Ordo�ez, a career .307 hitter with the White Sox, led all hitters last year in LIPS batting (.456) and ranks third in those spots over the past 30 years (.325).
"I do believe some guys are good at clutch hitting," Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi says. " Derek Jeter is the reason I believe it. I've hit behind him for two years, and I know in big situations he takes better at bats. He shrinks his strike zone. That's what makes him so good."
Says Sammy Sosa of the Cubs, "I really believe some people concentrate better with the game on the line. That's money time. You focus much better. Some people don't do great in those situations. It doesn't mean he's not a good player. Me? I love it. Always." Sosa, it should be noted, is worse in LIPS (.264) than overall (.278).
Statistical analysts cringe at such heroic notions. Writes Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, "It's this need to turn physics and physicality into a statement about the character of people...that is the most damning thing about the myth of clutch."
Moreover, memory and reputations can be misleading when it comes to clutch hitting. David Justice, for instance, fashioned something of a favorable October reputation largely because of his home run in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series and his record 398 postseason at bats. Justice, however, hit .224 in postseason LIPS, 27 points worse than his regular-season LIPS average.
"I always liked seeing Mark Lemke up there," Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux says of his former Braves teammate. "He comes to mind when I think about clutch hitters." Lemke, however, was a career .246 hitter overall and no better in LIPS at bats (.244).
So is clutch hitting myth or magic? It's like asking what's in the water at Lourdes: It depends on who's answering. A Carmelite nun, for instance, might find lacking the chemist's determination that the water is nothing but two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen; the chemist might scoff at the sister's belief in its healing properties. According to two of the most statistically oriented general managers in baseball, it may take both sides of the brain—employing art and science—to properly define clutch hitting.
"These are human beings playing the game," says Dodgers G.M. Paul DePodesta. "There is a human element to this, including what happens in what we deem to be pressure situations."
Says Red Sox G.M. Theo Epstein, "I'm torn. I know what the numbers say, yet I admit when we have meetings and talk about players as being clutch, I agree that there's something to it. I admit it: I've got a foot in both camps."