Sports fans love to talk about clutch plays and clutch players, and fans of baseball and the Dodgers are no exception. But within those discussions, there tends to be a lack of evidence presented. As such, I decided to find some basis for clutch plays and clutch players, courtesy of the WPA and Clutch statistics.
Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures this difference by measuring how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.
In the words of David Appelman, this calculation measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.
So that’s the statistical foundation for this post, and since that’s now been established, let’s get on with it, shall we?
As always, visuals will be provided because, let’s be honest, everything is better with visuals.
Before we get into this, I feel like it’s necessary to point out that none of this is predictive or meaningful. It’s mainly for fun and recaps moments in the 2013 season. That’s it.
In other words, please don’t use information found in this and link back to it during an argument, saying, “LOOK! THIS DUDE IS SUCH A CHOKER, BRO!”
Most Clutch Plays Of The 2013 Season – Batter Edition
Adrian Gonzalez – 4/26 – Bottom 7th: 49.2%
The most clutch play of the year issssssssssssssssssssss … Carlos Gomez dropping a ball in center for a go-ahead double.
Sort of anti-climatic.
Which is why the next one gets my vote.
Yasiel Puig – 7/28 – Bottom 11th : 47.2%
Not sure it gets much better than a Yasiel Puig walk-off. Except for him sliding into home plate after hitting said walk-off.
Andre Ethier – 8/14 – Bottom 9th: 46.7%
Andre Ethier hitting a game-tying two-run homer is nice, but the only reason I instantly remembered this was LaTroy Hawkins’ reaction.
Juan Uribe – 10/7 – Bottom 8th: 44.3%
Still can’t believe Juan Uribe did this, honestly. I mean, more than the clutchiness of it, the fact that Don Mattingly tried to make him bunt, and the fact that it was JUAN URIBE, it’s just the entire journey he went through in 2013 to get to this moment. Great to witness.
A.J. Ellis – 7/7 – Top 9th: 43.2%
A.J. Ellis with a bases loaded go-ahead triple against the Giants and Sergio Romo? What’s to dislike?
|5 Clutchiest Dodgers Of 2013 – Batter Edition|
|Adrian Gonzalez||1.93||4.49||3.81 (5671 PA)|
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||0.59||-0.52||-2.16 (4967 PA)|
|Mark Ellis||0.58||1.06||-4.31 (5526 PA)|
|Luis Cruz||0.47||-1.24||1.13 (652 PA)|
|Andre Ethier||0.44||2.22||-1.89 (4536 PA)|
As you can see, not much rhyme or reason here between career Clutch and 2013 Clutch, which goes to my point about it being generally useless to predict and not indicative of skill. Perhaps the one exception might be Adrian Gonzalez.
We can also see how generally sucking at hitting makes the standard for being ‘clutch’ lower. Like it’s harder for Hanley Ramirez to be clutch when his OPS is always like 8.423, whereas Luis Cruz would just need a bloop single a year.
Most Clutch Plays Of The 2013 Season – Pitcher Edition
Ronald Belisario – 9/12 – Top 8th: 35.3%
Ronald Belisario is the guy you want on the mound if you need a double play, and he rolled a bunch of them this year. And it certainly didn’t hurt that he had Uribe and A-Gon on the field.
And again, against the Giants too? Extra satisfying.
Ronald Belisario – 9/2 – Bottom 8th: 32.7%
Like I said, not a coincidence that both of the top clutch plays for pitching involves double plays, Belisario, and Uribe.
Brandon League – 5/4 – Bottom 9th: 32.5%
Yet again, a groundball pitcher, a double play, and the Giants with the bases loaded. Perhaps even better because it’s Brandon League against Buster Posey, which should logically only end in disaster.
Brandon League – 4/24 – Bottom 9th: 24.5%
This is more like League making a solid pitch and Jerry Hairston Jr. doing all the heavy lifting with an amazing play.
Kenley Jansen – 5/31 – Bottom 8th: 22.6%
Another double play with the bases loaded late in the game. We’re starting to get the picture, I’m guessing?
|5 Clutchiest Dodgers Of 2013 – Pitcher Edition|
|Kenley Jansen||1.23||3.53||1.06 (222.1 IP)|
|Zack Greinke||1.10||3.12||4.79 (1669.2 IP)|
|Chris Withrow||1.03||1.31||1.03 (34.2 IP)|
|J.P. Howell||0.88||1.91||-0.05 (465.0 IP)|
|Stephen Fife||0.46||-0.41||0.80 (85.0 IP)|
The top two on this list are amusing to me because the narrative prior to the season among some was that Kenley Jansen was a good pitcher but a choker who couldn’t handle the ninth, while Zack Greinke was a headcase who couldn’t pitch out of trouble.