Is it really harder to play in pressure-cooker?

When I was growing up — granted, that covers a huge number of years — I heard a lot about players who just couldn’t handle playing in New York. With the best example being Ed Whitson. But I don’t remember seeing a comprehensive study, even though Bill James must have looked at this in one of the annual Baseball Abstracts.

Well, FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine has done a comprehensive study, and he’s found … nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly. Paine checked not only New York, but also Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. He found that hitters performed slightly worse than expectations after moving to one of those pressure-packed cities … but pitchers actually did better.

Two caveats. One, I wouldn’t have expected to see much here. If there was something, I would have guessed it was caused by George Steinbrenner, rather than the cities generally. And Steinbrenner did most of his best work a long time ago. Two, some players might self-select them right out; we can recall stars (Greg Maddux, for example) who simply refused to sign with the Yankees.

Good stuff, though.