Phil Birnbaum looks at a Bill James study called "The Targeting Phenomenon," where James tried to find out why there are more hitters who finish a season with a batting average between .300 and .304 than there are ones who finish between .296 and .299.
These are very interesting findings, and I wouldn't have expected as much targeting as seems to have actually occurred. But I'm a bit skeptical about clutchness, and whether players really can boost their performance in target-near situations. I wondered if, instead of clutch performance, it might be something else. Maybe, if a player is close to his goal, he is given additional playing time in support of reaching the target.
That is, if a pitcher has 19 wins late in the season, perhaps the manager will squeeze in an extra start for him. Or if a player is hitting .298, maybe they'll let him play every day until he gets to .300, instead of resting him in favor of the September callup. If and when he reaches .300, then they could sit him (as, I think I remember reading, Bobby Mattick did for Alvis Woods in 1980).