Hit the Clutch! Nady & Bay? Naw..

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:

Yrly clutch Running
Year AB over median Total
Jason Bay 2007 538 0.016 0.016
Jason Bay 2006 570 -0.002 0.014
Jason Bay 2005 599 0.015 0.029
total 1707 0.029
    result 50.23

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):

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    AB Total Result
    Nate McLouth 708 0.513 362.9
    Chris Duffy 681 0.124 84.2
    Jason Bay 1707 0.029 50.2
    Brad Eldred 190 0.037 7.1
    Nyjer Morgan 107 -0.002 -0.2
    Jose Bautista 932 -0.010 -9.2
    Adam LaRoche 563