The definition of “clutch” seems to be somewhat elusive for many people. The slang dictionary describes it as “the ability to deliver when peak performance is needed” and your imagination can take that beyond the realm of sports. The urban dictionary concurs by saying, “the ability to perform well on a certain activity at a particular moment, despite external pressures, influences or distractions.” Of course, the term also has a tendency to fit other circumstances such as, “you are really craving a beer…you go to the fridge and there’s one left…so clutch.”
For long-time baseball fans, clutch has always been linked with RBI’s. After all, don’t the leaders in that statistical category come through in the clutch? The answer, of course, is never that easy. The folks who study baseball statistics have known since the 70’s that raw stats can be misleading. Batting in runs is a very important factor in a player’s success but that outcome is influenced greatly by where he hits in the line-up, whether he has protection in that line-up and, more importantly, how many runners were on the base paths when he came to the plate. To this end, baseballmusings.com gives you the historical data to determine “RBI Percentage”. It is a result of a player’s (RBI – HR) / Runners On, or in simplistic terms, what percentage of base runners did a player drive in during the season. In 2020, the stat told us that Freddie Freeman & Jose Abreu (the two MVP’s) finished 3rd & 4th in all of baseball with marks over 22%.
So, as the mid-point of the season comes and goes, let’s look at the best (and worst) clutch hitters in the game. The statistical information is as of July 2nd and includes players who had at least 100+ runners on base when they came to the plate.
1) Eddie Rosario 22.7% – Cleveland gave him a cheap one-year deal and while his overall numbers aren’t great, he’s come through with 45 RBI’s.
2) Adam Duvall 22.2% – Another bargain free agent, his 56 RBI’s have been a big part of the Marlins offense.
3) Ramiel Tapia 21.9% – The Rockies lead-off hitter has very productive and he’s added 11 SB’s.
4) Ozzie Albies 21.7% – The Braves have a legitimate star in this 24 year-old. He’s leading the NL with 58 RBI’s.
5) Manny Machado 21.6% – Padre fans have forgotten about his mediocre 2019…and he’s still in his 20’s.
6) Shohei Ohtani 21.6% – You do realize that this is a generational player?
7) Yadier Molina 21.3% – The fountain of youth must be under the Gateway Arch.
8) Sean Murphy 20.7% – A Catcher with these offensive numbers is golden.
9) Rafael Devers 20.5% – This is a genuine star at the Hot Corner for the BoSox. He leads the AL in Doubles & RBI’s.
10) Taylor Ward 20.4% – A nice surprise for the Halos.
11) Matt Beaty 20.3% – Where do the Dodgers find these guys? Maybe we should ask Max Muncy.
12) Alex Kirilloff 20.2% – The next star in the Twin Cities.
Fernando Tatis Jr. shows up in the next level (19+ %) as do three Blue Jays in Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez. When it comes to everyday players, the bottom of the barrel looks like this…
> Kevin Newman 6.3% – Hitting .207 overall
> Nick Ahmed 6.9% – The D’Backs have won 23 games.
> Brett Gardner & Victor Robles 7.0% – Bad performances include veterans and youngsters.
There are also some significant surprises on this year’s list…
> Bryce Harper 8.1% – His .881 OPS obviously doesn’t tell the entire story.
> Andrew Vaughn 8.6% – Possibly an over-hyped prospect?
> Jason Heyward 9.3% – He’s making $23M and has 15 RBI’s.
> Francisco Lindor 10.2% – A salary of $22M with a contract that goes until 2031!
For those of us from a certain generation, it would have been nice if Carlos Gonzalez was still playing and had made the list because it would have brought back memories of “Clutch Cargo”.