Who is the Most Clutch Oriole?

The following post was written by Doug Nickerson as a guest post for Orioles Proving Ground.  Nickerson grew up as a Red Sox fan on Cape Cod, MA and is looking forward to writing about the Orioles with his knowledge of the AL East from a non-emotional perspective.  He moved to the DC area last August, and while he loves the city, he hates humidity and traffic.

In watching so many games this year with the purpose of evaluating the players instead of solely enjoying the beauty of the game, many ideas have percolated from the frustrations of watching teams struggle to score, while others seem to score with ease.  Now obviously some matchups are lopsided causing teams to either easily run up the score or look helpless at the dish.  But the real question I ask myself is, what is the relationship between being good and being able to perform under pressure?

On the surface, the Orioles haven’t been able to turn it on when it counts this year compared to last year, especially when considering their record in 1 run games has gone from 29-9 in 2012 to 14-22 this year.  What’s the cause of this? Is it purely luck? Did last year’s team have nerves of steel compared to this year or is it just the law of averages taking its course?

To compare this year and last year, I needed to look at clutch stats.  The easiest to compare is baseball-reference.com’s “clutch” stat, which is based on its win probability stat and average leverage index.  The clutch stat normalizes these numbers so that a player with a clutch rating of 0 is an average player and a positive or negative rating is more or less clutch, respectively.  Let’s take a look at the offensive numbers (I included guys with at least 45 ABs for the season).

2013 Clutch Rating

2012 Clutch Rating

Chris Davis

1.7

Adam Jones

1

Chris Dickerson

1.1

Taylor Teagarden

0.7

Adam Jones

1.1

Nate McLouth

0.6

Nick Markakis

0.7

Jim Thome

0.6

Steve Pearce

0.7

Mark Reynolds

0.4

Brian Roberts

0.6

Steven Tolleson

0.4

Alexi Casilla

0.5

Chris Davis

0.2

Manny Machado

0.4

Manny Machado

0.2

Danny Valencia

0.4

Matt Wieters

0.1

Yamaico Navarro

0.1

Steve Pearce

0.1

Travis Ishikawa

0

Nolan Reimold

0.1

Taylor Teagarden

0

J.J. Hardy

0

Henry Urrutia

0

Nick Markakis

0

Chris Snyder

-0.1

Endy Chavez

0

Nolan Reimold

-0.2

Brian Roberts

0

Nate McLouth

-0.3

Ryan Flaherty

-0.1

Matt Wieters

-0.4

Ronny Paulino

-0.1

J.J. Hardy

-0.5

Xavier Avery

-0.2

Ryan Flaherty

-0.8

Nick Johnson

-0.2

Omar Quintanilla

-0.3

Lew Ford

-0.4

Robert Andino

-0.7

Wilson Betemit

-0.9

Now, as expected, Chris Davis is the most clutch player on the 2013 team and that’s a reason why he is rightfully in the MVP race.  The surprising results of this stat is that 3 regulars are considered the most clutch hitters on the team (Davis, Jones, Markakis) and 3 regulars are considered to wilt during the big moments (McLouth, Wieters, Hardy) for the 2013 season.  When compared to last year’s team, only 2 players that got regular starts (Andino and Betemit with over 350 ABs each) had a negative rating.  This could be a potential reason for the drastic change in their record in 1 run games.  However, now the question arises as to how much are they affected by the big situation?  How much does 0.1 clutch point reflect into a player’s OBP in high leverage situations? Is it substantial, where all hope is lost if there are two outs, man on third, and the game is tied in the late innings? I find the clutch stat to be interesting but it leads me to more questions.

Now let’s take a look at each players OBP in different leverage situations to see if there is anything substantial.  I used OBP as a comparison, to measure the ability to keep the inning alive as critical to increasing your opportunity to score runs.  It is also a clean stat that is taken directly from the field and not manipulated in any way, unlike win probability, runs created, etc.

OBP Clutch Graph

From the chart, it can be seen that Nick Markakis is the most clutch batter on the team in getting on base in high pressure situations this year.  He also has nerves of steel as his OBP rises almost 100 points from his average when he is in a high leverage situation.  Matt Wieters appears to be deserving of his low clutch rating due to his drastically low OBP in high leverage situations.  However, the same can’t be said for J.J. Hardy or Nate McLouth.  Both are roughly the same or above their 2013 OBP average in high leverage situations, making them fairly clutch relative to themselves in low-pressure situations.  Five of six regular Orioles perform better when the pressure is on them to succeed.  This causes me to believe that the clutch rating stat has to be taken with a grain of salt when looking for it to translate onto the field.

With this in mind, I’ll look into the team’s clutch pitching numbers with my next post to see how the 2013 team is comparing to last year’s.

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