Friday, October 3, 2008

Scouting for "clutchness"

In an article in USA Today this week, a scouting expert is quoted as saying that when it comes to identifying players who perform in big-game, high pressure situations, "We can't find them."

Well, they exist. I've seen them -- those guys who you turn to with the game on the line. Guys with a natural ability to deliver when it matters the most. Guys who genuinely enjoy "pressure situations" that most people try to avoid. [Three of them are pictured here.]

Padres manager Bud Black is right on when he says: "You can just tell by the look in the player's eyes, how they act, that they enjoy the big stage. In most cases I think, guys who have that look perform well."

NY Mets GM Omar Minaya contends it has to do with concentration: "[Clutch players] have a different level of focus."

As is so much in life, it's about the intangibles. The problem with many scouts is that they're only interested in what can be measured: Height, weight, speed, jumping ability, FG%, PPG, etc. But according to the article, "more teams are asking their scouts to try to report on players' intensity and desire in addition to ability."

In the words of one expert: "Maybe we're just not looking in the right places."

To find these players, you have to put down the stat sheet and go into the gyms of the world and talk with them. Meet them. Look into their eyes. Most of all, you have to watch them perform under certain conditions. Seeing it on film is one thing, but seeing it up close and in person will give you a much better idea of their "clutchness." When talking with those who have "it," you'll know. You can sense it.

Clutch is an attitude, a mind-set. Without a doubt, it's something we're born with -- an inherited quality. I've seen it in 10-year-old kids. How they carry themselves when a (Little League) game is on the line. It's remarkable.

I saw it in high school and in college. And I've seen it coaching in the pros -- both at the minor league and NBA level.

But you can't find it on a stat sheet. Two players could have identical stat lines and one has "it" and the other doesn't.