Friday, July 15, 2005

Gammons: Sheffield clutch

Couldn't help but triple take this blurb from a recent Peter Gammons entry at espn.com:

"a reputation as one of the most-feared clutch hitters of his time"

Hold on a second there, professor. A reputation with who? I can't seem to dig up an article - it was possibly Rob Neyer - where someone looked into the phenominon, so I'll skip that aspect for now.

A clutch hitter should come up big in big situations. Unfortunately, I can't give you stats like "ABs after the fifth inning when his team was tied or down by 1-3 runs". Let's look at his post season statistics. As a rule, every game in October is pretty important.

Year Team G AB R H HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG
1997 FLA 16 50 13 16 3 7 20 8 1 0 .521 .540 .320
2002 ATL 5 16 3 1 1 1 7 3 0 0 .348 .250 .063
2003 ATL 4 14 0 2 0 1 2 0 0 0 .294 .143 .143
2004 NYY 11 48 9 14 2 7 9 9 0 1 .404 .500 .292
TOTALS: 36 128 25 33 6 16 38 20 1 1 .435 .445 .258

Sadly, I'm too lazy to format this in a table. I'll tell you what you need to know:

In 128 post season atbats, Sheffield is hitting .258 with 7 home runs. He is posting a .880 OPS, which is very good (thanks mostly to his uncanny eye for the strike zone). He has 25 RBI in 36 games. Not bad - runs are scarcer in October - but not otherworldy (quick math makes that look like pace for about 100 in a normal season).

For Atlanta in 2002-03, he compiled 30 ABs and 3 hits. 3 hits. He had a fantastic post season in 97 and a pretty decent one last year, but when the yankees needed him the most he couldn't produce (but then, neither did anyone else on the team; I'm convinced this was some sort of karmic boomerang for 96). In 2003-03, he had Chipper Jones hitting behind him (and this, plus the move to LF, seems to have hampered Chipper's production), so he had plenty good protection.

I don't know if I can ever allow someone who went 3-30 for one postseason stretch to be called clutch. Yes, I am viewing this through my tomahawk shades. No, I won't apologize for that. Sheffield was a big reason we floundered those years.

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