It starts out well:
The Division Series between the Angels and the Red Sox ended, appropriately enough, with Jason Bay, who had toiled in obscurity as a Pirate, scoring on a base hit by Jed Lowrie, a rookie who'd been called up after only 40 games in Triple-A.

These men were strangers to playoff baseball. But then, so what?

The time has come to expose the great ruse of October: postseason experience.

Who needs it?
He's right. To automatically assume that experience is needed for success in the playoffs is plain lazy analysis. This isn't to say that there is nothing to having been there before but relying on the absence of playoff experience as reason for failure is non-analysis. If that were enough to be an analyst, then hire us at ATH. We'll collect paychecks for spouting cliches. We'd hate it but hey times are tough!

To get back to Mr. Kriegel's piece, it then takes a familiar turn:
No one can. Being there before hasn't helped A-Rod. I don't care what the sabermetric geeks do with their calculators; the heroically clutch athlete — the one who elevates his game under pressure — is the foundation of all sportswriting. Therefore, I'm bound to insist that players who distinguish themselves in October are born, not made. That's the difference between an Alfonso Soriano and a B.J. Upton, who homered twice Monday afternoon, between a Francisco Rodriguez — whose record 62 regular-season saves didn't stop him from taking a loss in Game 2 of the ALDS, and a Jonathan Papelbon, whose career postseason ERA remains 0.00.
1) An A-Rod crack. How original!
2) A crack on sabermetricians. Again, very original.
3) While I can agree to some extent that how one handles pressure may have some affect on postseason performance, the examples he uses are a bit odd. Soriano's overall playoff numbers are pretty abysmal (.213/.263/.299, 7 XBH, 53 K, 9 BB) but had two walkoff hits in '01 as well as what looked to be the series-winning home run in Game 7 of the '01 World Series. Francisco Rodriguez had an amazing run in the '02 postseason (28 K, 15 baserunners in 18.2 IP). Did they suddenly become unclutch? Who is to say that Upton won't have a 1-20 series? Who is to say Jonathan Papelbon won't have two games like Calvin Schiraldi had in '86?

My contention with the whole clutch denotation for players is that a reputation can gloss over examples when they do the opposite.

But what do I know? I just play around with my calculator all day.


Skye said...

I just finished using my calculator to average Barry Zito's fastball and curveball velocities for the 2008 season.

I'm a sabermetrician! (Then I played a game on my calc, since it IS a TI-83+ Silver Edition.)

Grif said...

I hate to agree with him, but I keep punching A-Rod's numbers in to my calculator and it keeps giving me NOT CLUTCH.

Maybe my calculator knows more than he thinks.