Snow Such Thing As Clutch 

El Papa Malo called me this morning to say he got too riled up and couldn't bear to watch the game last night past the seventh inning, but, wow, what about that J.T. Snow fella? Is he clutch, or what? Which tells me he actually did watch the end of the game, but while walking around the house straightening crooked picture frames or some other busy-making activity. I know how his mind works.

Then I said to him, "Hmm, I don't know. Is J.T. Snow clutch?"

I declined to raise the point with him that clutch may not exist as we know it. Papa Malo is definitely a "I saw it, so it must be" type of guy when it comes to fandom, even though he bought me my first Bill James Baseball Abstract back in 1980 or whatever it was.

Before I wax unsabermetrically about J.T. Snow, I'll insert this paragraph from Joe Sheehan's Baseball Prospectus column yesterday. Ironically, the larger context of the column is Sheehan wondering out loud if the Giants and A's have the moxie to sweep the Pads/Halos and get back into their respective races:

You want to measure clutch? Don't focus on outcomes, but on process, on decisions. Don't tell me a guy's batting average with runners in scoring position, especially when you can see a guy like Jason Kendall get two hits in that situation last night without actually producing a run. Show me who goes up to the plate with a plan beyond, "swing!" Show me players who can work counts and give themselves the best opportunity to succeed through managing the at-bat.

How about show me a guy with great clutch numbers four years running? Such numbers -- how one hits in certain situations, such as "close game, late innings," or "2 outs, runners in scoring position" -- are regarded by statheads to be luck and random variation (are those the same thing?). Or contingent upon the ability of one's teammates to get on base ahead of you.

But four years running? Ladies and gentlemen (much to my surprise), I give you J.T. Snow. ESPN's detailed "clutch" splits only go back four years, so I don't know his performance pre-2002. From 2002 on, Snow has been a fine man to have at a 12-year-old girl's birthday party...I mean, at the plate when the Giants need a basehit:

Close and late: .335/.462/.503 (167 ABs)
Man on 3rd, less than 2 out: .385/.457/.500 (In 52 such ABs, he has 49 RBIs)
Runners in scoring position: .316/.437/.454 (282 ABs)
RISP, 2 outs: .302/.455/.411 (129 ABs)

Those numbers continue this year:

Close and late: .397/.435/.500 (58 ABs)
Man on 3rd, > 2 out: .400/.458/.400 (20 ABs, 14 RBI)
RISP: .326/.435/.442 (95 ABs)
RISP, 2 out: .300/.429/.550 (40 ABs)

As a stathead, I understand the disagreement about clutchness. As a ballplayer, I know firsthand what it's like to tighten up as you walk to the plate in a key situation -- and how keeping loose is a key to hitting. Certain guys handle pressure better than others; it's human nature. Whether the numbers above make Snow a clutch hitter, I leave to debate.

But I will say this: When Brian Sabean sees these numbers in the off-season, and he thinks about that Gold Glove, he'll be awfully tempted to bring J.T. back for another dance.


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