Bobby Richardson and clutch performance


Kenneth Matinale

October 24, 2008

I have long cited Bobby Richardson's World Series performances in 1960 and 1964 as anecdotal evidence that, like all of us, athletes can raise their game and perform well above their normal level in clutch situations such as the World Series.

Bobby Richardson's stats.

Richardson's lifetime regular season numbers:



.266  .299  .335

Not very impressive.  Bobby was a classic good field, no hit player.  Then how do we explain his World Series batting?  Here it is:

.305  .331  .405

This does not come nearly close enough to telling Bobby's story. Aside from zero at bats in the 1957 World Series and five in 1958 WS, Bobby played full time in five consecutive WS from 1960 through 1964. Three of those WS went seven games: 1960, 1962, 1964. In the first and last Bobby had mega WS. He set WS records in both: most RBI (12) in 1960 and most hits (13) in 1964. Bobby also set the record for most RBI in a game: six in game three, 1960.

So, in forty percent of Bobby's WS he had mega performances. Plus, in the five game 1961 WS he batted very well:

.391  .391  .435

Bobby hit poorly, or what you would expect from a hitter of his ability, in two of the five WS:

.148  .233  .148        1962
.214  .267  .286        1963 - four games

So, in

 forty percent of Bobby's WS he had poor performances.

Here is how Bobby did against pitchers he faced the most in the WS (minimum 7 AB):

                 AB Hits BB BA OBP

Gibson 14 7 0 0.5 0.5

Sanford 10 2 2 0.2 0.333333333

Law                 9 3 0 0.333333333 0.333333333

Koufax 7 2 1 0.285714286 0.375

O'Toole 7 5 0 0.714285714 0.714285714

Pierce 7 0 0 0 0

Simmons 7 3 0 0.428571429 0.428571429

For a player to achieve his regular season numbers in the WS is good since the opposition has better pitching than that faced in the regular season and the pitching is not diluted by the regular season schedule, which in those seasons included many doubleheaders.

If we arbitrarily broke up Bobby's regular season games into seven game chunks starting on opening day, what are the chances that forty percent of them would result in mega performances? And that another twenty percent would be very good? That forty percent would be sub par would not seem unusual.

Was it just chance that Bobby Richardson would perform so far above his norm in such a high percentage of his opportunities? What are the chances?  Unless Bobby was clutch.

***   The End   ***