So Clutch It Hurts

20060611_rangers_redsoxIt’s an off-day — both on the field and at home — so I decided to tackle an analytical piece brought up by yesterday’s Papi blast.

David Ortiz since joining the Red Sox has hit the second-most walk-off home runs in baseball, one behind Albert Pujols. Add in the postseason, and Ortiz leads, 9-8. There’s been a lot of talk here about the alleged clutchiness of David Ortiz, centering around two questions: Is there such a thing as clutch? If there is, is Big Papi really all that?

(Note: This post is pretty lengthy and stat-heavy. So be warned. If that ain’t your thing, you might not like it).

I’m not even gonna go into the first question. We’ll just have to
assume there is such a thng, that some players have the ability to turn
it up an extra notch when the game’s on the line. Plugging Ortiz’s
stats since arriving in Boston into the splendid Day-by-Day database maintained by David Pinto at Baseball Musings, here are the big man’s totals as a Red Sock:

  • 1,861 AB
  • 137 HR
  • .293 BA
  • 0.976 OPS
  • 13.58 AB/HR
  • 4.83 AB/K

I’m not gonna use newer, saber-friendly stats. They might be more accurate, but if the abbreviation isn’t readily understandable, I’m not sure the usefulness for the general reader. WPA, VORP and RC are great tools, but they require formulas I can’t do myself, so we’ll have to discard them here.

The first measure of clutchiness is performance with men on base as
opposed to when the pressure’s off and the bases are empty. Ortiz hits .280 with no one on base, .306 with runners on. The situations in which he performs the best:

  1. Men on 2nd/3rd — 44 AB, .386 BA, 1.074 OPS, 1 HR, 5.5 AB/K
  2. Bases loaded — 55 AB, .364 BA, 1.055 OPS, 18.33 AB/HR, 5.0 AB/K
  3. Men on 1st/2nd — 184 AB, .348 BA, 1.064 OPS, 15.33 AB/HR, 5.94 AB/K

Papi actually is a better home run hitter with the bases empty,
presumably because pitchers are being extra careful with men on base.
Clearly, however, his on-base and power numbers, as well as his
strikeout numbers, are significantly better than average with men on base. Over 532
ABs with runners in scoring position (roughly a full season), Ortiz has
batted .323 with 22 HR and an astounding 284 RBI. His on-base
percentage sits at a pretty .422 with runners at second or better
(helped by intentional walks, I’m sure).

Arguably the most important
of the clutchy stats is RISP/2 outs. Ortiz is slightly above average
here, helped by yesterday’s heroics: .300 BA, 1.011 OPS, 14.19 AB/HR,
5.04 AB/K. He excels most with a runner on third and fewer than two
outs (which isn’t surprising — it’s a great situation for a hitter),
where he hits .343 but with no home runs in 108 at bats.

Ortiz is anything but average in extra innings, where he might just
be the most feared hitter to face when you’re playing an inning with two
digits. In 27 extra-inning at-bats, Ortiz has 6 home runs, one every
4.5 at bats. He’s hitting .370 with an OBP of .433 and a slugging
percentage of 1.111 in the 10th frame or later. (Pinto’s post on this led me to do some more research for this analysis).

In the ninth, Ortiz is hitting a woeful .234, but his 11.64 AB/HR
are better than average. As I’ve mentioned, he’s second in the majors
in walk-off home runs since 2003, a fair number of which took
place in the ninth.

Clearly, however, pitchers want to avoid Ortiz in the seventh, where
he’s hitting .325 with 18 HR in 212 at-bats (11.78 HR/AB), and an OPS
of 1.084. Adding everything up, how does Papi do in the 7th inning and
later?

  • 568 AB, .290 BA, 0.992 OPS, 11.59 AB/HR, 3.97 AB/K, 49 HR, 143 RBI

His power is better than average late in games. He’s no Babe Ruth
out there, but he’s dangerous — even more dangerous than in the first
six innings.

Finally, when looking at how Ortiz does in a given in-game
situation, we need to see where the Red Sox stand when Ortiz starts
mashing. If all his late-innings damage comes when the Sox are up or
behind by 32 runs, then what’s the point?

Ortiz is average or better in the following cases: When the game is
tied, when the Sox are leading by 1 and 3 runs and when the Sox are
trailing by 1, 2 and 5+ runs. His three best lines:

  1. Leading by 3: 127 AB, .346 BA, 1.113 OPS, 10.58 HR/AB, 5.08 K/AB
  2. Leading by 1: 195 AB, .333 BA, 1.049 OPS, 16.25 HR/AB, 4.88 K/AB
  3. Trailing by 1: 187 AB, .305 BA, 1.012 OPS, 11.69 HR/AB, 5.84 K/AB

When the Sox are tied, in 522 at-bats, Ortiz is hitting .293,
spot-on with his average, but his OPS is higher, at 0.994, his home-run rate is average, and he strikes out slightly more. Nevertheless,
it’s clear that Ortiz performs best when the game is close. He’s not
racking up the stats in blowouts.

Ortiz has obviously racked up the stats, but if they all come before the All-Star Break, then they don’t mean as much. Ortiz’s two best months of the year:

  • June — 313 AB, .329 BA, 1.022 OPS, 14.23 HR/AB, 5.80 K/AB
  • September — 285 AB, .302 BA, 1.021 OPS, 10.96 HR/AB, 4.67 K/AB

In 14 October regular-season at-bats, Ortiz is hitting .357 with a
.500 OBP. Although his batting average and K-rate are worse in
September, Papi turns on the power when it counts. In fact,
month-by-month, here are Ortiz’s OPS totals.

  • April: 0.912
  • May: 0.886
  • June: 1.022
  • July: 1.005
  • August: 1.031
  • September: 1.021

So Big Papi is especially big in the seventh inning and later,
particularly in extra innings, in the pennant-race months of August and
September (and October — not even counting the postseason), with runners in scoring position and when his
team is within three runs of its opponent. That is quite an impressive
array of clutchiness. In no key stat is Ortiz significantly below his average —
in other words, you can statistically count on him to do no worse in a
clutch situation than he does in any other. And more than likely, he will do better. Clutch? Yes.

And, just because it’s fun, Ortiz hits better against the division-rival Yankees (.315/0.997) and Blue Jays (.311/1.069)
than against any other AL team. The park where he hits the best? Yankee
Stadium — .336, 1.082. This is less surprising, of course, because
Papi is a lefty, and many Sox lefties have abused the Stadium’s
right-field porch over the years.

P.S.: For the heck of it, I also compared Ortiz versus ARod, Pujols and Manny, to try to answer whether Ortiz
is any more clutch than other great hitters (this gets back to the
"does clutch exist?" argument). Lettered by Ortiz, Pujols, Alex and
Manny:

Totals, 2003-06:
O: 1,861 AB, .293 BA, 0.976 OPS, 13.58 AB/HR, 4.83 AB/K, 0.24 RBI/AB
P: 1,959 AB, .336 BA, 1.083 OPS, 12.64 AB/HR, 9.70 AB/K, 0.22 RBI/AB
A: 2,036 AB, .300 BA, 0.903 OPS, 14.14 AB/HR, 4.54 AB/K, 0.20 RBI/AB
M: 1,890 AB, .308 BA, 1.004 OPS, 13.40 AB/HR, 4.86 AB/K, 0.22 RBI/AB

All four are fantastic hitters. Since 2003, Pujols has obviously
been the best, followed by Manny and Ortiz. ARod — I’ve always wanted
to say this — brings up the rear. This actually is surprising to me. I
would have thought Rodriguez would have had better numbers than these.

Runners in scoring position, 2003-06
O: 527 AB, .321 BA, 0.968 OPS, 25.10 AB/HR, 5.55 AB/K, 0.53 RBI/AB
P: 458 AB, .365 BA, 1.190 OPS, 12.05 AB/HR, 9.54 AB/K, 0.56 RBI/AB
A: 558 AB, .280 BA, 0.891 OPS, 18.00 AB/HR, 4.16 AB/K, 0.43 RBI/AB
M: 519 AB, .337 BA, 1.172 OPS, 12.36 AB/HR, 5.19 AB/K, 0.54 RBI/AB

Pujols just has sick numbers there, and Manny actually is a scarier
prospect with men in scoring position than Ortiz. ARod comes out very
poorly here.

7th inning and later, 2003-06
O: 568 AB, .290 BA, 0.992 OPS, 11.59 AB/HR, 3.97 AB/K, 0.24 RBI/AB
P: 577 AB, .326 BA, 1.085 OPS, 11.78 AB/HR, 8.88 AB/K, 0.21 RBI/AB
A: 612 AB, .281 BA, 0.898 OPS, 17.00 AB/HR, 4.05 AB/K, 0.17 RBI/AB
M: 559 AB, .282 BA, 0.914 OPS, 15.53 AB/HR, 4.30 AB/K, 0.17 RBI/AB

Ortiz and Pujols hit to their averages late in games, but Papi drives in more
runners and hits more home runs. ARod again does not look good here,
slightly worse than Ramirez.

When team is tied or within 1 run, 2003-06
O: 900 AB, .304 BA, 1.015 OPS, 13.43 AB/HR, 5.42 AB/K, 0.21 RBI/AB
P: 1,004 AB, .325 BA, 1.096 OPS, 10.91 AB/HR, 7.84 AB/K, 0.24 RBI/AB
A: 963 AB, .308 BA, 1.027 OPS, 13.01 AB/HR, 4.52 AB/K, 0.21 RBI/AB
M: 917 AB, .308 BA, 1.014 OPS, 14.11 AB/HR, 4.50 AB/K, 0.21 RBI/AB

They’re all pretty even here — Pujols underperforms to the extent
where he’s mortal, in line with the other three. Ortiz is above average in every category except RBI per at-bat, and so is ARod. Manny is about average.

These three stats taken together show us that Pujols is just too
good. He performs at spectacularly high levels in every situation,
regardless of pressure. One could fault him for not performing better
in such situations, but how much better can a player perform than what
Pujols does regularly? Ramirez performs above average w/RISP, and is average in
the other two situations. Rodriguez does poorly with RISP and in the
late innings and is above average when the team is close. Ortiz is
above average when his team is close and late in games, and his contact
is above average with RISP.

I’m not going to say Ortiz is more clutch than Pujols, but it’s
clear Big Papi’s already impressive numbers improve in clutch
situations for whatever reason, more than other elite hitters’ do.

(Edited to include awesome FanGraphs.com chart of Game 1)

26 comments… add one
  • good stuff. A couple of questions: How would incorporating ball park effects change these numbers? It seems to me that A-Rod’s offensive production is particularly impressive as it comes from a righty playing at Yankee stadium half his games. It it possible that he actually is not bringing up the rear (for 2003-2006 totals)?
    Did the numbers for A-Rod surprise you? In other words, most people say he’s unclutch, but as far as I can tell he’s pretty good based on your numbers. He might not be in the stratosphere that is Pujols or Ortiz, but he doesn’t seem deserving of the unclutch tag.

    Nick-YF June 12, 2006, 6:45 pm
  • I, for one, am convinced Papi is clutch, to the extent that clutchness exists, which I think it only does minimally. (This is addressed in Baseball Between the Numbers in some depth, and I’ve seen other sabermetrician take their cracks at the idea as well). As for this estimable presentation, there are certain numbers that i would say present small-sample issues, and others than can be explained as reasonable deviations from mean. And I’m guessing that, as Paul suggests, there are indeed more advanced metrics that might tell us–who knows?
    What I do know is this: Papi absolutely rakes. God help the pitcher staring him down in a late inning situation.

    YF June 12, 2006, 7:21 pm
  • Paul if you are saying A-Rod’s numbers could be skewed because he is a righty at Yankee Stadium, well isn’t it equally as impressive that Ortiz is a lefty at Fenway?

    NeffSox June 12, 2006, 7:30 pm
  • That was me who brought up A-Rod’s numbers at Yankees stadium. I might be wrong, but my guess is that righties have had it worse at the stadium than lefties have at Fenway. Anyone know?
    To me, the clutch debate is problematic because of the dubious nature of the definition of clutch. I get that we generally identify late inning hgih pressure situations as the moments when clutch hitting occurs. That seems to be the fundamental starting point. Sometimes, the debate opens up to earlier innings, and we include hitting with RISP. The idea I guess is to demonstrate that a hitter is good under pressure and that his hits are more valuable. Regarding the pressure component of the argument, who deals with more pressure than A-Rod? Seriously, he plays in the biggest market, with a huge and famous contract. He’s despised by the media. He isscrutinized virtually every at bat. Under this enormous pressure he managed to win the MVP, putting up some of the best numbers by a Yankees righty ever. Did he perform well under pressure, or can pressure only be defined by the game situation? The second component is the value of the hit. A run is a run is a run. No one has ever convinced me that a homer with a 3-run lead in the third is less a run than a homer to break the tie in the bottom of the ninth. And if I wasn’t at work I’d continue this inarticulate rant.

    Nick-YF June 12, 2006, 7:46 pm
  • No one has ever convinced me that a homer with a 3-run lead in the third is less a run than a homer to break the tie in the bottom of the ninth.
    I understand the gist of your post, Nick. But doesn’t one win a game outright, the other increase a lead? I mean, I may be a bit of a simpleton, and I know that no lead is technically safe (except, of course, the one given by a bottom of the ninth dinger), but even I can see the difference between these two things, both functionally and aesthetically. Statistically the guys at BP may say something different

    SF June 12, 2006, 7:57 pm
  • It certainly aesthetically different, but couldn’t you say that both are functionally the same, or at least can be functionally the same. A-Rod hits a solo homer that puts the Yanks up 4-0 in the third. The Sox come back in the ninth within a run thanks in part to Papi homer with two outs. Manny strikes out to end the game. The one run is the difference. Its function was to give the ultimate lead to the Yanks. If it didn’t happen, the Yanks don’t win.
    By the way, this is why Yanks fans give curtain calls for 2nd inning homers.

    Nick-YF June 12, 2006, 8:09 pm
  • C’Mon, Nick. The Yanks give sencond inning curtain calls to piss me off – you know that!
    Actually, since you brought it up, I think that the “curtain call” should be reserved for things like a last at bat home-run or a last a bat huge strike out, and nothing more. They should be reserved for things great, and nothing less. Every other team’s fans understand that – why can’t the Yankees?
    Also, and I don’t mean to sound like a jerk here, but it is MUCH harder to hit a homerun when you have to do so. Trying to hit a homerun is the worst thing any batter can do. Combine this fact with what seems to be an inordinate amount of pressure that the Sox fans put on Papi in this situation, and it’s easy to understand how absolutely incredible the man is. I refuse to put A-Rod, clearly the most talented player in the game, on Papi’s level until he comes close to giving the Yankee fans something to actually give a curtain call for – several game winning moments. When A-Rod hits a bomb in the 12th or 13th inning against K-Rod to play in the ALCS, and then does it again against the Yankees in the next series, he deserves his own level of admiration. Not that A-Rod deserves what he gets from those “classy” fans at the stadium, but he most certainly doesn’t compare with the stick when it matters.

    Brad June 12, 2006, 8:20 pm
  • But you described a game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth, not a meaningless get-within-one dinger. So I am not sure what you are saying.
    I suppose this is where math fails again. In the bottom of the ninth, one would suppose a hitter is facing a specialty pitcher, a team’s closer. In the bottom of the fourth with a four run lead, a three run jack is coming against a weak starter or a middle reliever. So math doesn’t tell us everything.

    SF June 12, 2006, 8:22 pm
  • that’s a fair point. Although, the early innings homer might come against as a starter. And all this further deconstruction kind of supports my greater point, which is that it’s very hard to define clutch. Was it not clutch of Papi to hit that game-winning home-run in the 2004 ALCS against the great Esteban Loaiza? Or was it less clutch that the greatest point of clutch (whatever that is)?
    Also, how is Papi’s 3-run homer meaningless if it brings up Manny with a chance to tie? Ultimately, A-Rod’s homer is part of the difference. His homer made Ortiz’s homer “meaningless”
    As an aside: I hope you don’t have me pigeonholed as a stathead, or math guy. I think I’m trying to use my flawed grasp of logic and basic numbers to make an argument.

    Nick-YF June 12, 2006, 8:30 pm
  • freakin’ awesome post. this is the kind of thing i just don’t have the knack for. excellent. thank you for this.

    beth June 12, 2006, 10:19 pm
  • As an aside: I hope you don’t have me pigeonholed as a stathead, or math guy. I think I’m trying to use my flawed grasp of logic and basic numbers to make an argument.
    No way – no worries. And if you were a stathead or math guy I’d respect you all the same ;-)
    I actually love the statistical aspect of baseball, how it has changed the way we look at things. But I do find that it tends to disallow complexity, ironically. Devoid of the psychological, the numbers don’t let us look at situational baseball in human terms, only mathematical ones. This is what I find most frustrating. Just look at my incessant blasting of Tito’s batting order. BP (and YF) would say that I have no case, the numbers don’t lie, OBP and batting order position are irrelevant, but I would counter with “but what about how a player reacts to his position in the order?”, or “what about enabling slumps?”, or “what about screwing with a player’s routine by moving him around the order every three days?”. I think we’ve come to rely on the BP-type stats a little too much. Though they add a great deal, and help complete our understanding of players, teams, and performances, they are unable to take into account a vital aspect of the game that is unquantifiable: the humanity of it. I don’t dislike statheads. I just want my stathead to be a human being.

    SF June 12, 2006, 10:33 pm
  • A couple quick points:
    YF, there are some obvious sample-size issues, as you noted, and some instances of possible deviation. I’m not a stats guy either. What you see (calculating averages, ratios and percentages) is about the limit of my statistical ability, so I couldn’t tell you how common such deviations are or should be… Nevertheless, Papi doesn’t deviate from the mean negatively at all in any of these categories. The closest would be his 9th-inning batting average, but even there his power numbers are good. So, sure, we have possible sample-size and deviation issues, but it would be truly amazing, I would think, for all these issues to randomly occur in Ortiz’s favor.
    Nick, I hadn’t thought of park effects in my post, mostly because the comparison to other players was an afterthought. I’m sure ARod’s numbers are suppressed by Yankee Stadium, perhaps more so than Ortiz’s by Fenway Park. I was surprised by ARod’s numbers because I expected them to be better than everyone else’s except Pujols’. In fact, his numbers were worse across the board than any of the other three. Doing a quick check of Baseball Reference, Ortiz’s OPS+ (park-adjusted OPS in which 100 is average), Ortiz the last three seasons has hit 144, 145 and 161. ARod’s has been 148, 133 and 167. Clearly, the park has made a difference. As for whether he’s been “unclutch” in that time — to whatever extent one can be clutch or unclutch — I imagine a lot of it comes from his pathetic .228 average (.783 OPS in 101 ABs) at Fenway Park since 2003. Hard to be clutch in any situation when you’re doing that poorly.
    As for whether homers mean more in the second or seventh innings, of course they do. Not in the stats (key problem with using them to determine clutchiness), but from the seventh on, each individual at-bat means far more than in the second. It’s a key reason why WPA and similar stats being espoused of late on SOSH (mostly in response to the MVP vote) have gained popularity. The pressure on the hitter (and pitcher) in those situations is much greater. This is why it’s so difficult to be a great closer, and why we’ve seen great middle releivers and great starters fall on their faces when called upon in the ninth, and it’s the main reason why I think it’s hard to argue conclusively that “clutch hitters” do not exist, as if every at-bat were isolated in a test tube, devoid of the context of the game and left to the law of averages and the talent of those involved. This is obviously not the case, so I’m not sure why the sabercrowd argues as if it is.

    Paul SF June 13, 2006, 12:31 am
  • “but from the seventh on, each individual at-bat means far more than in the second.”
    It depends on the game, doesn’t it? A guy hits gets a solo homer-run in the 2nd inning of a game that puts his team ahead 1-0. Say his team starts piling on runs and by the 7th it’s 10-0. Then I assume you believe that same player’s home run in the 7th would be less “meaningful.”
    “The pressure on the hitter (and pitcher) in those situations is much greater. This is why it’s so difficult to be a great closer, and why we’ve seen great middle releivers and great starters fall on their faces when called upon in the ninth,”
    Maybe true, but what accounts for players with great stuff not being able to succeed as starters? I could argue that they can’t handle the responsibility of the early innings, that the pressure to keep their team in the game is too much.

    Nick-YF June 13, 2006, 12:48 am
  • homer-run is home-run

    Nick-YF June 13, 2006, 12:49 am
  • Although I love the numbers in this post, great work, I have some problems with this argument as a whole. I don’t think stats and “clutch” belong in the same argument, as crazy as that sounds. SF made a great point about stats not looking at the human side of baseball situations and I think that’s dead on.
    To me, clutch is more of gut reaction, from the fan and the player.
    Is Ortiz clutch? In my book yes, if for the only reason that there isn’t another person in baseball I want at the plate when the Red Sox are down by 1 late in the game.
    I have seen with my own eyes, in person, him tie the game or put us ahead so many times, I don’t need the numbers.
    Yanks fans, game on the line, 1 run down, would you prefer Arod of Ortiz batting for you?
    If you answer Arod; that means to you he’s clutch. Nothing wrong with that if that’s the way you feel. However, I’m willing to bet a lot of you just answered Ortiz, even if you won’t admit it.

    LocklandSF June 13, 2006, 9:31 am
  • Yanks fan here. I’d rather have Ortiz up, yeah.
    ARod takes more shit than he deserves, but Papi definitely has a certain something. At this point it could be self-perpetuating thing. I’m sure that pitchers are aware of the legend of Big Papi (and also the supposed anti-clutchitude of ARod) and that could impact the way they pitch.

    Rob June 13, 2006, 1:04 pm
  • As a Yanks fan, I’m not going to sit here and argue that A-Rod is as “clutch” as Papi, because I think the numbers demonstrate that Papi is better in those types of situations.
    *That being said,* Papi hits in front of the greatest right-handed hitter of our generation, and as the game goes on and gets close and you simply can’t afford to put a guy on base, having Manny on deck means fastballs for Papi to crush (and crush them he does).
    Contrast this with A-Rod — it’s not that he doesn’t have strong hitters around him (since he does), but he’s the guy teams pitch around. Even in his dismal ALDS last year, the Angels wanted no part of him.
    (Oh, and apologies to Pujols (not enough years yet) and Edgar (Manny’s just better) on the greatest RH hitter thing.)

    Yo yo yo June 13, 2006, 3:08 pm
  • To say that you’d rather have Ortiz up in that situation than A-Rod doesn’t mean you’d rather have him on your team. I’ll reverse the question: Who do you think wins you more games over the course of a season? Who is the better player?
    Same question: Who would you rather have on your team? Manny or Ortiz?
    And for the purposes of this question, let’s ignore financial considerations.
    Here’s another thing to think about. The clutch tag is thrown on a player relatively early on in his career. The same holds true for the unclutch tag. As salient examples, Joe Buck and company wax poetic about Derek Jeter as the world’s clutchest player. This seems to be the result of a very early successful post-season career and some very memorable plays. The thing is that of late, his numbers in the post-season have regressed to the mean. He’s come back to earth (which is still very good considering the baseline is his career average). I’m certain that Jeter could have a Vladimir Guerrero style ALDS (what was it? 1 for 22?) and Joe Buck and a lot of people would continue the ball washing. At the other end, you have the example of Barry Bonds, whose performance as a Pirate in the post-season screamed to the critics that he lacked intestinal fortitude, couldn’t do it under pressure. Then he has that recent post-season which is probably in the top 3 of all-time performances. The record is barely modified. I’ve never heard Bonds, for all the platitudes thrown his way (before the recent scandal) be described as clutch.
    The lessons I draw from these examples is that past clutch performance is not predictive of future clutch performance.The same goes for the reverse. The other lesson is that false perception often frames debate so that we’re focusing on the wrong players when talk of clutch and unclutch.
    That said, Ortiz has a thing with getting clutch hits. Will he always be able to?

    Nick-YF June 13, 2006, 3:47 pm
  • …And this year Guerrero could go 1 for 22 (or 15 for 22, for that matter) in a playoff series and, still, the Joe Bucks of the world would only talk about how he can hit any pitch — no matter how far out of the strike zone — out of the stadium. You’re absolutely right, nick, once these storylines take shape, they stick.

    airk June 13, 2006, 4:21 pm
  • Nick,
    Of course you’re right. If you’re the best clutch hitter in the universe, you’re still failing 60% of the time in those situations. The labels we put on players frame our perceptions of the constant failure that is baseball.
    A strikeout by David Ortiz in a big situation is forgotten about immediately. It’s just an anomaly, since Ortiz is CLUTCH. He gets hits in big moments, he doesn’t strike out. We eagerly await the next chance he has to confirm the CLUTCH label we’ve put on him.
    A strikeout by A-Rod in a big situation is imprinted on our minds, because it confirms everything we expected to happen, as he is NOT CLUTCH. (A big hit and it’s “Oh, FINALLY he shows up for ONCE.” And then we get ready for the next strikeout.)
    The reality is that in RISP and like situations, if Ortiz hits .320 and A-Rod hits .280, that’s a real, measurable, important difference… but it’s also a difference of 1 hit every 25 ABs. You can’t tell me fans perceive and react to that difference properly on a day-by-day basis.

    Yo yo yo June 13, 2006, 4:23 pm
  • airk, lol. That’s the only thing ever said about Vlad. The only thing. I think I might try a post on the set things said about certain players during a national broadcast. Eg. “Mariano Rivera is the greates reliever ever, and the REMARKABLE thing is that he uses ONE pitch.”

    Nick-YF June 13, 2006, 4:24 pm
  • I think what we can all agree on is that until MLB adds “clutch” as an official stat, it’s going to vary in definition from player to player and fan base to fan base. Since I don’t see it becoming a stat, I think we are stuck with what we make it in our heads. The media also doesn’t help.

    LocklandSF June 13, 2006, 4:31 pm
  • I think that any players that drive in 120+ runs a year are by virtue of their production “clutch”. That leads me to believe that A-Rod is, in fact, a clutch player, mostly because since he’s so productive, he has to be clutch. There’s simply no way you can knock in that many runs, create that many opportunities for your team, without having a major impact on their success. Is he aesthetically clutch? Not so much, yet. But that’s quite subjective. And I am of course much happier that Papi is doing our late-inning dirty work, for all sorts of reasons, no disrespect to A-Rod.
    Another thing we may be failing to do is taking into consideration the holes in a specific player’s swing, and whether or not those holes are tailored to certain situations/pitchers. In other words – is A-Rod’s lack of late inning heroics due to the fact that when facing closers he is facing a pitcher that has the types of pitches that he is weakest at hitting? Do some closers who throw mostly fastballs/cut fastballs/sliders make A-Rod less comfy than a fastball/splitter pitcher? Or does Ortiz’ swing give him an advantage against the typical closer, because of what he likes to hit, what he sees better? I think this is a very difficult quality to measure, for so many reasons. Once again, I find the statistics situationally limited.

    SF June 13, 2006, 4:54 pm
  • Hi guys, first time commenter. Very cool analysis, but (as I pointed out on my blog, http://www.foonyor.com) there are very real small sample issues at play here (which always get my dander up, being a statistician). While I love seeing Papi up in a key situation, most of these numbers could easily arise due to chance fluctuations.
    Somebody (SF maybe?) made the point that the cumulative evidence from all these different stats also weighs heavily in Papi’s favor, which I’ll certainly grant is true. Just good to keep in mind that amidst all the sabermetrical numbers that they have their limitations in specifically predicting things like “clutch” hitting.

    Foonyor-SF June 13, 2006, 5:37 pm
  • I can’t disagree with Lockland that clutchiness is very much a subjective — and game-to-game — thing. Hey,Papi was as unclutch as possible with the sacks juiced against Farnsworth last much, but, as someone mentioned, that at-bat has disappeared from the collective memory. Nevertheless, what’s the fun of baseball stats if you can’t try to use them to prove/disprove your subjective observations? Sample size issues aside, the stats pretty convincingly show Papi is quite impressive in high-pressure situations. Why? Who knows? Maybe it’s a fluke, maybe he’ll regress to the mean in the next three years. But it’s fun to hash out, and as it stands now, the stats show that Papi is clutch.

    Paul SF June 13, 2006, 6:02 pm
  • last much = last month

    Paul SF June 13, 2006, 6:02 pm

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