I am not one to believe in the term clutch. In fact, I hate the term. I cannot rap my brain around the idea of a player elevating his abilities during certain moments. If those abilities lay within that player they should be able to manifest themselves in any situation, not simply ones we and the media label as clutch.
But I do believe that good players will perform under any circumstance. The Tampa Bay Rays always seem to put together a team of talented ballplayers that seem to underachieve or are simply undervalued by the general media. But these players are on the Tampa Bay Rays for a reason: they have talent and that talent will eventually manifest itself and September seems to be the time the Rays bring the best out in their players.
We all know about the Rays magical 2011 run to the playoffs.
The Rays were nine games out of playoff contention through September 3rd which was the most games any team has overcome in September to advance to the playoffs. Many of us will never forget Game 162. I know I won't. The 2011 Rays brought the best in September of that year with a wRC+ of 113, the best mark in any month for the team, and their 34 homeruns were tied for the 5th best mark in all of baseball.
So far in 2012, the Rays bats have come to life in September, just in time for that playoff push.
The Tampa Bay Rays took a wRC+ of 95 into the month of September; a number that, in all honesty, I thought would be lower having watched almost every Rays game this season. That is not to say that a 95 wRC+ is good, it is not, but it seems like the Rays bats have been more dormant than that especially when compared to what is going on in September.
But, here we are again, in the month of September, the month were the Rays slumbering lumber wakes up. The month the Rays like to show off their talent and the Rays are sporting a wRC+ of 110 and their 18 homeruns rank 5th in the Majors this month.
B.J. Upton is on a tear with a .495 wOBA and 226 wRC+. Upton's 0.9 fWAR is tied for the third best mark in all of baseball for the month of September. Evan Longoria has a 140 wRC+. Ryan Roberts is posting a 113 wRC+. Desmond Jennings has a 110 wRC+ while battling injuries. Heck, even Carlos Pena is adding to the attack with a 124 wRC+ in September. Ben Zobrist is one of the rare Rays with a wRC+ under 100 and he is at 96 and playing above-average shortstop.
I simply cannot explain why the bats wake up in September. These, for the most part, are the same bats that have been in the lineup the majority of the season yet only produced a 95 wRC+ prior to September.
Despite the recent sweep and lack of offense against the Orioles the Rays are again looking like September sluggers and cannot be counted out of playoff contention.This is a September phenomenon that goes against my belief of clutch hitting but one that I will gladly sit back and enjoy and hope it continues and leads the Rays into the playoffs.