Saturday, October 19, 2013

Just How Clutch is Big Papi? - A Response to Albert Chen

In the eighth inning of game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers, the Red Sox were trailing DET by 5 runs. Max Scherzer was nearly perfect after the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez was almost perfect in game 1. Sanchez had a no-hitter through the ninth and Scherzer threw 7 innings and let up 2 hits and 1 earned run. But when the Tigers' bullpen relieved the ace in game 2, all hell broke loose for Detroit. With a comfortable 5-1 lead, Jose Veras began pitching for Detroit in relief. I think we all know what happened from here. David Ortiz guessed on the first pitch he saw and sent right fielder Torii Hunter over the wall for the potential series-swinging grand slam to tie the game. Needless to say, I was screaming in joy and disbelief as this was happening. So just how clutch is Big Papi?

With the hit, Ortiz created yet another signature Boston Sports moment including a Boston Police Officer in the bullpen.[/caption]

With the grand slam in the eight, Big Papi climbed to second place on an exclusive list of players including Bernie Williams and Pete Rose with the most game-tying or go-ahead hits in the 8th inning or later in playoff history. Williams and Rose are tied for first with 6 hits with J.D Drew and David Ortiz tied for second with 5 apiece.

Prior to Ortiz' late-game heroics, Sports Illustrated's Albert Chen wrote a story in the weekly magazine titled, Clutch Much, with the Red Sox' David Ortiz as the background. The thesis of the article was about the "Clutch Gene" and if it exists or not. In the article, Chen writes from the analytical perspective, in which there is no such thing as being clutch. In his article, Chen says, "There's no denying that clutch hits exist -- but is there such a thing as a  clutch hitter? I believe there is, and in the sport of baseball, there's no hitter more clutch right now than David Ortiz.

In Albert Chen's article, He explains how hitters aren't actually clutch, but have clutch hits because of their statistics in pressure situations in the playoffs. He compares player's stats like Derek Jeter and David Ortiz playoff performances to their regular season hitting; which is totally unfair and incorrect.

This year, the Boston Red Sox team batting average dropped over 40 percentage points from the regular season to the post-season (.277 to .236), which is pretty average for the league. This happens simply because the pitching is better in the playoffs. David Ortiz' career batting average over 17 seasons is .287. That only drops to .272 in the postseason in 16 playoff series. Because most hitters generally slump in the playoffs compared to the regular season and Big Papi usually doesn't, that makes him a clutch hitter.

This year in the playoffs, Ortiz is struggling at the plate but when he hits, he does it in important situations to make it count. The Red Sox slugger is 7 for 35 in the 2013 playoffs but he has 7 RBI to go with his 7 hits. 7 RBI?!?!?! That's crazy good for the playoffs in which games are usually decided by one or two runs. Ortiz is tied for third in the MLB for playoff RBI. He's behind teammate Shane Victorino, who also hit a grand slam in the ALCS, and Carlos Beltran, who is also a very clutch hitter. Big Papi also has 3 homeruns in these playoffs, which has him tied for second behind former Boston player Carl Crawford.

Although I disagreed with the point of Chen's article, which was that clutch hitters probably don't exist because there's no way to measure it, I enjoyed reading it a lot and I hope he writes more on the subject or on another interesting topic.