Using Stats to Figure Out Clutchness

I’m no expert on Baseball & Statistics, but they tell you it’s impossible to measure one’s “clutchness” in the same way they say it’s impossible to quantify what a “harmonious work environment” does for overall quality of play. While I’ll grant you that it’s pretty tough to measure the amount of wins Good Guys like Griffey and Sweeney are worth over the course of a season, it doesn’t seem that hard to measure something like Clutch.

Especially for people who’ve developed things like UZR, WAR, and the like.

All you have to do is take a look at every player’s Plate Appearance, in what inning it took place, and what were the circumstances at the time. Then, you just weigh each instance accordingly.

For instance, if your team is up by 4 runs and you belt a 2-run double, that’s not NEARLY as big a deal as, say, being down by 2 runs and hitting a Grand Slam. Also, let’s say you’re down by 2 runs and your hit ties the game. Well, that’s a whole lot more important in the bottom of the 8th than it is in the bottom of the 3rd.

Those are a little more on the extreme end of the examples, but let’s say it’s a tie ball game and the first two runners got on ahead of you. Were you successful in bunting them over? That’s got to be more clutch than foul-tipping a 3rd strike into the catcher’s glove.

Look, I’m not saying it would be easy for someone like me. You’d probably want someone to write a program so you could just input every situation and see how successful someone was. Yes, there are a lot of potential different baseball scenarios, but there’s not an infinite amount! In fact, I think you could expand upon these individual games and take into account whether or not the team is in a pennant race or not. A go-ahead 2-run single means a whole lot more in the playoffs than it does in April, so you’d have to weigh that instance accordingly.

Fans who just watch the game and who form opinions based on what they “see” over what the numbers actually “tell you” get a bad rap. Yes, the NUMBERS probably dictate that the Mariners are better off with Milton Bradley as DH and Eric Byrnes in LF. But, you know what I SEE when I watch Byrnes at the plate? A guy pretty much incapable of doing much more than working a walk off of a struggling pitcher.

What I’d like to know is, did these walks extend a rally? Or did they come with 2 out and 0 on while we’re down by 4?

Theoretically, the downside of figuring out clutchness would be that if your team has a big enough lead, you’re bound to get less points for any clutch hitting you’d do. Well, them’s the breaks. I still think this should be something people are targeting in their research.

A-Rod’s name is always bound to come up whenever a discussion of How Clutch a player is takes place. Was he especially NOT clutch because he failed in the playoffs so many times? Is he now Mr. Clutch because he got some big hits in the last offseason and the Yankees won the World Series? Certainly, your fortunes can change over the course of a career, but like with any other Career Statistic, you’ve got to overcome a poor start if you’re ever going to be regarded in a good light.

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