Troy O’Leary Versus Jay Payton For a Meaningless Crown

Franklin Gutierrez lead the American League in Clutch this season. That seems like an upset. Perception would lead me to believe most of the people who read this site likely read sites like USS Mariner, which has boasted about Gutierrez since he was acquired. That means he’s not exactly an unknown to this particularly community. He actually hit pretty well this season too; a .283/.339/.425 line from a centerfielder who plays most of his games in Safeco isn’t too bad.

Still, the idea of Gutierrez as the clutch-est lead me to wonder who else would qualify for the biggest upset in recent Clutch history. I narrowed it down to a pair of choices, they are as follows:

Jay Payton 2006, Oakland Athletics

Somehow he finished with a 2.55 Clutch rating; “somehow” because Payton hit .296/.306/.444 overall, which translated to a .320 wOBA – a figure below league average. This seems like a strong case of getting your hits in the right situations. With men on, Payton hit .319/.354/.426. With nobody on he hit .276/.297/.412. In high-leverage situations he possessed a .863 OPS – a number which descended to .772 in medium-leverage situations and .661 in low-leverage situations – and all of this despite batting mostly in the 5th-7th slots in the order. Billy Beane probably didn’t envision this scenario playing out when he dealt Chad Bradford for Payton in July of 2005, but those are the breaks.

Troy O’Leary 1996, Boston Red Sox

Speaking of Boston, O’Leary had a down season in 1996. His wOBA was a mere .328 and he failed to flash the power of previous and future years. So naturally, O’Leary would post the highest Clutch rating of his career at 3.23. He never even topped one again despite playing through 2003. O’Leary just loved coming to the plate with runners on; his OPS was .938 with someone on, 1.035 with at least one person in scoring position, and a flat .597 with nobody on. As you can imagine, this lead to some funky looking splits by leverage, such as: 1.004/.764/.628. Run of the mill, really.

Unless there’s a glaring oversight, I think it’s safe to crown one of these two years as the most unlikely “clutch” campaign in recent history.

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8 Responses to “Troy O’Leary Versus Jay Payton For a Meaningless Crown”

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  1. Andy S says:

    This is because of how clutch is defined (and honestly my big beef with it); clutch is defined how a player does in high leverage situations as compared to context-neutral. This just means that these players don’t hit well unless the pressure is on. Personally I think clutch should be redefined as a comparison to the league average wOBA…the way it’s defined right now, Pujols isn’t clutch because in high leverage situations, he “just” hits like Albert Pujols.

    The way it’s defined, really, Clutch is kind of a crapshoot. A bad player who performs decently in high leverage situations is considered very “clutch.” Hell, I could be a clutch player.

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    • Joe R says:

      Um, this is why we have WPA.

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    • Toffer Peak says:

      Then please explain why everyone claimed that Alex Rodriguez is unclutch in the playoffs when he had a pre-2009 postseason .372 wOBA, way above league average. The reason is simply becasue that is below Alex Rodriguez’s career average. Thus fans think he is unclutch. You may not like that definition but for 90+%? of fans, clutch means hitting better than your normal self in high-leverage situations.

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      • Andy S says:

        Right, and that’s all well and dandy for 90% of fans. But 90% of fans think RBIs and avg are great evaluators, so excuse me for putting 0 weight in “traditional definitions” of terms.

        The fact is that clutch, as it’s defined, tells you very little about a player’s performance that one would care about. I’m sorry, I don’t really give a damn that Franklin Gutierrez was really, really clutch. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be comparing it to the league average. Let me pose the question this way: Who would you rather have in high leverage PA: Albert Pujols, or Franklin Gutierrez? If you said Albert Pujols, then I bet you think Albert Pujols is more of a clutch player. And that is why we need to either redefine clutch, or define a new statistic that fixes this problem.

        And no, this isn’t why we have WPA. WPA is a great number (so is WPA/LI), but it tells you something different. WPA is how much you affect the gamestate. Clutch doesn’t care how much you affect the gamestate, just how you hit the ball in certain gamestates.

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  2. SamoanRob says:

    IIRC, in the same playoff game, Nomar was intentionally walked by a RHP twice to face O’Leary, who batted lefty. I think Troy homered each time.

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  3. Teech says:

    The past tense of “lead” is “led”. It’s not my decision; that’s just the way it is.

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  4. neuter_your_dogma says:

    Ryan Howard’s “clutch” number seems to dwarf all others this year. What gives?

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  5. The Nicker says:

    Would it be possible to get some career clutch values, at least for more recent players?

    It’d be nice to see if there are any players at all that were consistently clutch/unclutch.

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