October 25, 2007


Beckett is the new Schilling (Sam Donnellon, 10/25/07, Philly.com)

"We've got the best pitcher on the planet going for us tonight," Curt Schilling said before last night's Game 1 of the World Series.

At another time, in this and other places, that would have read as a boast. Once, and not that long ago, Curt Schilling was the guy Josh Beckett was last night, an entry in the win column of the postseason ledger before a pitch was thrown. But the guy who takes the mound tonight does so in a cloud of doubt and uncertainty, his diminished fastball forcing him to tap heavily into the knowledge and guile accrued during his 20 seasons.

"His preparation has always been off the charts," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before last night's 13-1 laugher, and there seemed a twinge of hope in his voice. "That has never changed or wavered. If anything it's probably gotten better."

The notion that there's such a thing as a clutch player or a choker seems pretty absurd, but last night illustrated once again how physical skills can make one appear clutch while choking. Josh Beckett could basically only throw one of his pitches for a strike last night, but it happened to be his fastball. It's already a dominating pitch, but if we assume that he was overthrowing his others because of the excitement of the moment and then accept that he was "overthrowing" the fastball too, then we see that all that his "choking" did was exacerbate the dominance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2007 11:00 AM

The notion of a clutch player or choker isn't absurd. Some people just can't handle pressure as well as others, no matter what the talent level. Others aren't bothered at all.

Posted by: Brandon at October 25, 2007 11:53 AM

The thing is, as intuitively appealing as your theory is, there is no statistical evidence to support it. Regression to the mean is inevitable. And, like OJ said, most confuse "clutch" with "really good".

Posted by: Benny at October 25, 2007 12:25 PM

I guess those hellacious curveballs didn't count. Too bad the Rockies couldn't keep their knees straight on them.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 25, 2007 12:56 PM

He was able to start throwing curves after several innings, when he calmed down. A sinkerballer or slop baller never gets to the calm down point.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2007 2:43 PM