Longtime MLB pitcher Don Drysdale was something of a controversial Hall of Fame selection in 1984 because many viewed his overall statistics as not being worthy of induction into Cooperstown.
His supporters offset this contention by saying that Drysdale was the definition of a clutch pitcher. If a team needed a big win, Drysdale was the guy they would want on the mound.
In his book "Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?" Bill James decided to see if the evidence backed up the claim. He set up a list of criteria to define what constituted an important pennant stretch run game and then reviewed Drysdale's performance in those contests.
What he found was actually a bit of a shock. To quote James, "Twelve times Drysdale had a chance to beat the most critical opponent in the heat of a pennant race. He never won; he never pitched particularly well without winning."
It is not certain that Drysdale would have been kept out of the Hall of Fame had that evidence been available to the voters the year he was inducted (James' book was originally published in 1994), but having that type of devil's advocate argument certainly would have added more credibility to the voting process.
The same type of argument should be made in the case of former New England Patriots and New York Jets running back Curtis Martin. Even though Martin rushed for more than 14,000 yards in his career, his candidacy is still not considered a lock.
The chief reasons given for this are (1) he was not thought to be a breakaway threat and (2) he did not play tough in big games.
So what do the numbers say about these claims? In a nutshell, they offer significant support for Martin's candidacy.