With the postseason upon us, we have finally reached the peak of the 2004 baseball season. My favorite part of the postseason is watching my hometown Minnesota Twins try to get over the hump and reach the World Series for the first time since ’91. However, the last two years the Twins season has come to an abrupt end as they lost to the New York Yankees in four. Over the last 9 season watching the Yankees in the postseason comes without fail. Listening to announcers ramble on about Derek Jeter being clutch this time of year also comes without fail. Time and again we here announcers call Jeter a “winner” and discuss how clutch he is in the postseason. But just how clutch is Derek Jeter in the playoffs? In order to better understand this question I took a look at a few different aspects of Jeter’s postseason career.
Does Derek Jeter put up better numbers in the playoffs then he does in the regular season? Jeter’s career batting average coming into this season was .317. His postseason average coming into this season was .314, a push. His slugging and on base percentages were .389 and .462 in the regular season; while his postseason numbers were .389 and .469. Another push. In the regular season he scores about .76 runs per game to only .70 runs per game in the postseason, and he drives in .51 runs per game in regular season compare to only .33 runs per game in the postseason. He does have a slightly better stolen base percentage, although only by 2%. As far as statistics go it would appear that Jeter’s postseason numbers are comparable to, although slightly worse then his regular season numbers.
But everybody knows that Jeter actually turns it up another level once his team is in the World Series, right? Not exactly. His numbers in the Series are actually slightly worse then his overall numbers in the postseason. Although he has had some great series, he has also had a couple sub par ones. In 1996 Jeter hit .250 and drove in 1 run. In 2001 he drove in 1 run again, but this time hit only .148. Furthermore, Jeter has never driven in more then 2 runs in any World Series. This leads to two points. One, that Jeter has not been consistent in his World Series performances. And two, that his postseason performances have not escalated in the bigger games.
Then it must be from his clutch performances with the game on the line. The one play that stands out above any other is Jeter throwing Giambi out at home in game 4 of the ALDS. This truly was a great play. However, one play cannot define a player as clutch. Searching for others, I did find that Jeter hit the game-winning homer in game 4 of the 2001 World Series. However, this led me to another question. How many chances has Jeter had to hit a game winning hit in the World Series?
Although I could not come up with an exact number, I estimate it to be around 10-12 chances. He has hit one game winning homerun and also hit a game tying singled on occasion. (Jeter has had game tying hits in other series, but both of them came early in games and for our purposes would not be considered clutch situations.) On these opportunities we know that Jeter was successful twice, but I could not successfully conclude how many times Jeter reached base without scoring a run. However, looking at his number in these games it would appear to be around 3-4 times. Looking at this statistically, that is about the success rate you would expect out of a .317 hitter. This leads me to believe that the big reason that Jeter is dubbed clutch in the playoffs is because he has been given more opportunities then most players and has a success rate similar to the rest of his career.
After taking everything into account, what Jeter has done in the postseason is really what one would expect out of a player of his caliber. It would be a stretch to say that Jeter has not been a contributing factor in four Yankee Championships. However, its also a stretch to give Jeter a nickname like “Mr. November”. His contributions have merely been along the lines of what we would expect out of Jeter. So as you sit back and enjoy the rest of the 2004 postseason, listening to idiots like Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan ramble on about Jeter being a “winner” ask yourself, “Who would you rather have at the plate with the game on the line, Derek Jeter or Kirk Gibson?”