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 mid-to-late 1970’s, most people considered Greg Luzinski one of the top clutch hitters in the game. He made four consecutive All-Star teams and averaged 111 RBI’s in those campaigns.
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 Phillies teams have baserunners! The line-up included Dick Allen, Dave Cash, Mike Schmidt and a part-time OF named Jay Johnstone who compiled a .397 OBP in ’75.
Statistics on RBI Percentage (RBI-HR/Runners On) now go back to 1974, so let’s see how our legendary clutch hitter fared in 1975. “The Bull” had 120 RBI’s, 34 HR’s & 498 runners on base for a RBI percentage of 17.27%. That didn’t even crack the top 20 for the major leagues in ’75! He finished behind household names such as Bobby Murcer, Dave Parker, Jorge Orta, Rusty Staub & George Scott. The leaders were Willie Stargell (20.48%) and Thurman Munson (20.00%).
As a fan, you certainly have an opinion on today’s clutch hitters but do the stats back you up? In 2020, there were over 40 hitters who exceeded the 17.27% that Luzinski posted in ’75. We’ll only include players who had at least 100 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. There will be players you expected to see and others that will cause you to scratch your head.
1) Eric Hosmer, Padres 1B, 24.32% – The Friars are on the upswing and gave the veteran guys in the line-up plenty of opportunities.
2) Wil Myers, Padres OF, 23.36%% – Should we be that surprised to see his OPS go up over 200 points? He is still only 29.
3) Freddie Freeman, Braves 1B, 22.47% – A MVP candidate and one of the most consistent players in the game. He was also 3rd in this category last year.
4) Jose Abreu, White Sox 1B, 22.16%% – Led the AL with 60 RBI’s and it was no fluke.
5) Trea Turner, Natioanls SS, 21.80% – One of the best all-around players in the game.
6) David Bote, Cubs 3B, 21.36%- Every list has a fluke…he only batted .200.
7) Charlie Blackmon, Rockies OF, 21.05% – Was in the top ten last season also…solid.
8) Luke Voit, Yankees 1B, 20.83%- Did you predict that he’d lead the AL in HR’s? If so, you win the Cardinals GM job. He was traded for Giovanny Gallegos.
9) Juan Soto, Nationals OF, 20.69%- Yes, he can do everything and won’t be 22 until later this month.
10) Stephen Piscotty, Athletics OF, 20.51% – His .629 OPS tells another story.
11) Kyle Tucker, Astros OF, 20.50%- He won’t be 24 until January…this will only get better.
12) Mike Yastrzemski, Giants OF, 20.49%- How did everyone miss on this guy?
Others over 20% were Jesus Aguilar, David Peralta, Dominic Smith, Anthony Santander, Eloy Jimenez, Rowdy Tellez & Andrew McCutcheon.
For everyday players, Hunter Dozier was the worst in baseball at 5.41%. Others under 8% included Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Alex Gordon, Edwin Encarnacion & Christian Yelich (7.75%).
Hope all your fantasy players came through in the clutch. For more information on RBI Percentage, go to baseballmusings.com.