Kepner: Allen Craig, a reason to believe in clutch hitting

From Tyler Kepner at the New York Times on August 31, 2013:

One strike from elimination in the 2011 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals roared back and won. One strike from elimination in their division series last fall, the Cardinals did it again. So it should be no surprise that the Cardinals have been unusually clutch at the plate this season.

Then again, the concept of clutch hitting could be a myth. Statisticians often suggest that over time, players simply perform to their career norms in tight situations.

The sample size may still be too small, but the Cardinals and their cleanup hitter, Allen Craig, have challenged that notion. The team entered the weekend hitting .327 with runners in scoring position, well above the major league average, .254. Craig, their first baseman, was hitting a mind-bending .452.

“It’s funny that it’s just .450, because it feels like he always gets the guy in,” Cardinals reliever Randy Choate said. “The thing is, he can hit it anywhere. One time he’ll pull it, and then all of a sudden, he’s in the right-center-field gap. It’s just amazing that every time we need it, he gets it done.”

In the last 40 seasons, the highest team average with runners in scoring position is .311 by the 2007 Detroit Tigers. The highest individual average in that time is .469 by Kansas City’s George Brett in 1980. With a hot September, the Cardinals and Craig could top the lists.

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Originally published: September 3, 2013. Last Updated: September 3, 2013.