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 Outs Of 2012
1. Kenley Jansen – 46.8%
The Dodgers were clinging onto an 8-7 lead with one down in the bottom of the ninth and runners on first and third. At this point, you’d almost be happy with a tied game.
One Jason Kubel swing later and it was a win instead.
2. Javy Guerra – 31.6%
Tied at 4-4 in the top of the ninth inning, the Padres got runners on first and second with nobody out. Not looking good for the Dodgers.
But then the impossible happened and … well … you can see it for yourself.
3. Ronald Belisario – 27.5%
Tied at two in the bottom of the eighth inning and facing a bases loaded jam with one out, Ronald Belisario gets out of it thanks to what basically amounts to luck.
Matt Holliday smashed a liner, but it was right at Mark Ellis, who doubled up the runner at second.
4. Kenley Jansen – 24.7%
With runners on second and third in the top of the ninth and one down, the Dodgers are clinging to a 6-5 lead when Kenley Jansen induces a harmless infield pop-up.
5. Brandon League – 20.0%
Tied at three with one down in the bottom of the tenth and a runner on third, Brandon League keeps him there by inducing a strikeout.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that the most clutch plays of the season all went to relievers.
That said, I am shocked that Javy Guerra‘s play wasn’t tops on this list, since it’s almost never that you induce three outs on one pitch.
Top Five Clutchiest Dodgers Of 2012 – Ball Thrower Division
1. Brandon League – 0.70
2. Josh Lindblom – 0.47
3. Nate Eovaldi – 0.34
4. Shawn Tolleson – 0.34
5. Stephen Fife – 0.32