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Clutch hitting and pitching and the 2013 Twins

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Originally published at The Tenth Inning Stretch

"Clutch" is a word that has been used to describe the players who go above and beyond the norm and perform highly in difficult situations in close games: The guy who comes into the game with 2 outs and the bases loaded, down three in the bottom of the ninth and hits a grand slam off a closer who never blew a save. The pitcher who comes in with bases loaded and no outs, up one on the bottom of the ninth and strikes out the side to save the game. Whether or not there are players out there who are "clutch" and consistently outperform themselves in those type of situations has been a vast subject of debate. Here is a good summary of a few historic studies and here is a list of lots of links on the subject, if you feel like reading more.

About 5 years ago, David Appelman devised a measurement called, well, "Clutch" that tries to describe clutch hitting and pitching. Basically what it does, is it looks at the difference of someone's performance (based on Win Probability Added) in High Leverage situations only, versus his overall performance. Players with positive Clutch outperform their overall performance in those situations and players with negative Clutch underperform. This does not mean that a player with a higher Clutch is a "better" player than one with lower Clutch. If someone hits .220 with the bases loaded and .200 overall, is not a better player than someone who hits .320 with the bases loaded and .340 overall, despite the Clutch numbers.

Fangraphs picked the stat now and I sorted the Twins hitters, relief pitchers and starting pitchers based on Clutch. This is an exercise just for fun. I don't think that it means that much (see example above), but it is interesting and it potentially be an additional tool for player evaluation, but not a stand alone tool. Situational and High Leverage performance definitely might tell something about relievers as a group, but we are not about to jump into any conclusions here. Just a demo

Here are the 2013 Twins' hitters ranked by Clutch (60 PA min) :

Here are the 2013 Twins' relief pitchers ranked by Clutch (10 IP min):

Here are the 2013 Twins' starting pitchers ranked by Clutch (35 IP min):

Pitchers in both roles are listed on both tables for that role only. A couple of observations:

  • The Twins definitely do not use or value the metric, since about half of the players with positive Clutch numbers are gone
  • I am not surprised to see Dozier and Duensing lead the hitter and the reliever groups respectively. It is my recollection that they really excelled in pressure situations
  • Worley leading the starter group may be a surprise, until someone considers that, in order to pitch in a high leverage situation, a starter needs to get himself into trouble to make that situation high leverage. Thus, Clutch, is not very useful at all for starters (other than looking at fun results like the above...)
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  1. pierre75275's Avatar
    Is there any way to get the league averages for that information? Or is zero just the average?
  2. Thrylos's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by pierre75275
    Is there any way to get the league averages for that information? Or is zero just the average?
    League average does not make much sense for this. It is an individual metric. It measures how much better one does in high leverage situations compared to all situations. Zero means that someone does the same in high leverage situation as in all other situations. So zero is the "normal" baseline, i.e. the norm for comparison purposes.
  3. VandyTwinsFan's Avatar
    Nice find! I like looking at team statistics.

    While not the same thing as clutch, I watched our team last year in regards to productive outs made. It's a pretty sad sight. Guys with more than 25 opportunities:

    Florimon 42%
    Dozier 39%
    Plouffe 32%
    League Ave 31%
    Hicks 30%
    Arcia 27%
    Parmelee 27%
    Mauer 26%
    Morneau 25%
    Doumit 20%
    Willingham 17%
    Thomas 16%
    Colabello* 6%

    *only 18 opportunities. Close to my cutoff, but it was so low I added it.

    If you look at percentage of times our guys scored someone from 3rd with less than 2 outs, Morneau jumps over the average along with Florimon and Dozier. That's it. Arcia, Mauer, Pinto, and Doumit were close to average. Plouffe takes a nose dive and sucks as bad as Willingham (both at 32%, league average was 51%). I hated it when Willing-strikeout-ham stepped to the plate looking to score Dozier from 3rd after Mauer singled him over. Just walk to the dugout guys because Willingham is going to either K or pop up to the infield and then Plouffe will hit a fly ball just too short to be worth anything.

    This all just goes to show, if we had Brian Dozier playing every position then the team would've been THE GREATEST TEAM EVER!!! AAAGH!!!
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