Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Add Context for Flavor

There is no real debate as to the most valuable Blue Jay in 2010. Jose Bautista put up a season of epic historical significance. That he he amassed 50 home runs with 100 walks — one of a very select group of players in the game's history — is yet to set in to my slow-on-the-uptake brain.

There remains a sub-sect of baseball fans who rail against players who only put up numbers when the game "is out of reach." Players like Ryan Howard are announced as clutch while Jayson Werth (or Chase Utley) are chumps who strike out when the game is on the line. Their MVP is the guy with the most RBI, or something equally misguided. Last year I looked at an interesting wrinkle in the WAR equation, first suggested by Sky Kalkman (formerly) of Beyond the Box Score.

Rather than calculate Wins Above Replacement using regular or batting runs, we scaled and substituted win probability added. WPA doesn't care about the type of contribution to the cause, only the timing. Walkoff hits count for much more than the solo home runs in the midst of a blowout, much to the chagrin of the angry drunk guy by himself in the bar.

Below are the WPA-tinged numbers for your Toronto Blue Jays. The clutch figure is the difference between their standard batting runs and the new, clutchified numbers. WAR* is the new result, contrast it with the standard WAR numbers right alongside. All numbers courtesy of Fangraphs.

NameWPA RunsBatting(Clutch)FieldingReplacementRAR*WAR*WAR
Yunel Escobar-9.5-1.4-8.1-
Vernon Wells20.521.3-0.8-6.421.537.43.74
Travis Snider-6.42.7-
Randy Ruiz-7.5-4.3-
Nick Green-0.8-1.60.8-0.90.5-1.2-0.1-0.2
Mike McCoy-6.4-5.8-0.65.832.40.20.3
Lyle Overbay7.
Jose Molina-9-2.5-6.536.
Jose Bautista39.355.9-16.6-722.850.456.9
John McDonald-8.5-1.6-
John Buck8.78.50.2-314.627.92.82.9
Fred Lewis1.64-2.4-6.1166.60.70.9
Edwin Encarnacion45.5-1.5-1.512.2161.61.8
DeWayne Wise5.4-
Alex Gonzalez-2.75.7-8.44.911.617.61.82.7
Adam Lind1.5-5.97.4-2.720.44.70.5-0.3
Aaron Hill-24.1-13.9-10.23.719.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for poor Aaron Hill! Not a lot of leaps among the Jays batters. DeWayne Wise, as Mark Buehrle will proudly attest, is as clutch as it gets. Who knew?

Poor Jose Bautista. While he did perform significantly worse in the clutch in 2010, I have a hard time believing he performed 2 Wins worse. Shocking. Adam Lind and Lyle Overbay post better numbers when the heat is on. Nice to see, I seem to remember at least one walkoff for each lily white lefty.

Yu mad? Nope, Yu performed really badly in the clutch.

All in all, not really surprising considering the Jays, as a team, performed worse in high leverage situations for the year. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to be a repeatable skill, per se. The clutch-est team in baseball last year? The piss-poor Houston Astros.

One final note on Jose Bautista and his final most valuable player chances - if we used this same formula on the other MVP frontrunners, Miguel Cabrera would slide in front of Josh Hamilton and take the title. Joey Votto only solidifies his case as MVP shoe-in in the NL, as he is both clutch and dreamy. Not to mention dreamy and clutch.


  1. What's the consistency of WPA from year to year for individual players? I'm not so sure I'm willing to give credit to clutchicity until I can see clear evidence that it's not random from year to year.

  2. Joey Votto IS clutch and dreamy and dreamy and clutch.

    There is a stat to determine clutchicity (nice, Parkes).. I love baseball.

  3. Just glancing at a few names, I don't see too much year to year consistency.

    Calculating WAR this way doesn't tell us much about future skill but it does tell us, in a different way, how good a year a player had.

  4. Votto is the clutchiest clutch who ever clutched, no doubt....but isn't the correct & proper term "clutchosity"? Where does this "clutchicity" nonsense come from? Jeez, you guys.

  5. As my dad once screamed at me as I was revving the engine of our old yellow Nissan 1/4 ton truck into a squealing smokey fury:

    "Release the goddamned clutch!"

    I can buy Lind as a paragon of clutchitude. Even when he's struggling at his worst, I can think of clutchy at bats, where he just gets a bat on a ball, or hangs in on an at bat long enough to get a drivable pitch.

    (And I'm glad that you have clearly elucidated the numbers above, so I can continue to think this way.)

    Intestinal Clutchitude for life!

  6. Bill James has his projections for 2011 up. They can be viewed on the player pages at fangraphs.

    Some (mugs) will mock James for being too optimistic, but surely the zips and marcels of the world are too closely wound around the mean to be any fun. (good to measure your roto team though)

  7. Excuse me guys, love to contribute, but I gotta go take a clutch.

  8. I'm not sure this is correct: the sum of "clutch" is negative. This would mean that the baseline (the replacement player) has changed. In other words, your team of replacement players as a group would do a lot better relative to the normal group. Not sure what is wrong exactly but it just doesn't add up.

  9. The clutch listed above isn't an actual stat, it is the difference between each player's calculated batting runs and the win probability added "runs" created for this post.

    The Jays as a team amassed a negative "clutch", in that their "leverage neutral win probability added" is higher than their actual total WPA.

    In other words, they performed worse in high leverage spots across the board, meaning they weren't "clutch" as a team.

  10. Automatic for life, I can't drive a standard for the life of me.

    Out of all of them, I'm a little disappointed in Escobar's *WAR. I ain't mad at Yu, just disappointed.

  11. Drew, off topic but have you seen the article at BP on release points? It has fancy graphs and uses Morrow, Marcum and Romero as key examples. Curious about your thoughts...


    (sorry if posting links is not cool)

  12. Could the numbers from houston be a result of their poor offense? They had decent pitching, so the reason for their clutch # to be so high is probably because even though they lost a lot of games, every time they did hit a home run or got a hit, they were likely only up or down 1 or 2 runs.


Send forth the witticisms from on high