Thursday, March 12, 2009

The 2009 Annual Royals Authority

The following is an excerpt from The 2009 Annual Royals Authority, now available online here. Craig Brown and Clark Fosler have written a tremendously detailed preview of the upcoming Royals season, a must have for any Royals fan. They were kind enough to ask me to contribute a piece on the 1989 season, which is included in the book. This was part of my "Looking Back at 1989":

The Clutch of Pat Tabler

“Clutch hitting” is an amorphous concept difficult to define and even harder to ascertain. Some believe that certain players have an innate ability to rise to the occasion, while others believe the concept is a product of small sample sizes and selective observation. Critics of the concept of clutch also point out that many of the players deemed as “clutch” are simply great players who are good in all situations, clutch or non-clutch. The concept of clutch also begs the question – why don’t clutch players perform as well in non-clutch situations? Are they just not trying as hard?

If there was a poster-boy for the concept of clutch it was Pat Tabler. Overall, “Tabs” was a pretty mediocre hitter with little power for a first baseman. But with the bases loaded, Pat Tabler was like Dr. Bruce Banner transforming into the Incredible Hulk. TABLER WANT TO SMASH BALL!

It began in 1983, when Tabler went 11 for 19 with the bases loaded. The next season, he was 5 for 9. In 1985, he was near perfect, going 6 for 7 with a grand slam. His clutch took a year off in 1986, but returned the next year as Tabler went 5 for 9. In 1988, he had an insane run, going 8 for 9 with the bases jammed. That is not just good performance in the clutch, that is near automatic performance in the clutch. During those six seasons, he was an amazing 37 for 63 (.587). With the bases loaded, Tabler was more likely to get a hit than make an out.

Having an ability to hit with the bases loaded makes some intuitive sense because of the unique circumstances of the situation. A pitcher is going to be more likely to give the hitter a pitch he can handle, to avoid walking in a run. This is even more likely when a hitter like Pat Tabler and his .379 career slugging percentage is up. Perhaps Tabler had very good bat control and an ability to handle hittable pitches.

But Tabler’s clutch was not simply confined to situations when the bases were loaded. With a runner at third, late in the game with two outs, Tabler hit 89 for 205 (.434). Even in all situations with runners in scoring position, his numbers were well above his career norms. These numbers also refute the idea that Tabler’s success was a mere product of small sample size.

So perhaps Pat Tabler had some mystical ability to come through in the clutch, mesmerizing opponents with his golden locks. Or maybe he’s just a freakish outlier. Who knows?


Jeff Parker said...

I remember being at a game when the hitter before Tabler walked to load the bases, the pitching coach literally ran out to the mound to talk to the pitcher. It did him no good because on the first pitch Tabler lined a single into centerfield bringing home two runs. That dude had some serious bases loaded mojo going.

ChaimMKeller said...

Wait a minute - does this excerpt mean you do not have the right to publish your piece on this Blog? Will 1989 be forever missing from the list of "Looks Back"? I sort of expected you to just repost your piece here as "A Look Back at 1989".

Max said...

I'll probably publish the piece on here next year when the next annual comes out.