MLB Survey - the Existence of Clutch

I was contacted by Double G Sports, a BBA Affiliate, about participating in a brief five question survey.  Five questions... the premise was to find out who we thought were the most feared active players in MLB today.  Obviously, "fear" is a very subjective topic but I took the stance that I would pick the player that I would trust to produce when the pressure cooker was hottest.  My answers (some which were echoed by others) were criticized by another BBA Blog, the Replacement Level Baseball Blog (referred to from here on out as "RL").  The author of the post reached out to me and we discussed our differing opinions, which really boiled down to a disagreement over the existence of "clutch-ness" in baseball.

Maybe I'm getting old... but I like to believe that I'm a sentimentalist.  I often find myself rooting for heady veterans and I believe that clutch is not something you earn overnight.  RL took the stance that clutch doesn't exist; a premise which I find interesting (to put it nicely).

Here are the Double G survey questions and our picks with a bit of conjecture.

1. Your team is on the field with a one-run lead and a runner on first in the bottom of the 9th.  A home run and you lose... which batter would scare you the most?

OCP pick - Albert Pujols (honorable mention Joey Votto)
RL pick - Miguel Cabrera

Albert turned in an "off" first-half and he's three years older than Cabrera so, on the surface, some might be inclined to argue that he's not the right pick but Albert's career postseason batting average sits at .330 (his OPS 1.067) and his career OPS with runners in scoring position is still well above 1.000.  Even this season, a season which has been largely forgettable for Pujols, the Machine has managed to post a triple slash of .385/.556/.654 with two outs and runners in scoring position.  He has 15 home runs in 2012 despite not hitting one until the 29th game of the season.  Albert Pujols is the greatest player of this generation and I'd say that it's not even close.  At 32 years of age, he's still the last guy I would want to see standing in the box with the game on the line against my team in a clutch spot (he had 16 RBI and 15 R in 18 games in last year's postseason... the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers all know how potent he can be when it matters).

Cabera, by comparison, has a career triple-slash of .282/.383/.573 in the postseason and .965 OPS with 2 outs and runners in scoring position.  This season, he has a .982 OPS with runners in scoring position and 20 HR.

2. A one-game, must-win, do-or-die scenario.  What starting pitcher do you not want your team to face?

OCP pick - Cole Hamels
RL pick - Zack Greinke

Cole Hamels has a career 3.09 ERA in the postseason (and that's without giving him a mulligan for a forgettable 2009 campaign).  In every pressure situation you can imagine, his numbers look better (including games with 2 runs of support or less).  His propensity to perform in the clutch is why Hamels will break the bank this year for one lucky team.  The starting pitcher is a fickle beast... I'd take Hamels over Verlander (who hasn't shown up in big games) or Felix (who hasn't been tested in a pressure situation) but either of those guys would be capable of beating Hamels on a given day. 

Zack Greinke has a 6.48 ERA in three postseason starts... small sample size but I'm not sure he's the guy I would trust in a pressure spot just yet. RL picked Greinke as a contrarian pick and I doubt he'd argue vehemently against any other selection.  Greinke has posted a ridiculous 2.79 FIP since 2009 but if you take 2009 out of the equation (a historical year which saw him post a 2.33 FIP en route to a Cy Young award), Greinke is sort of right there with the rest of the pack.  

3. Bottom of the ninth, you are down a run and need to score at least one run to tie the game.  Which closer do you not want to face?

My pick - Craig Kimbrel
RL Pick - Craig Kimbrel

I made the decision to take Mariano Rivera out of the equation because he's currently on the disabled list recovering from a very difficult injury.  From there, I picked Kimbrel because he's one of the most dominant and poised young closers I've seen in a very long time.  He could be the next Eric Gagne but, at least for now, he's the best in the game (honorable mention Aroldis Chapman).

4. Your opponent needs to get a runner in scoring position.  Who do you not want to see on first base looking to steal? 

My pick - Michael Bourn
RL pick - Mike Trout

I'm not going to argue here.  This one is all about speed and stolen base aptitude and there are only two guys that should make this list and thankfully, we pegged them both.

5. Runner on third in a tie game, less than two outs.  Your team is on the field.  Give up a single and you lose.  Which batter do you not want at the plate against your team?

My pick - Derek Jeter
RL pick - Joey Votto

In terms of plate discipline, Votto doesn't swing at balls out of the strike zone - he is among the best in the game in this regard.  Votto ranks 5th among qualifiers this year while only swinging at 21.4% of balls out of the strike zone.  Jeter, by comparison, has swung at 31.9% of balls out of the strike zone this year.  However, Votto also tends to watch strikes go by more than Jeter, swinging at 64.3% of strikes compared to 71.7% for Jeter... Votto swings at fewer bad pitches AND good pitches.      Who makes more contact?  Derek Jeter, whose contact percentage is 85.8%, compared to 80.3% for Votto.  Who would you rather have?  

Here's where I get a little bit sentimental.  Joey Votto is other-worldly.  He is the next Albert Pujols and he is head and shoulders better than Derek Jeter right now but in his only postseason appearance, Joey Votto, whose career OBP sits above .400, posted an OBP below .100 - Derek Jeter has never thrown up a dud like that in the postseason. This question, in my mind, is purely about picking the guy that you know will do whatever it takes to drive in that runner standing on third base.  It is about the player that has proved he has the intestinal fortitude to get things done in the clutch. 


  1. Been awhile since I have been here. I like the new format.

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you like it... stop by more often :-)


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