Bill James had a wonderful article at Sports Illustrated wherein he talked about clutch hitting. James noted that over the years clutch hitting had been a myth of sorts because nobody could ever prove it existed. Yet, anyone who watched a baseball game could seemingly tell you when there was a clutch hit.
Because there are so many environmental variables to consider in clutch hitting, James decided to narrow his focus to just seven factors: 1. The score; 2. The runners on base; 3. The outs; 4. The inning; 5. The opposition; 6. The standings; and 7. The calendar.
James then weighted those factors and looked at the players. His conclusion was that it was easier to see who had better clutch tendencies than others, although he doesn’t come out and say he has a formula for identifying "clutch" hitting.
As stated in the article, it’s hardly perfect. But it’s a start, and he shows some examples in the article like David Ortiz, known as "Mr. Clutch" and Chipper Jones, who he said was nearly an exact match.
Now James didn’t publish his formula so we’re left guessing at this point what his factors are. He seems to see the number of runs batted in per opportunity as important because Ortiz had one rbi every 2.1 "clutch" at bats, according to James. But that leads me to wonder, would Ortiz have the same numbers over the years with Pittsburgh’s current lineup? Hmm..
Just for the dickens of it, I went back to Branch Rickey’s old clutch formula:
to see who Rickey might have considered clutch. Rickey was looking at team efficiency, but it should apply to players as well.
To keep it simple, this was my procedure: I looked at every batter who had at least 1,000 at bats the last three seasons and then grabbed the median "clutch" result of those players which ended up being .372. I did the same for players with between 100 and 999 at bats and the median was .359 for them.
I then subtracted the appropriate median from each player’s achieved clutch value and then added all their achieved clutch values to get a net three-year clutch value. I then multiplied their total at bats over the three years times that net clutch value to get the final result.
For instance, here is Jason Bay’s production over the MLB three-year "clutch" median for the last three years:
Where did that rank him? He was 80th of 176 players. That’s probably not a shock to you if you follow the Bucs.
Here’s the top 30 and bottom 30 of all players with more than 1,000 at bats last three:
|Top 30 Result||Bottom 30 Result|
|Jimmy Rollins||771.0||Ronnie Belliard||-123.2|
|Alfonso Soriano||559.8||Jorge Posada||-123.9|
|Jose Reyes||547.4||Jason Kendall||-127.0|
|Johnny Damon||465.9||Randy Winn||-130.7|
|Grady Sizemore||423.0||Freddy Sanchez||-137.9|
|Carlos Beltran||362.6||Lyle Overbay||-144.8|
|Alex Rodriguez||356.1||Mike Lowell||-148.9|
|Craig Biggio||325.9||Trot Nixon||-151.0|
|Tony Graffanino||323.3||Jason Varitek||-152.2|
|Craig Monroe||311.0||Paul Lo Duca||-171.5|
|Torii Hunter||285.6||Brian Giles||-174.1|
|Chase Utley||277.6||John Buck||-177.9|
|Rickie Weeks||277.0||Geoff Jenkins||-178.4|
|Alex Rios||273.6||Omar Vizquel||-191.7|
|Carl Crawford||272.6||Pat Burrell||-194.6|
|Corey Patterson||269.2||Joe Mauer||-204.0|
|Chone Figgins||264.8||Brad Hawpe||-211.9|
|Hanley Ramirez||258.2||Kevin Millar||-214.6|
|Edgar Renteria||253.6||Todd Helton||-218.7|
|Rafael Furcal||242.9||Jose Vidro||-222.4|
|Dan Uggla||240.4||Ramon Hernandez||-237.3|
|Andruw Jones||236.1||Victor Martinez||-269.1|
|Willy Taveras||229.5||Scott Hatteberg||-276.1|
|Kenny Lofton||216.9||Mike Piazza||-277.4|
|Gary Matthews Jr.||215.1||Mark Loretta||-285.1|
|Orlando Cabrera||204.0||Johnny Estrada||-315.6|
|Matt Holliday||203.4||Bengie Molina||-356.1|
|Curtis Granderson||193.5||Brad Ausmus||-404.4|
|Coco Crisp||192.4||Yadier Molina||-419.4|
|Brad Wilkerson||191.5||Brian Schneider||-488.0|
Look at Rollins – wow. Now look at Freddy Sanchez in the bottom 30. Yikes.
Ready for a shocker? Let’s look at the Pirates production last three (LaRoche and Nady’s results are only from their time with the Pirates):