Corey Hart knows what it takes to be clutch. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Sabermetrics: Corey Hart And The Clutch Factor

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If you don’t know what sabermetrics is, read “Moneyball”, a fantastic book by Michael Lewis about the renowned statistician Bill James and the first major league baseball general manager to give his winning formula a go, Billy Beane. To sum it up, sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.

Sabermetrics goes far beyond the simple statistics, like batting average and slugging percentage, of which the everday baseball fan is aware. It calculates Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Runs Above Replacement (RAR) and just how clutch a player is, among other things.

According to FanGraphs, “clutch measures how well a player performed in high leverage situations.” In other words, if a player hits .270 in high-level situations when he’s an overall .270 hitter he is not considered clutch. He has to perform at a greater level in pressure situations to be labeled as clutch. Clutch takes a look at the past but doesn’t do a very good job of predicting the future; because a player is clutch at one point doesn’t mean he will continue to produce that way.

Clutch is a metric based on win expectancy and is calculated as such:

Clutch = (Win Probability Added/Player’s Average Leverage Index) – Win Probability Added/Leverage Index

-Win Probability Added measures how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.
-Player’s Average Leverage Index is a player’s average leverage index for all game events.
-Leverage Index is measure of how important a particular situation is in a baseball game depending on the inning, score, outs, and number of players on base.

To clarify, pLI (player’s average leverage index) refers to the average leverage index of all game events for a given player while WPA (win probability added)/LI (leverage index) refers to context neutral wins.

Below is the Clutch rating chart:

Courtesy of FanGraphs.com

 

Having a high clutch score doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an All-Star. Mike Trout (-0.19) and Miguel Cabrera (-1.45) had demoralizing clutch scores last season, but they still battled for MVP. Clutch score demonstrates who can continuously produce at a higher level than usual at the biggest moments of the game to propel their team to victory.

Jimmy Rollins, a man who is stratospheres away from his prime, led the league with a 2.35 Clutch score in 2012, despite hitting only .250. But Rollins’ WPA was 3.14 which is considered great on the scoring scale. With runners in scoring position, the shortstop hit .277 including .333 with the bases loaded. Even though hitting .277 with RISP isn’t anything noteworthy, he still performed at a higher level during high-pressure situations and therefore, is clutch.

Despite common thought, Ryan Braun is not the definition of clutch. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In regards to the Milwaukee Brewers, when you think of who is clutch, your mind probably immediately races to Ryan Braun. You would be wrong. Dead wrong, in fact. In 2012, Braun had a clutch score of -0.63 which is below average. He had an outstanding 4.67 WPA but his average Leverage Index of .98 was below the norm. Sure, he batted .319 but his average with RISP was lower (.307).

The Brewer with the highest clutch score in 2012 was none other than Corey Hart. He accumulated a score of 1.35, good enough for seventh in all of baseball. He had a WPA/LI of .062, a WPA of 2.01, and a pLI of 1.02. Granted, his clutch score rose dramatically on September 1st  when he blasted a walk-off home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates and, if he had played an entire season (149 games in 2012), his score might be a bit lower. But this just shows how important Hart is to the Brewers lineup. The next Brewer on the leaderboard isn’t until No. 34 – Aramis Ramirez with a clutch score of 0.68.

With Hart set to miss a month-plus, who will fill the clutch void? Do the Brewers need to address this or is it a meaningless statistic?

-All statistics and definitions courtesy of FanGraphs.com

 

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Tags: Corey Hart Milwaukee Brewers Ryan Braun Sabermetrics

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