Friday, May 4, 2007

Stephen Jackson is Clutch

I saw almost none of the Warriors/Mavericks game on Thursday, really; maybe a quarter and a half or so. That means I can’t really offer any sort of in-depth analysis of what Golden State did right (although, just from glancing at last night’s box score, it looks like they did plenty of it). However, there’s a slightly baseball-related point that I would at least like to touch on.

A lot of the discussion about this series has focused on two basic things. One was the Oakland crowd, which was indeed spectacular. They came out big-time and undoubtedly gave the Warriors a significant boost at home (where they won all three games). But another point that’s been tossed around (off the top of my head, I can remember Bill Simmons at and Charles Barkley on TNT mentioning this): Golden State always seemed to be expecting to win.

In the first game of the series (won by the Warriors, putting the basketball world on notice), Dallas significantly altered their regular-season lineup. Their two-headed monster at center (Diop and Dampier) rarely played, and neither started. Instead, Dallas went “small” in an attempt to match up with the unorthodox Golden State style. What Simmons, Barkley, and others have argued is that by doing so, Dallas gave the Warriors a significant boost. In effect, Dallas signaled to Golden State that the Mavericks feared the Warriors.

This whole idea of self-confidence got me wondering about some baseball; specifically, our old friend the Clutch Hitter. If such a thing exists, I would guess that the ability to hit in the clutch is closely linked to a healthy self-esteem. This sort of thing gets taken for granted in basketball all the time; in fact, the other night after Robert Horry had drilled a late three-pointer to push the Spurs past Denver in their first round series, Big Shot Bob said something to the effect of “Hey, it’s just basketball—I know my family will still love me, my friends will still be there, no matter what happens. So I just play ball.” Seems plausible enough.

If self-confidence plays such a role in basketball, why not in baseball? There are a few possibilities, as I see it. Maybe basketball players are full of it, and the issue is non-existent. Maybe our sabermetric disbelief in the clutch hitter is flawed. Maybe baseball has some kind of selection bias that basketball does not, filtering out those that would be affected by the self-confidence issue in the first place. Maybe basketball is somehow inherently different, allowing for more emotion to come out in the play. I have no answer for this in the slightest; if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a combination of all of these factors, and probably many more. But I’d love to hear what you think about it.

John Sharkey tries to bring the runner in from third at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think of A-Rod last season and this season. All athletes are affected by confidence ... in fact almost everything in life.