Eric Hosmer Has Been the Most Clutch Hitter In the League

It was a defining moment in the 2015 World Series. Proven closer Jeurys Familia watches as a slow chopper is hit to third baseman David Wright. Wright glances back to Eric Hosmer on third and throws to first. Without hesitation, Hosmer sprints home and beats out a wild throw from first baseman Lucas Duda to stun the crowd at Citi Field and tie the game in the 9th. Hosmer made a big play on a big stage. But that wasn’t the only time in his career, the 2015 season, or even that World Series that Hosmer has shown a flair for the dramatic in big moments.

So I did a little digging.

The statistic “Clutch” quantifies how much better or worse a batter performs in high-leverage situations compared to a neutral situation. This does not necessarily make or break a good player. However, the statistic can show the track record of a player’s ability (or inability) to elevate his own game in big moments. The scale is centered at an average player clutch rating of 0 and typically ranges from -2 to 2 in any given season, with 2 being considered both a rare and excellent rating.  This statistic is better used to look at what has happened in the past rather than predict the future. To my surprise, Hosmer has dominated the clutch leader boards the last five years. Not Miggy, not Longo, not Big Papi. Hosmer.

Since his debut season in 2011, Hosmer has a cumulative clutch rating of 5.49 while the league average has been -0.38 according to fangraphs.com. The second-highest in that time span? Jacoby Ellsbury at 4.41, over a full point away. To this point in his career, Hosmer has a cumulative clutch rating that ranks 22nd in baseball history. He is ahead of legends such as Ken Griffey (5.35), Rickey Henderson (4.91), and fellow Royal George Brett (4.79). His 2015 campaign that yielded a clutch rating of 2.17 was one of the top 100 greatest clutch seasons ever recorded (tied for 63rd). Although there is no way to prove Hosmer will remain a clutch hitter, he is currently on pace to smash the all-time highest career clutch rating set by Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn (9.49).

So what makes Eric Hosmer clutch at the young age of 26? His high baseball IQ. He is constantly aware of the situation and knows what he has to do to produce runs for his team. Let’s use this past World Series as an example. In Game 1, Hosmer came to the plate in what was easily the one of the biggest at-bats of the season. Bottom of the 14th. Tie game. Bases loaded. Nobody out. Infield in. Seasoned veteran Bartolo Colon on the mound.

Hosmer_WS1_Clutch_GIF.gif

(Video copyright of MLB Advanced Media)

See what he did there? He knew the infield was in and he knew he could not do two things: strike out or hit the ball on the ground. He had to get the ball deep in the air, despite having a GB% of 52.2% in 2015. He gets a fastball in the heart of the zone and lifts the ball into right, deep enough to get the winning run home and record the seventh walk-off of his career.

The next day, he comes up in another big situation against young pitching phenom Jacob deGrom. Bottom of the 5th. Tie game. Runners on second and third.

Hosmer_WS2_Clutch_GIF.gif

(Video copyright of MLB Advanced Media)

With Escobar’s speed on second, Hosmer knew all he needed was a base hit to give the Royals a two-run lead. He sticks with a slider that caught a little too much of the bottom half of the plate and ropes a grounder up the middle. The 26-year-old didn’t let the moment get to him and over-swing, but instead took what the pitch gave to him. Clutch.

Although Royals fans have seen rather inconsistent numbers from Eric Hosmer through the first five years of his career, it is not overlooked how important he has been to bringing a winning atmosphere back to Kansas City as they had hoped he would. After all, he was the third overall pick in 2008 MLB amateur draft. But big expectations and big moments don’t scare Hosmer. He’s been the most clutch hitter in the league.



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I am a third year ISE student at the Ohio State University who is blogging to stay active about talking all things baseball. I would appreciate any helpful advice or feedback on my writing style or flow of logic.

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Chill
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Chill

Interesting article. From the eye test, especially in this past WS, Hosmer has always seemed to come up big in the big moments, despite having relatively pedestrian numbers for a 1B. Relative to his position, Hosmer has had solid but unspectacular offensive numbers, and yet his contributions to his team’s success have seemed to outstrip his numbers alone. I am surprised to learn there is a “clutch” statistic, although it obviously makes sense now that I think about it. How exactly is “high-leverage” calculated? Fun read.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I will simply say this,
1. you can cherry pick any particular moment and call it clutch, but I have always considered clutch as a net effect between offense and defense. For example, the first game of the world series Hosmer booted a ball a la Bill Buckner in the 8th inning that allowed the Mets to knot the score at 4. Then he hit the game winning sacrifice fly in the 14th to win it. Does he deserve clutch for that? or does it net out dead red even. Or should he get a negative clutch score because he made all his teammates play an extra 6 innings in order to win it?

2. On offense I created a stat called BSM, bases moved. BSM+ holds an offensive player for leaving a certain portion of those runners left on base or in scoring position as a negative. If the difference between BSM and BSM+ is really small you are more of a clutch offensive player.

if you want to see it in action let me know.