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June 24, 2004

Testing the ''Mistake Hitter'' Hypothesis: Are Some Hitters Adept at Exploiting Bad Pitching?

by Cliff Roscow

One of the most enduring concepts in baseball is the "clutch hitter." Despite statistical evidence to the contrary, scouts, fans, and major league front offices continue to believe that some hitters are "clutch" and others are not. This is particularly evident in the playoffs, where the inability of a player with strong regular season statistics to hit in October is offered as evidence that the player is not "clutch," while other players are lauded for a few, well-timed base hits. While there is no statistical evidence for systematic clutch hitting, however, it is still possible that some players do under (or over) perform in the playoffs, due to a tendency for "mistake hitting." Perhaps there are hitters who build their statistics up against bad pitching, but when faced with the quality pitching delivered in the playoffs, the holes in their game are exposed. Likewise, there may be players who do not have spectacular regular season numbers, but who have a solid batting approach that leaves them in an equally good position against low and high quality pitchers. The former type of player might be seen as "choking" in the playoffs, while the latter is seen as turning in a clutch performance.

January 29, 2004

Premium Article Prospectus Q&A: Jason Szuminski

by Cliff Roscow

After being selected in the Rule 5 draft this winter and traded to the San Diego Padres, MIT graduate Jason Szuminski will have a chance to become the first person from his school to play in the major leagues. In addition to getting selected in the draft, Szuminski spent his winter working for the U.S. Air Force as an aerospace engineer, to fulfill his ROTC obligation. He hasn't taken the traditional road to the big leagues, but Szuminski showed last year that has the stuff to be a contributor in a major league bullpen. While splitting time between three levels in the Cubs organization, Szuminski posted a combined 2.78 ERA in his best season as a professional. He impressed again in the Arizona Fall League, striking out 19 in 19.1 IP. Baseball Prospectus talked with Szuminski about pitching development, rocket science, and how he keeps hitters off balance and hitting the ball on the ground.


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