What Is Clutchiness, The Stat?
To say there is debate amongst the stat community as to whether clutch hitting exists as a repeatable skill is an understatement. For just the tip of the iceberg, peruse any or all of these works on the subject
. Personally, I'm clutch agnostic. That so many smart people have looked at the same issue and come to so many different conclusions leads me to believe the answer, whatever it may be, is still lurking.
That said, one of the most respected of those smart persons is Tom Tango, who co-authored the highly recommended The Book. An offshoot of The Book has been what I call The Blog. It was a post on The Blog that was the inspiration for what you see here.
What struck me in the post was not so much its conclusion (Captain Intangibles is having a clutch season? Shockhorror.) but the almost absurdly simple methodology: by comparing a player's actual value added, in terms of the leverage-adjusted win probability added, to his expected value, in terms of straight OBP and SLG, we can see how much value he added to (or cost) his team by over- or under-performing his seasonal averages in higher leverage situations.
Tango's Jeter example may help illuminate the point better. Back on June 21, when the entry was posted, Jeter's OBP, SLG, and PA described a batter who should have been worth a bit more than 1.6 wins (using Tango's equation where .03 * ( 1.7*OBP+SLG-1 ) = wins above average per plate attempt [see the update below]). But according to win probability, he had added 3.2 wins. In short, if he had performed exactly along his seasonal (if three months can be considered seasonal) averages in every plate appearance, he would have added 1.6 wins over average; his nearly double WPA makes it clear that he was outperforming these numbers in his most important at-bats.
As I said, I'm clutch agnostic. I don't know if clutch hitting as a repeatable, sustainable skill exists or not. But it occurs to me that if it does, the Jeter example probably looks a lot like what clutch would be. At the very least, it's demonstrable proof of already-occurred performance in what we think of as clutch situations. It may not truly be clutch... but it definitely is clutchiness.
Update 6/30: The equation for OPS Wins Per Plate Appearance is now .025 * ( 1.7*OBP+SLG-1 ). For an explanation of this, and other changes to the original clutchiness formulas, please see this post.