Baseball fans love to talk about clutch plays and clutch players, and Dodgers fans are no exception, but like with a pitcher’s best and worst pitches, there tends to be a lack of evidence presented. As such, I decided to find some basis for clutch plays and clutch players, courtesy of the WPA and Clutch statistics.
Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures this difference by measuring how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.
In the words of David Appelman, this calculation measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.
So that’s the foundation for this post, and since that’s now been established, let’s get on with it, shall we?
As always, visuals have been provided because, let’s be honest, everything is better with visuals.
I feel like it’s necessary to point out that none of this is predictive of the future or telling of the past. It’s a post about stuff that happened in 2012. That’s all.
In other words, please don’t link back to this while saying, “LOOK! THIS DUDE IS SO CLUTCH, BRO!” No.
Top Five Clutchiest McClutchington Hits Of 2012
1. Adrian Gonzalez – +69.9%
Whenever you increase your team’s chances of winning by 69.9% with one swing of the bat, something must have gone right.
Well, it did.
It was the bottom of the ninth with one out and runners on first and second. The Dodgers trailed the Diamondbacks by a score of 4-3.
Down to his last strike, A-Gon comes up gigantic with a walk-off double down the right field line off J.J. Putz.
2. Ivan De Jesus – 67.3%
THANK YOU J.J. PUTZ XOXOXO HUGS AND KISSES
Trailing 7-6 with runners on first and second and down to their last out, feeble hitting Ivan De Jesus came up and whacked a double over Chris Young‘s head in center to take the lead.
Much love to J.J. Putz.
3. Scott Van Slyke – 61.1%
Early in 2012, the season was full of “yeah, this team is winning the World Series if this kinda shit happens” moments, and this was certainly one of them.
Scott Van Slyke hit a three-run bomb with runners on first and second to give the Dodgers a 6-5 lead after they trailed 5-3 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Even though it was only the seventh, it felt like a gigantic moment, right? WPA agrees.
4. Elian Herrera – 51.6%
So it’s the top of the eighth with two outs, the Dodgers trail 1-0 and Cliff Lee is just absolutely taking a dump down their throats, and, I mean, there’s runners on first and second but Elian Herrera or whoever is up, so it’s inning ove … HOLY SHIT! YES!!!
Shoutout to Juan Pierre.
5. Luis Cruz – 50.7%
Bottom of the sixth, two outs, runners on first and second (this is a theme), Dodgers trail the Cardinals 4-3, but 2012 phenom Luis Cruz is up and he absolutely bombs one into the bullpen to put the Dodgers up by two.
Bonus points for pimping it.
Overall, the fact that there are five different players contributing here, and that four of the five are still basically unknowns to casual fans, speaks to how remarkable it was that the 2012 Dodgers even stayed in the playoff hunt throughout all the injuries and what not.
Top Five Clutchiest Dodgers Of 2012 – Field Player Division
1. Dee Gordon – 1.05
2. Elian Herrera – 0.93
3. Luis Cruz – 0.84
4. Juan Uribe – 0.77
5. Adrian Gonzalez – 0.72