Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Clutch hitting revisited

So I did look it up and the “Is David Oritz a Clutch Hitter” was a chapter in Baseball Between the Numbers. The conclusion was that there is some indication that clutch hitting exists, but not much. And as I pointed out yesterday, the “ability” does not carry over from year to year. By the measure they were using, Ortiz’ 2005 season was the best clutch season in the AL in the 35 years of data that they have. Interestingly, there are about 10 NL seasons that are more clutch (although 6 of those were Barry).

One “conclusion” was that the best hitters are the most clutch hitters. Which makes sense.

The writer poo-poos the common sabremetric belief that clutch hitting does not exist by accumulating the net impact in win expectancy for every at bat. So for instance, when the Rangers had 4-2 lead on Saturday (or whatever it was) with two outs in the 9th and two men on base, they were likely to win the game something like 96% of the time – they used real game data as in every situation that this situation occurred 96% of the time the team with that two run lead actually won. So Ortiz has increased his team’s win percent from 4% to 100%. My problem with this stat is that it likely includes at bats by Tony Womack as much as David Ortiz.

Another problem with it and was something that I touched on yesterday (I think) is that it is very difficult to define clutch. And using this stat it considers all at bats. So if some player who it is generally agreed is not a clutch hitter, like say, I don’t know say Alex Rodriguez, hits a home run in to lead off the fourth in a zero-zero game, he increases his team’s win expectancy from around 50% to maybe 66%. And sure it is less of an impact that a HR to lead off the 8th in a tie game, but I think we would all agree that a 4th inning HR is not clutch.

They also broke it up into raw data and per AB data relative to one’s baseline performance – so in a nutshell Ortiz would be expected to get more runs added than Tony Womack.

So the answer is, well there is no real answer. And obviously I have way oversimplified the data. A few other interesting tidbits from the article…. Ortiz was not a clutch hitter in the regular season in 2004. In fact he had only one year (2000) that he was credited with even one extra win. In 2005, Ortiz was credited with 7 wins. Bill Mueller was one of the worst clutch hitters – and in 2003 he had one of the worst clutch seasons of all time. The worst clutch hitter of all time was Larry Bowa.

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