Thursday, April 22, 2010

Looking for The Clutch

What have to Orioles been missing this year? Sure, the offense but what do you hear most often?

"The big hit"

"Situational hitting"

"Hitting with runners in scoring position"

"Runners left on base"

"Coming through in the clutch"

These are the things that are missing if you ask your average Oriole fan.

I believe in clutch hitting. How can I not? It happens everyday. But it is rarely predictive or repeatable.

So how do we measure it? Most times it is measured with batting average with runners in scoring position (BARISP) but that is a pretty volatile stat to use for individual players (and whole teams for that matter).

There are a number of other stats which show how a batter "moves the needle" for his team in a positive or negative direction. Most of you probably know about WPA (or WPA/LI)which I have highlighted with the WPA Graphs I borrow from but there are more. Sticking with FanGraphs, there is also RE24 and Clutch. (For explanations of the above terms, click the links for the FanGraphs definitions...they explain it much better than I can.)

So for reference, here are the WPA/LI Oriole Leaders for the last 3 years.

Orioles' WPA/LI Last Three Seasons

A. Huff 2.990 2008
N. Markakis 2.939 2008
B. Roberts 1.867 2008
L. Scott 1.493 2009
N. Markakis 1.359 2007
B. Roberts 1.147 2007
B. Roberts 1.057 2009

And the RE24...

Orioles' RE24 Last Three Seasons

RE24 Year
A. Huff 36.449 2008
N. Markakis 35.097 2008
B. Roberts 23.184 2008
L. Scott 18.031 2009
N. Markakis 17.748 2007
B. Roberts 17.664 2009
B. Roberts 17.217 2007

And the Clutch numbers which are interesting because they compare the high leverage performance of a player to their baseline performance:

Orioles' Clutch Numbers Last Three Seasons

Clutch Year
Brian Roberts 1.2 2009
Adam Jones 0.91 2009
Nick Markakis 0.78 2007
Corey Patterson 0.58 2007
Melvin Mora 0.56 2008
Ramon Hernandez 0.49 2008
Brian Roberts 0.4 2007
Brian Roberts 0.34 2008
Adam Jones 0.3 2008

OK, who walked around in 2007 saying, "Man, that Corey Patterson is so clutch!"?

And before this season, Adam Jones had been pretty clutch.

But I think we can see the name that shows up on all these lists the most...Brian Roberts. You can't overestimate how integral Roberts has been to the Oriole offense over the past three years. Only Nick Markakis is even close in terms of contributing to Oriole wins. Roberts moves the needle in the Orioles' favor far more than any other batter on the roster.

Now, most of the team is slumping and you have to think they will turn it around eventually. But this offense may not start clicking until Roberts returns. And that's weeks away.

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