Is David Ortiz “clutch”?
Actually, wait, don’t answer that. Depending on your point of view clutch hitting in baseball either does or doesn’t exist. There is no in-between. It’s almost come to the point where analytical observers and the old-school baseball types are dug in on this topic like science-based proponents of evolution vs. Creationists.
There’s basically no middle ground. It’s two sides of an argument continually saying “here’s my proof,” without making headway convincing the other side.
If you watch that video of Ortiz’s postseason prowess, you’d have to come away with the impression that he is “clutch,” whatever that often nebulous term might mean. That said, you could still argue there really is no such thing as clutch hitting.
Still, when he stepped to the plate Sunday night with the Red Sox trailing the Tigers 5-1 in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS, a lot of people — Tigers fans and Red Sox fans — anticipated a game-tying grand slam, which Papi provided on the first offering from Joaquin Benoit. It felt expected. Torii Hunter’s flip over the fence in front of the Boston cop? Not so much.
Since moving to Boston in 2002, Ortiz has played in 16 postseason series. He’s posted a sparkling .284/.394/.542 line, which is almost identical his his regular season .381/.381/.549 line. In 264 postseason at bats Ortiz has 15 home runs, a 17.6-to-1 ratio, which is actually worse than his 16.3-to-1 at bat-to-home run ratio in the regular season.
However you want to look at it, Ortiz is just as good a player in April-September as he is in October. It’s only that his home runs in October feel more significant since they’re in pressurized spots with the entire baseball world watching. It makes sense, good players are going to play on good teams and make big plays with the money on the line in the postseason. That’s part of the reason they’re good, not because they’re “clutch” or not.
Speaking of good players, the Tigers throw Justin Verlander this afternoon in ALCS Game 3 (FOX, 4 p.m.). For all the talk of an off year for Verlander, the tall righty enters today’s game having thrown 27 consecutive scoreless innings with a 43-to-5 K/BB ratio. How this pans out against the Red Sox patient batters will be fascinating. Through the first two games Boston batters have drawn nine walks, but have struck out 32 times.