First-Half Clutch Stars
Between now and next week's All-Star Game, I'll examine the clutchiness numbers in various ways to determine some of the half-season's top players. Who's on the All-Clutchy Team? How about the All-OPSers? And the payoff post: the All-WPA Team.
But to start, I wanted to highlight just three men. Well, technically I wanted to highlight anyone who met a certain criteria; it turns out there are only three. But one could argue these are the three most valuable clutchy players so far: the Clutch-Stars. And their names shouldn't be surprising.
The criteria is simple: put up numbers worthy of more than one Leverage-adjusted OPS Win Above Average; add more than one win in terms of WPA; and still manage to have added one clutchiness win (as a reminder, clutchiness measures the difference between actual WPA Wins and expected LevOPS Wins). So without further Apu, the only three men to meet this criteria thus far, your Clutch-Stars:
David Ortiz - For all the talk about Big Papi's walk-offs over the past few weeks, he's actually been the least valuable and least clutchy of the three Clutch-Stars. Perhaps even more surprisingly, until recently, he wasn't even the clutchiest player on his team. People often criticize the actual All-Star fan vote for being based more on perception than reality, so with Mark Loretta topping Papi in clutchiness for most of the season, his selection as the AL's starting second baseman shouldn't surprise. But I digress. Papi's Clutch-Stars numbers:
LevOPS Wins: 2.011
WPA Wins: 3.079
Derek Jeter - Captain Intangibles served as the inspiration for this site, when his clutchiness pace as of June 21 caught the eye of Tom Tango. At that time, Jeter led the Yanks in win probability added with 3.2 wins. Here we are just short of two weeks later and Jeter... still leads the Yanks in win probability added with 3.2 wins. Meanwhile, he raised his rate stats a bit, so his clutchiness number has actually gone down. Regardless, as his Clutch-Stars numbers show, the Legend of Derek Jeter continues:
LevOPS Wins: 1.765
WPA Wins: 3.189
And finally, as if there weren't enough ways to say "he's been outstanding" already, may I present your leader in WPA:
Albert Pujols - Seriously, what else is there to say about Pujols at this point? His rate stats say he should have added an incredible three and a half wins thus far; instead he's actually raised his game in high leverage situations and is destroying everyone in WPA Wins with more than five (nearly two more than Jeter, second in the Majors).
LevOPS Wins: 3.428
WPA Wins: 5.059
What can you take from this, besides a sense of awe? One of the points you'll see again and again the "does clutch hitting exist?" debate is that the best hitters in the clutch are also the best hitters period. The Clutch-Stars agree. The three men you see here are also the three top hitters in terms of WPA, and recognized as three of the top hitters of the half-season by nearly any metric. But while others with that distinction have found it difficult enough to meet their seasonal numbers when in high leverage situations (and we'll examine them in the coming days), these three haven't just performed as well as they "should"; they've exceeded even those already excellent numbers. And that's what being a Clutch-Star is all about.