Clutchiness
10 July 2006
  Your First Half Chokers... All Of Them.
Deciding on the parameters to be a Clutch-Star was pretty easy: be great in all situations, and especially so in high leverage situations. But defining the chokers presents a few problems. Can someone who should be merely bad, but is terrible in WPA, be labeled a choker? By the same token, can someone who should be terrific, but is merely very good in WPA, really be considered a choker? Should it just be players with positive expected wins and negative WPA, even if there are others with worse clutchiness numbers? After the jump, I'll present the numbers; you make the decisions.

Perhaps the easiest way to start is to show you the shortlist of contenders, so here are the 27 players who have cost their teams at least one win because of their (lack of) performance in high leverage situations.

As you see, the names practically run the gamut of performers, from the best hitter in baseball by VORP to the worst hitter in baseball by WPA. Indeed, these two men deserve special recognition.

Honorable Mention: Travis Hafner
LevOPS Wins: 3.66
WPA Wins: 2.524
Clutchiness: -1.136

The perception seems to be that Hafner didn't make the All-Star Team due to a combination of the game's location (the NL's Pittsburgh) and his league's manager (hello Paul Konerko). But if, as I suggested last week, Mark Loretta's selection was helped by his perception by virtue of his clutchiness, it stands to reason Hafner finds himself on the other side of this coin. Not having a nightly highlight of late inning heroics doesn't help keep his name in the national consciousness. And if the MVP vote comes around, and people dismiss Hafner because of the Indians record, perhaps we will point to his clutchiness and say that he has no one to blame but himself. Well, himself and Aaron Boone... and Jhonny Peralta... and Jason Johnson... and... well, let's move on.

Dishonorable Mention: Ronny Cedeno
LevOPS Wins: -1.398
WPA Wins: -2.434
Clutchiness: -1.036

Again, can you really consider it choking if your numbers say you should be terrible anyway? As hard as it is to define a choker, it may be equally as difficult to pick the worst hitter on the Cubs. Juan Pierre has a .321 OBP, and yet that puts him smack in the median of Cubs batters with 100 PAs. Neifi Perez scrapes the bottom at .269, but has been allowed to waste "only" 173 plate attempts. And so my vote would go to Cedeno, with this scary note: as bad as so many Cubs have been, Cedeno is worst in both Leverage-adjusted OPS Wins and WPA Wins -- and it's not even close.

Now then, with those two out of the way, allow me to skip the Cedeno-esque "should be bad; are even worse" chokers (you can thank me later, Garret Anderson) and focus on the two other groups that stand out: the choking stars and the deceivers.

*The Choke-Stars*
These are the men who choked away more than one win, but who have put up such good numbers that they're still adding positive total value on the season. In the interest of space, if you'd like to see their OPS Wins and WPA Wins, just refer back to the choker list

Miguel Tejada: -1.016 clutchiness
Mike Lamb: -1.118
Chipper Jones: -1.224
Alex Rodriguez: -1.245
Trot Nixon: -1.248

And the captain of the Choke-Stars, proof that a lack of press hides both your good and your bad:

Jason Bay
LevOPS Wins: 2.280
WPA Wins: 0.655
Clutchiness: -1.625

*The Deceivers*
Yeah, the name leaves a lot to be desired. Any suggestions would certainly be appreciated. But I was trying to get across the message that, over the half-season, these men have put up OBP and SLG numbers that say they should have contributed positively to their clubs... when in actuality, they posted negative WPA. Thankfully, for my purposes, of those who qualified for the overall choker list, those with more than one LevOPS Win stayed positive and became a Clutch-Star. Which means that everyone you see here, while having a positive LevOPS Win expectation, should not have been expected to contribute an entire win. Thus, while the nature of being a Deceiver suggests their chokiness was especially harmful, their clutchiness numbers aren't necessarily any worse than the rest of the choker list.

Robinson Cano: -1.010 clutchiness
Mark Teixeira: -1.024
Jonny Gomes: -1.090
Torii Hunter: -1.197
Austin Kearns: -1.237
Tim Salmon: -1.297
Troy Glaus: -1.317
Jamey Carroll: -1.373
Matt Diaz: -1.397
Shea Hillenbrand: -1.504
Jose Castillo: -1.510
Jose Vidro: -1.555

And the biggest Deceiver of them all, poster boy for sample size warnings:

Chris Shelton
LevOPS Wins: 0.746
WPA Wins: -0.813
Clutchiness: -1.559

So there you have it. Who gets your vote for the biggest chokers of the half-season? Is it Bay, who was the least clutchy player overall but still posted a positive WPA? Is it Shelton, who closely follows Bay but does so while having the distinction of being a Deceiver? Is it Trot Nixon, only 4.1 WPA percentage points from being the only player to put up numbers worthy of one win while actually having negative added value? Or is it a player like Tejada, Teixeira, or A-Rod, whose reputations and contracts say they shouldn't be on the list at all? Hit up the comments with your thoughts.
 
Comments:
Pronk is clearly the biggest choker. He only hits grand slams when it doesn't count.
 
This is interesting now that Shelton has been sent to the minors. The media seemed surprised by the Casey deal. Maybe Sheton's un-clutchiness seen by Dombrowsi-Leyland was part of the reason.
 
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Clutch hitting may or may not exist. Clutchiness most certainly does. By comparing a player's value in terms of win probability to his projected value based on OBP and SLG, we see how much he has over- or under-performed expectations due to performance in higher leverage situations. If clutch exists, it might just look like this.

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Author: Dan Smith
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