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  • Michael K. Tamada
    Dec 1, 2001
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      On Sat, 1 Dec 2001, Ed Weiland wrote:

      > Not only that, baseball teams with a good winning pct.
      > in one-run games generally decline the following
      > season (as myself and several other White Sox fans
      > found out this past summer). I suspect the same is
      > true in the NBA, though I have never looked at the
      > subject, nor am I aware of anyone who has.

      I agree 100% with the statements that it is a mistake to look at teams'
      records in close games, and to try to call the ones with good records
      "clutch".

      A minor quibble with the argument above however: while it is indeed true
      that baseball teams with a good winning pct. in one-run games can be
      expected to decline the following season, the same is true of ANY team in
      ANY sport in ANY sort of games. Bill James many years ago thought he'd
      discovered some profound truth in this and dreamt up some corny name for
      it -- "The Law of Elastic Reboound" or something -- but it's been known
      for about a century in statistics as "regression to the mean".

      A team which wins 72 games in an NBA season is EXTREMELY likely to have
      fewer wins the following season. A team which wins 90% of its 1-point
      games in a season is extremely likely to win a lower percentage the
      following season. A team which wins 70% of its 1-point games is very
      likely to win a lower pct. the following season. Etc.

      So while I agree 100% with both of the statements (that teams' 1-run
      records have little meaning, except of course to contribute to their
      win-loss record; and that teams with good 1-run records are likely to see
      a decline in those records the following season), it is not the case that
      the latter statement is evidence in favor of the former statement.

      > I would have no idea how to analyze which players are
      > clutch and which ones aren't. Basketball isn't like
      > baseball where you can just look at what each player
      > does in each AB and go from there. In basketball
      > there's defense, rebounding and passing going on in
      > addition to shooting. Those things would have to be
      > looked at also, once clutch situations were defined.

      True enough if we're looking for "total clutchness" but most of the NBA
      players who are known as clutch are known for being clutch as shooters
      during crunch time. Maybe once in a very long while they'll get a
      reputation for good D in crunch time (Havlicek steals the ball, Bird
      steals the ball), and I can't think of a single player who had a
      reputation as a clutch rebounder. Maybe, say, Wilt, Russell, Silas, et
      al -- but they were simply known as great rebounders period, it's not as
      if people thought they only grabbed rebounds during crunch time and
      lollygagged the rest of the game.

      So to look for clutch players, I think it's an easy step to limit the
      search to being a search for clutch *shooters*, and that is a more
      limited, specific, easy-to-define concept.

      > I've always felt "clutch" was one of those terms
      > people used to describe players they wanted to like.
      > Jerry West was called Mr. Clutch, despite being on the
      > losing team in eight NBA finals and winning only once.
      > This isn't to say West wasn't a clutch player. I just
      > wonder why West got tagged with Mr. Clutch, when it
      > was Bill Russell who was the biggest winner of that
      > time. Probably a racial thing.

      I agree with this also, although I would add the following hypothesis:
      some players are given (or demand) the ball a lot in clutch situations.
      And they thus shoot a lot of those crucial shots. I have no idea if some
      players have a systematically higher probability of making those shots,
      but if they take enough of them, some of them will go in. And people will
      remember those, and tend to forget the shots that they missed. And that
      will lead to the player getting a clutch reputation.

      E.g. maybe Jerry West shot in his career 100 clutch shots, and made 47 of
      them. That'd be identical to his career shooting percentage (both regular
      season and playoff). So unless there's a tendency for clutch shots to
      have a lower percentage overall (which actually might be the case), Jerry
      West shot no better in clutch situations than in non-clutch. But
      sportswriters, fans, and coaches would remember those 47 clutch shots
      made, whereas maybe Wilt only made 15 and Gail Goodrich only made 8, and
      thus Jerry West would get the reputation as Mr. Clutch.

      I would add that the notion that Mike Goodman and others have advocated,
      of looking at playoff games as clutch situations, is I think a good one,
      and the fact that West's FG% was as high in the playoffs as it was in the
      regular season is in itself a fairly remarkable, one might even say
      clutch, performance. Especially given that his scoring per game INCRASED.


      --MKT
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