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:
- Men on 2nd/3rd — 44 AB, .386 BA, 1.074 OPS, 1 HR, 5.5 AB/K
- Bases loaded — 55 AB, .364 BA, 1.055 OPS, 18.33 AB/HR, 5.0 AB/K
- 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
- 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
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:
- Leading by 3: 127 AB, .346 BA, 1.113 OPS, 10.58 HR/AB, 5.08 K/AB
- Leading by 1: 195 AB, .333 BA, 1.049 OPS, 16.25 HR/AB, 4.88 K/AB
- 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
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
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)