Playing 'Clutch or Not Clutch' with MLB's Top 50 Players

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Playing 'Clutch or Not Clutch' with MLB's Top 50 Players
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Is there such a thing as a clutch player in baseball? If there is, how do we define clutch?

More than a few baseball analysts, including Bill James, believe there is no such thing.

Others, including FanGraphs' David Appleman, believe that it does in fact exist. Appleman takes it a step further by not only defining what a clutch player is, but developing a formula to back up his theory, which he calls...wait for it...clutch.

Here's how Appleman defines the statistic:

A measurement of how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.

Unlike tradition clutch statistics (close and late), Clutch is a much more comprehensive statistic taking into account all situations that may or may not have been high leverage. Additionally, instead of comparing a player to the rest of the field, it compares a player to himself. A player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.

That makes sense.

However, while I admit that there is value to be found in some advanced figures, many times I believe these convoluted formulas were created simply because the guy who came up with them couldn't win an argument with his buddies using traditional statistics.

Derek Jeter is widely considered to be one of the great clutch players in the history of the game by those who believe in the existence of such players.

Back in 2004, when asked by Sports Illustrated what he thought of the belief that clutch players didn't exist, Jeter replied: "You can take those stat guys and throw them out the window."

To an extent, I agree with the Yankees captain.

So going under the belief that, yes, clutch players do in fact exist, and taking Appleman's statistic into account, let's figure out who of the 50 best players in the game today truly deserves to be called clutch.


EDIT: Based on some of the comments, there seems to be some confusion among readers as to the order of the list. This are the 50 best players in baseball today, ranked from 50-to-1. These players are NOT ranked in order of least clutch to most clutch. Hope this clears things up.

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