The Urban Dictionary defines Clutch as, “To perform under pressure”. For decades, baseball pundits and fans have extolled the virtues of players who supposedly had this trait. Their evidence, however, was only visual and anecdotal. Back in the 1970’s, most people considered Tony Perez of the “Big Red Machine” one of baseball’s best clutch hitters. After all, he had over 100 RBI’s in six seasons between 1967 & 1975. In fact, some would argue that his election to the Hall of Fame was based on this reputation.
Now that baseball is in the age of statistical analysis, our old observations may be called into question. Even a math-challenged fan understands that you can’t get a plethora of RBI’s without baserunners. And, boy, did those Reds teams have baserunners!
Statistics on RBI Percentage (RBI-HR/Runners On) now go back to 1974, so let’s see how our legendary clutch hitter fared in a season where he was an All-Star. Perez had 101 RBI’s, 28 HR’s & 489 runners on base for a RBI percentage of 14.93%. That didn’t even crack the top 50 for the major leagues in ’74! He finished behind household names such as Reggie Smith, Richie Zisk, Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno & Ted Simmons. The leaders were Jeff Burroughs at 21.18% and Sal Bando at 21.15%.
Our Hall-of-Famer improved considerably in 1975 as he accumulated 109 RBI’s with 20 HR’s and 489 runners on base (again). His percentage improved to 18.20% and he just snuck into the top ten for that season. The only hitters at 20% or higher were Willie Stargell at 20.48% and Thurman Munson at 20.00%.
As a fan, you certainly have an opinion on today’s clutch hitters but do the stats back you up? In 2016, there were 12 hitters who exceeded the 18.20% that Perez posted in ’75. We’ll only include players who had at least 200 baserunners during the season to eliminate the “small sample size” outliers. These are “Quacker’s Clutch All-Stars” and we’ll see how well their performance aligns with their reputation.
1) Daniel Murphy, Nationals 2B, 21.7% – Proved that his post-season performance in ’15 was no fluke.
2) David Ortiz, Red Sox DH, 20.8% – This is of the few examples of a player going out on top.
3) Yangervis Solarte, Padres 3B, 20.8% – Under the radar on a lousy team in the Pacific time zone
4 Nolan Arenado, Rockies 3B, 20.6% – He was at the top of this list last season and he’ll only be 26 in 2017.
5) Mookie Betts, Red Sox OF, 20.1% – If you won’t give the MVP to Mike Trout due to his team’s record, this is the guy who should get your vote.
6) Coco Crisp, Indians OF, 19.7% – Limited playing time but still productive with runners on base.
7) Eric Hosmer, Royals 1B, 18.9% – KC had a disappointing season, but he wasn’t the reason.
8) Nick Hundley, Rockies C, 18.9% – Another part-time player who came through in the right spots.
9) Ryan Schimpf, Padres 2B, 18.8% – Not sure what to make of this when he had 276 AB’s, 20 HR’s, 105 K’s and a .217 BA.
10) Adam Duvall, Reds OF, 18.6% – As a fan, you’ve got to love it when a AAAA, 27 year-old gets a chance to shine.
11) Hanley Ramirez, Red Sox 1B, 18.2% – Turned things around after last year’s poor debut in Beantown.
12) Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians OF, 18.2% – Tempered slightly by his platoon status.
Trout posted a decent number of 17% while probable NL ROY Corey Seager only came in at 12.6%. Historically, Miguel Cabrera has been near the top of this category, but was only at 16.4% this year.
The three worst clutch hitters in baseball were Kolten Wong at 8%, Jace Peterson at 8.6% and Ender Inciarte at 9.1%.
Hope all your fantasy players come through in the clutch. For more information on RBI Percentage, go to baseballmusings.com.