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  1. Awesome post!

    WHO ARE THE BLACKED OUT PLAYERS!?!?! I’m dying to know.

    Comment by OTerry — February 21, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  2. Outstanding study. The best I’ve seen on FanGraphs for some time.

    Comment by Gary Graul — February 21, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  3. Have you looked at OBP excluding IBB? Given that almost all IBB are given with runners in scoring position, this is bound to increase OBP.

    Comment by Bob — February 21, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

  4. It looks like the years don’t match up correctly with the rest of the columns in your first table (the “clutch” hitters). I don’t think Elvis Andrus had 1068 AB between 1990 and 2004. Neat article.

    Comment by John K — February 21, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  5. The AB, H, and BA columns don’t seem to add up. I think what you are showing are the total hits and at bats, but then the BA is just for at bats without runners in scoring position?

    If that’s true, then the the blacked out folks are Josh Bard and Akinori Iwamura?

    Comment by vwcdave — February 21, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

  6. Yes, the blocked out players are indeed Josh Bard and Akinori Iwamura. And yes, that particular table is mistaken, and I can’t quite figure it out right off the top of my head. I’ll have to see where I made my mistake, and hopefully be able to post a correction somewhere.

    Comment by Scott Lindholm — February 21, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  7. Bob’s probably right that a fair bit of the OBP bump with RISP may come from IBBs. But I have to hope, for the sanity of MLB managers, that that’s not what’s causing the 10% OBP bump for the sub .250 hitters. If there’s one thing sabermetrics should have taught us, it’s “don’t give bad hitters free passes!” Unless it’s mostly due to NL managers walking the #8 hitter to get to the pitcher? Curious…

    Comment by Owen — February 21, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

  8. I’m going to make another article with just the two charts (only one of which has errors). I made a small methodology change that didn’t affect the overall results, which in itself I find interesting. In case my next post is NOT published, here’s what I intend to do:
    1. I don’t know how the years got mixed up on the better hitters, but their data is essentially correct–ONLY the years playeed are incorrect, except for some minor errors I’ve noticed when looking at the data (for example, I shorted Josh Bard about 100 ABs somehow).
    2. The charts I will post next will compare batting average with runners in scoring position vs. batting average with no runners in scoring position. I thought I had done that initially, but it appears I compared runners in scoring position BA with career BA, which would have data overlap.

    Cross your fingers and you’ll see the updated charts, but my essential conclusions remain the same.

    Comment by Scott Lindholm — February 21, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  9. I would be morewinterested in the other side….
    Who are the chokes???

    Comment by Glenn — February 21, 2011 @ 6:01 pm

  10. I like how Barry Bond’s RISP was like 80% higher that year. I guess when you only have to swing at fastballs down the middle, or take a walk, you do pretty good.

    Comment by adohaj — February 21, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

  11. Folks reading this should probably know that at last year’s SABR conference I proved that career RISP / non-RISP hitting differences are unquestionably real (the odds against finding the correlations I found by sheer chance are upwards of 500,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1). You can look for that study sometime this year over at THT.

    The key point is that the differences have nothing to do with clutch. It’s about different adaptations to the changing dynamics of the pitcher / hitter matchup. Each base / out situation has its own dynamic based on the relative values of a walk and home run compared to a single. The way a pitcher attacks a leadoff hitter is very different from the way he attacks a hitter with two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd, since in the former case a walk and single are identical in value while in the latter a single is nine times as damaging. So it’s about pitching around vs. attacking, trying to get a ground ball in DP situations, trying to avoid a fly ball with a man on 3B and less than 2 outs, and so on.

    It’s not credible that all players would be equally as good at adapting to the continual and complex changes in pitching tactics based on the base/out situation. And they aren’t.

    There is, BTW, no difference at all between hitting with RISP and just a man on 1B. So the actually significant splits are bases empty versus runners on.

    Comment by Eric M. Van — February 21, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

  12. Eric:

    Could another explanation be the change in fielders’ positions from ideal to less-than-ideal when they have to account for a base-runner? I guess this would only give an advantage to batters with RISP and not a disadvantage but it has to have some effect right?

    Comment by Joshua — February 21, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

  13. The definition of clutch is a rather arbitrary one it seems. Batting with the bases loaded in a 10-0 game is hardly a clutch situation. Batting in the 9th with the team down 1 run and nobody on is a clutch situation.

    Also, anyone with fewer than 2000 AB there is likely going to be have a SSS effect since only 500 AB will be with RISP, or less than 1 full season. There will be a lot of noise in data with samples this small.

    Furthermore, failing to find evidence of something is not proof it does not exist. Could be a problem with the study, data or both.

    I would say clutch hitters are a relatively small number of hitters. In this study, Youkillis appears clutch, although I argue with the definition of clutch here. Big Papi from 2004-2007 was certainly clutch by any definition, especially if you include the post season. It may also be that clutch exists only during a players peak years. For example Papi is not longer clutch because he does not hit LHP’ers as well as in his peak years, so is susceptible to LOOGIES in close and late innings.

    Comment by pft — February 22, 2011 @ 12:40 am

  14. 1) You could do weighted least squares regression analysis to verify that the regression line is at 45%. There’s no reason to eyeball this.

    2) Does previous clutch/anti-clutch performance predict future clutch performance? Again, you could answer this through regression analysis, either using presence in the top/bottom groups as an indicator variable or using a continuous predictor.

    Comment by acontra — February 23, 2011 @ 12:09 am

  15. the OBP difference is probably the result of intentional walks. Those are far more likely to occur with RISP, than without.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — February 24, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

  16. The small up tick in slugging could be explained by a reduction in bunting in RISP situations.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — February 24, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  17. OK. After years and years of either thinking of this question, or having it forced on me, I’ve reached this conclusion:


    I believe that by now, we all accept that luck plays a huge part in the success or failure of a major league hitter. For example, in the 2000 WS, Luis Sojo hit a 22-hopper that rolled right over the second-base bag, inches between the outstretched gloves of both the SS and 2B, and the winning run in the decisive game of the WS was barely safe scoring from second.

    With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of that game, Mike Piazza absolutely unloaded on a pitch from Mariano Rivera. Unfortunately, it was a chilly, late October night in Shea Stadium, and Piazza’s shot died in Bernie Williams’ glove on the Warning Track in Shea Stadium’s cavernous CF.

    One guy barely makes contact and has a GW hit. Another guy crushes a ball and makes the game’s final out.

    For these reasons, I don’t believe we can look purely at statistics – at results – to determine what makes a clutch hitter.

    What I want from a hitter in a pivotal situation is for him to have a good AB. It does seem that certain players are able to focus and stick to their game plans in key situations, while other hitters will tense-up, start expanding the strike zone, and make it much easier on the opposing pitcher.

    When I’m looking for a “clutch player,” I’m looking for a guy with intensity and awareness of the moment, yes. However, I’m also looking for the guy who has the ability to stay within himself and stick to his game plan.

    Comment by waynetolleson — February 28, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  18. A small reason why you might expect AVGs to go up with RISP: a fly-out with a runner on third may often not count as an at-bat.

    Comment by jrogers — April 25, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

  19. Simply wish to say your article is as astounding. The clarity for your publish is just excellent and i can think you are a professional on this subject. Well with your permission let me to seize your feed to stay up to date with imminent post. Thank you one million and please carry on the gratifying work.

    Comment by Clutch Purse — August 28, 2011 @ 1:00 am

  20. 1) Pitching from a stretch is a disadvantage, or they would all be pitching out of the stretch with nRISP.
    2) A pitcher that is in the stretch is by definition not sailing through an inning.

    So why averages not much higher with RISP? Other than the occasional force made at 2B that would not be made at 1B–balls up the middle or in the SS hole.

    Comment by james wilson — March 5, 2012 @ 2:34 am

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