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.