This article appears in the Nov. 2 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Charles Darwin wouldn't have had to bother with mockingbirds and tortoises and flowers if he'd been born a century later. To prove his theory of natural selection, he could have just watched baseball in October, when players with specific traits tend to thrive, and the rest get left behind by history.
How is it that Derek Jeter always seems to be smack dab in the middle of the biggest plays in the biggest games? And how is it that Matt Holliday could be one of the best hitters in the National League for the last two months of the 2009 regular season but then get picked on in the playoffs as if he were the runt of the St. Louis litter? There will always be Bucky Dent moments, the aberrations. But there are some skill sets that can help predict success, or failure, when it matters most.