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Encyclopedia > Clutch (sports)

In American sports terminology, "clutch" means performing well under extreme pressure. It often refers to high levels of production in a critical game (such as Game 7 of a best-of-seven series), the last hole of a Major Championship golf tournament, or the final minute(s) in a close match. Being "clutch" is often seen by sportswriters and fans as an innate skill which some players have while others do not. Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... The Major Championships, often referred to simply as the Majors are the four most prestigious annual golf tournaments in mens professional golf. ...



A "clutch" athlete is one who performs well in pivotal or high pressure situations. This includes many instances where a good performance means the difference between a win and a loss. Being on many championship teams (preferably with different franchises, or in different seasons with different teammates) seems to help a player's reputation for being clutch, but it is no guarantee in and of itself. Seizing upon one's opportunities in pressure situations is the common thread among all "clutch" players, though, as a player's poor past performance will be forgotten if he/she can make one big play under pressure. Of course, the opposite of being "clutch" is being a "choker," or one who is, by definition, never clutch, a player doomed to fail in any and all pressure-packed situations. In sports, an individual athlete, or, more commonly, an athletic team collectively, is often said to have choked when failing to win a tournament or league championship and if certain other criteria are also met, especially if the player or team had been favored to win, or had squandered a...


Some sports analysts have presented evidence that while individual plays and moments may resonate as "clutch" because of their importance, there is no such thing as "clutch ability" or an inherently clutch player. One example of such an argument is presented in the 2006 book Baseball Between the Numbers published by Baseball Prospectus, which compiles evidence that no baseball players are demonstrably consistently clutch over the course of a career, and that the numbers of allegedly clutch players in clutch situations are in fact no different from players reputed to be "chokers."[1] Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Baseball Prospectus, sometimes abbreviated as BP, is a think-tank focusing on the statistical analysis of the sport of baseball, which is also known as sabermetrics. ...

The Baseball Prospectus team is hardly alone in their skepticism: various baseball analysts, including Bill James, Pete Palmer, and Dick Cramer, have similarly found so-called "clutch hitting" ability to be a myth. This is not to say that clutch hits, like those listed below, do not exist, but rather that any innate ability to perform well in high-pressure situations is an illusion. In his 1984 Baseball Abstract, James framed the problem with clutch hitting thusly: "How is it that a player who possesses the reflexes and the batting stroke and the knowledge and the experience to be a .260 hitter in other circumstances magically becomes a .300 hitter when the game is on the line? How does that happen? What is the process? What are the effects? Until we can answer those questions, I see little point in talking about clutch ability." Most studies on the matter involved comparing performance in the "clutch" category of statistics (production with runners in scoring position, performance late in close games, etc.) between seasons; if clutch hitting were an actual skill, it would follow that the same players would do well in the clutch statistics year in and year out (the correlation coefficient between players' performances over multiple seasons would be high). Cramer's study was the first of its kind, and it found that clutch hitting numbers between seasons for the same player varied wildly; in fact, the variance was the kind one would expect if the numbers had been selected randomly. Since Cramer published his results, many others have tried to find some evidence that clutch hitting is a skill, but almost every study has confirmed Cramer's initial findings: that "clutch hitting," in terms of certain players being able to "rise to the occasion" under pressure, is an illusion. George William “Bill” James (born October 5, 1949 in Holton, Kansas) is a baseball writer, historian and statistician whose work has been widely influential. ... Pete Palmer is an American baseball [statistician]], and one of the leading creators of the mathematical system referred to as sabermetrics. ... This does not cite its references or sources. ... In probability theory and statistics, correlation, also called correlation coefficient, is a numeric measure of the strength of linear relationship between two random variables. ... This article is about mathematics. ... In ordinary language, the word random is used to express apparent lack of purpose or cause. ...

The explanation offered by most skeptics is that players who have several memorable hits in big games, especially early in their careers, acquire the mantle of "clutch hitter," and fans then unconsciously watch for such hits in the future from those players in particular, falsely reinforcing their beliefs over time. Despite the evidence, many people in baseball steadfastly believe in the idea of the clutch hitter. Derek Jeter once told Sports Illustrated after SI reported to the Yankees shortstop that many analysts deny clutch hitting as a skill, "You can take those stat guys and throw them out the window." Derek Sanderson Jeter (born June 26, 1974 in Pequannock, New Jersey) is an American Major League Baseball player. ... The first issue of Sports Illustrated, August 16, 1954, showing Milwaukee Braves star Eddie Mathews at bat in Milwaukee County Stadium. ... Major league affiliations American League (1901–present) East Division (1969–present) Current uniform Retired Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 23, 32, 37, 44, 49 Name New York Yankees (1913–present) New York Highlanders (1903-1912) Baltimore Orioles (1901-1902) (Also referred to as... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...

In many cases, a simple review of statistics debunks the notion that certain players are "clutch" performers. Baseball's Reggie Jackson has long been known as "Mr. October" because of his alleged ability to elevate his game in the post-season. A look at his post-season statistics is instructive. In 281 post-season at-bats, Jackson batted .278 with 18 homers and 48 RBIs. Extrapolated, that would mean 36 homers and 96 RBIs in a full season, which is approximately what we would expect from Jackson in a typical season. The numbers suggest that Reggie Jackson was not a "clutch" performer but a very solid player who performed about the same in the regular season and the post-season. Reginald Martinez Reggie Jackson (born May 18, 1946), nicknamed Mr. ...

Similarly, despite his reputation as a "money pitcher," Jack Morris had a post-season E.R.A. of 3.80, almost exactly the same as his career 3.90 E.R.A. in the regular season. And Derek Jeter, supposedly a "clutch" hitter, has batted .314 in the post-season, almost the same as his career .317 average in the regular season. John Scott Jack Morris (born May 16, 1955 in St. ...

The Great Ones

Some athletes with alleged great focus and mental strength are notable for their clutch performances, even though their "regular season" (or the equivalent thereof) performance is equally good; for example, Tiger Woods in golf, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Redd, Chauncey Billups, John Havlicek, Steve Nash, Gilbert Arenas, Dwyane Wade, Larry Bird, and Reggie Miller in basketball, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, John Smoltz and Reggie Jackson in baseball, and Pete Sampras (and, more recently, Roger Federer) in tennis, Romario, Zidane, (and more recently) Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard in soccer, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in Formula 1, Jonny Wilkinson in Rugby Union, and have all been labeled "clutch" during their careers for performing at a high level in high pressure situations, despite the fact that they (basically) always played that way. Former NBA great Jerry West had such a high reputation as a clutch player that he was given the nickname, "Mr. Clutch." In ice hockey, few players have had as much success in the regular season as goaltender Patrick Roy, but it was in the playoffs that Roy was at his best, winning 3 Conn Smythe Trophies (a feat no other player has accomplished), as well as leading his teams to 4 Stanley Cups and being the record holder for wins in post-seasons. Roy is considered by most as the best goaltender in ice hockey history because of his outstanding tenure in the postseason. Martin Brodeur is quickly gaining recognition as a great clutch player due to his consistency in both the regular season and post season. His performance in shootouts also speaks volumes for his abilities under pressure. NFL players like Joe Montana and Tom Brady, neither blessed with the athleticism and arm strength of "prototype" quarterbacks like Dan Marino, came up big when their respective teams, the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots, needed them in the Super Bowl or in any other big game. Neither Brady nor Montana have put up the stats Marino (who lost his only Super Bowl appearance to Montana) did in his career, but they have 7 Super Bowl wins among them (Montana 4, Brady 3). "Possession" Wide Receivers such as Ricky Proehl, Keyshawn Johnson, Hines Ward, Troy Brown, and Antonio Gates are known to be "clutch." Kickers are commonly exalted for their clutch play as well: former Patriot (and as of this writing, current Indianapolis Colts kicker), Adam Vinatieri has been called the "greatest clutch kicker ever" on the basis of (essentially) five kicks: game-winning field goals in Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII, a 47 yard game winning field goal in frigid weather against Tennessee in the 2004 playoffs, and two others in the 2002 Divisional Playoffs against the Oakland Raiders (in a major snowstorm, no less): one which tied the game, and another in overtime to seal a victory. However, those were not his only clutch kicks: Vinatieri kicked 20 game-winners for New England in his career. Personal Information Birth December 30, 1975 ) Cypress, California Height 6 ft 1 in (1. ... This article is about the sport. ... Kobe Bryant (born August 23, 1978) is an American All-Star shooting guard in the National Basketball Association who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. ... For other persons named Michael Jordan, see Michael Jordan (disambiguation). ... Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (born Akeem Abdul Olajuwon on January 21, 1963) is a retired Nigerian-American professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). ... Michael Redd (born August 24, 1979, in Columbus, Ohio) is an American professional basketball player currently with the Milwaukee Bucks of the NBA, and the United States national basketball team. ... Chauncey Ray Billups (born September 25, 1976 in Denver, Colorado) is an American professional basketball player. ... John J. Havlicek (born April 8, 1940 in Martins Ferry, Ohio) is a retired American professional basketball player who competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA titles, half of them coming in his first four seasons. ... Steven John Nash, OBC (born February 7, 1974),[1] is a Canadian professional basketball player who plays point guard for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association (NBA). ... Gilbert Jay Arenas Jr. ... Dwyane Tyrone Wade, Jr. ... Larry Joe Bird (born December 7, 1956) is a retired American NBA basketball player, widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, and one of the best clutch performers in the history of sports. ... Reginald Wayne Miller (born August 24, 1965, in Riverside, California) is a retired American professional basketball player. ... This article is about the sport. ... Derek Sanderson Jeter (born June 26, 1974 in Pequannock, New Jersey) is an American Major League Baseball player. ... David Ortiz (IPA , or roughly or-TEES, according to Latin American pronunciation) (born November 18, 1975 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, as David Américo Ortiz Arias), is a Major League Baseball designated hitter who plays for the Boston Red Sox (since 2003). ... John Andrew Smoltz (born May 15, 1967 in Warren, Michigan) is a Major League Baseball player. ... Reginald Martinez Reggie Jackson (born May 18, 1946), nicknamed Mr. ... This article is about the sport. ... Petros “Pete” Sampras (born 12 August 1971), is a former World No. ... Federer redirects here. ... For other uses, see Tennis (disambiguation). ... Categories: Brazil-related stubs | 1966 births | Brazilian footballers | People stubs ... Zidane can refer to: Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid and French footballer Zidane Tribal, protagonist of the video game Final Fantasy IX This is a disambiguation page: a list of articles associated with the same title. ... Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, OIH (pron. ... Steven George Gerrard MBE (IPA: []) (born 30 May 1980, Whiston, Merseyside) is an English football player. ... Soccer redirects here. ... Ayrton Senna da Silva (pronounced / /, March 21, 1960 – May 1, 1994) was a Brazilian three-times Formula One world champion. ... Michael Schumacher (pronounced , born January 3, 1969, in Hürth Hermülheim, Germany)[1] is a former Formula One driver, and seven-time world champion. ... Formula One, abbreviated to F1 and also known as Grand Prix racing, is the highest class of single-seat open-wheel auto racing. ... Jonathan Peter Wilkinson OBE (born 25 May 1979 in Frimley, Surrey) is an English rugby union player and member of the England national team. ... For other uses, see Rugby (disambiguation). ... Jerry Alan West (born May 28, 1938, in Chelyan, West Virginia) is a retired American basketball player who played his entire professional career for the NBAs Los Angeles Lakers. ... Ice hockey, known simply as hockey in areas where it is more common than field hockey, is a team sport played on ice. ... Patrick Jacques Roy (IPA pronunciation: ), (born October 5, 1965, in Sainte-Foy, Quebec, Canada — a suburb of Quebec City) is a retired ice hockey goaltender. ... Conn Smythe Trophy on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame The Conn Smythe Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the most valuable player during the National Hockey Leagues Stanley Cup playoffs. ... The Stanley Cup The Stanley Cup (French: ) is the championship trophy of the National Hockey League (NHL), the major professional ice hockey league in Canada and the United States. ... Martin Pierre Brodeur (IPA: ) (born May 6, 1972, in Montreal, Quebec) is a professional ice hockey goaltender who has played his entire National Hockey League career with the New Jersey Devils. ... NFL redirects here. ... Joseph Clifford Joe Montana, Jr. ... Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. ... The quarterback is a position in the offensive backfield of American and Canadian football, directly behind players of the line. He is generally the leader of the offensive team when it is on the field, responsible for initiating play by receiving the snap of the ball from the center. ... Daniel Constantine Marino, Jr. ... City San Francisco, California Other nicknames Niners, The Red And Gold, Bay Bombers Team colors Cardinal red, metallic gold and black Head Coach Mike Nolan Owner Denise DeBartolo York and John York General manager Lal Heneghan Mascot Sourdough Sam League/Conference affiliations All-America Football Conference (1946-1949) Western Division... City Foxborough, Massachusetts Other nicknames The Pats Team colors Nautical Blue, New Century Silver, Red, and White Head Coach Bill Belichick Owner Robert Kraft General manager Bill Belichick (de facto) Mascot Pat Patriot League/Conference affiliations American Football League (1960–69) Eastern Division (1960–69) National Football League (1970–present... The winning Super Bowl team receives the Vince Lombardi Trophy. ... Richard Scott Proehl (born March 7, 1968 in Bronx, New York) is an American football wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. ... This article contains a trivia section. ... Hines E. Ward, Jr. ... Troy Fitzgerald Brown (born July 2, 1971 in Barnwell, South Carolina) is an American football wide receiver for the New England Patriots of the National Football League. ... Antonio Gates (born June 18, 1980 in Detroit, Michigan) is a football tight end for the San Diego Chargers of the NFL. // Before his rookie season of 2003 Gates had not played organized football since his senior year at Central High School in Detroit. ... Adam Matthew Vinatieri (born December 28, 1972 in Yankton, South Dakota) is an American football placekicker currently playing for the Indianapolis Colts. ... Date February 3, 2002 Stadium Louisiana Superdome City New Orleans, Louisiana MVP Tom Brady, Quarterback (New England) Favorite Rams by 14 National anthem Mariah Carey Coin toss George H. W. Bush and Roger Staubach Referee Bernie Kukar Halftime show U2 Attendance 72,922 TV in the United States Network FOX... Date February 1, 2004 Stadium Reliant Stadium City Houston, Texas MVP Tom Brady, Quarterback Favorite Patriots by 7 National anthem Beyoncé Coin toss Earl Campbell, Ollie Matson, Don Maynard, Y.A. Tittle, Mike Singletary, Gene Upshaw Referee Ed Hochuli Halftime show Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Outkast, P. Diddy, Kid Rock... City Oakland, California Other nicknames The Silver and Black Team colors Silver and Black Head Coach Lane Kiffin Owner Al Davis General manager Al Davis League/Conference affiliations American Football League (1960–1969) Western Division (1960–1969) National Football League (1970–present) American Football Conference (1970–present) AFC West (1970...

The average ones who "raise their games" dramatically in the clutch

Still others have based their entire careers around the perception of being "clutch." "Big Shot Rob" Robert Horry (who has now won 7 NBA Championships) has practically admitted to coasting during the NBA's regular season, but always ends up doing something amazing in the playoffs. First, he helped the Houston Rockets win two NBA crowns in the mid-1990's. Then, while with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002, Horry helped bury the Sacramento Kings by nailing an improbable buzzer-beater to win Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. In 2005, Horry drilled 5 3-pointers in the 4th Quarter and overtime (including one with 5.8 seconds left in the extra period) of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, giving the San Antonio Spurs a crucial win over the Detroit Pistons. In 2007, Horry was a role player on yet another NBA championship team, as the Spurs captured the title in a 4-game sweep over Cleveland. Robert Horry (born August 25, 1970 in Harford County, Maryland) is an American National Basketball Association basketball player. ... NBA redirects here. ... The Houston Rockets are an American professional basketball team based in Houston, Texas. ... The Los Angeles Lakers are a National Basketball Association (NBA) team based in Los Angeles, California. ... Also see: 2002 (number). ... The Sacramento Kings are a professional basketball team based in Sacramento, California. ... Year 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Sara Giauro shoots a three-point shot, FIBA Europe Cup for Women Finals 2007 In basketball, a three-point field goal, three-pointer, three-point shot, or simply three is a field goal made from beyond the three point line, a designated semi-ellipsoid arc radiating from the basket. ... Logo of the NBA Finals. ... The San Antonio Spurs are an American professional basketball team based in San Antonio, Texas. ... The Detroit Pistons are a team in the National Basketball Association based in the Detroit metropolitan area. ...

At the same time, skeptics note that, over his career, Robert Horry has hit 36.3% of his 3-point shot attempts in the post-season. Horry's career 3-point shot percentage is almost exactly the same. Hence, while Horry has hit some very memorable shots in important games, he has not "elevated" his performance in the post-season. Rather, he has performed in the post-season just as he always has in the regular season.

Steve Kerr is another NBA player who, while not a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, always seemed to be in the middle of big playoff moments. In 1997, it was Kerr who took the pass from Michael Jordan and made the game-winning shot in Game Six of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz, giving the Bulls back-to-back championships. In the last minute of Game 2 of the 1998 Finals, Kerr missed a 3 point shot but grabbed his own rebound and dished to Michael Jordan, who scored a layup that helped the Bulls even the series at 1-1. Chicago would go on to win another championship that year, thanks in part to Kerr's efforts. In 1999, Kerr helped the San Antonio Spurs win the franchise's first-ever title, and in the 2003 playoffs Kerr made four critical three-pointers in the final minutes of Game Six of the Spurs' Western Conference Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, keying their victory. That same season, Kerr and San Antonio would go on to win the NBA championship over New Jersey. Stephen Douglas Steve Kerr (born September 27, 1965 in Beirut, Lebanon) is a retired American professional basketball player. ... The San Antonio Spurs are an American professional basketball team based in San Antonio, Texas. ...

Claude Lemieux seems to be ice hockey's version of Horry and Kerr, winning four Stanley Cups with three different teams in the 1990s and early 2000s (including one Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP). Dwayne Roloson is another example of an average player who steps up his game during the playoffs with his performances in the 2006 Playoffs with the Edmonton Oilers and the 2003 Minnesota Wild. Golfer Andy North (at best a mediocre PGA Tour player) won only three career tournaments, but two of them were U.S. Opens. In 2003, golfers Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel made Major Championships the site of their first PGA Tour win. Claude Lemieux (born July 16, 1965 in Buckingham, Quebec, Canada) is a former professional ice hockey player active in the National Hockey League from 1983 to 2003. ... Ice hockey, known simply as hockey in areas where it is more common than field hockey, is a team sport played on ice. ... The Stanley Cup is inscribed with the names of all the players on the teams that have won it. ... Conn Smythe Trophy on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame The Conn Smythe Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the most valuable player during the National Hockey Leagues Stanley Cup playoffs. ... Albert Dwayne Roloson (born October 12, 1969 in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada) is an NHL goaltender currently playing for the Edmonton Oilers. ... Year 2006 (MMVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Edmonton Oilers are a professional ice hockey team based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The Minnesota Wild are a professional ice hockey team based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. ... // Andy North (born 9 March 1950 in Thorp, Wisconsin) is an American professional golfer. ... The PGA Tour is an organization that operates the USAs main professional golf tours. ... The United States Open Championship is the annual open golf tournament of the United States. ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Ben Curtis (born May 26, 1977) is an American golfer who was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in Ostrander, Ohio. ... Shaun Carl Micheel (b. ... The Major Championships, often referred to simply as the Majors are the four most prestigious annual golf tournaments in mens professional golf. ...


  1. ^ Nate Silver, "Is David Ortiz a Clutch Hitter?" in Jonah Keri, Ed., Baseball Between the Numbers (New York: Basic Books, 2006): 14-34.



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