Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, highlighted key insights while presenting revolutionary and progressive baseball knowledge.
However, I disagreed with him in two areas.
No. 1: Speed
Lewis understood from Billy Beane (Oakland A’s GM) that steals are an unnecessary risk to take, presenting high risk and relatively low reward. Transitionally, Lewis argued that since steals are not important, neither is speed.
That is where I disagree.
Although steals may be an overrated statistic, speed itself is not. Pitchers often unravel with quicker base runners on base, knowing that if their delivery is not perfect, they can let a runner move 90 feet closer to home.
Further, it changes the pitches the pitcher will throw. Take the Red Sox, for instance.
When Jacoby Ellsbury gets on base, pitchers are more likely to throw fastballs to the next hitter (Dustin Pedroia), to give Ells as little time as possible to complete a steal.
Pedroia, however, is a fastball hitting machine, and regularly deposits fastballs into right field.
Ellsbury’s speed not only makes the pitcher change his delivery and pitching style, but it also makes the pitcher change his mentality.
Is Clutch Real, or is it Just Luck?
I believe that “clutch”, or hitting in timely situations, is something which a player either has, or doesn’t. Sure, a guy like Mark Bellhorn can hit a home run in a big situation during the World Series, but that doesn’t make him clutch if he strikes out nine out of the other 10 at bats he has!
The bottom line is, clutch is something that can be measured, and I am working on building up a statistic which relies on hitters’ stats with two outs and runners on base.
That situation is when a hitter feels pressure similar to that of a 9th inning at-bat with the game on the line since a scoring opportunity is possible, as is letting down a full dugout of teammates.
For those of you who want it in simple words:
Singles, doubles and triples all help a players clutch factor equally.
A single is equivalent to a triple since speed is already taken into account with steals, and sometimes balls hit with little power can find their way into the corner for extra bases, dependent upon ballparks and factors external to the hitter.
Home runs are the most valuable hit, since they automatically produce runs, and stealing in clutch situations can be game changing, while getting caught hurts a teams chances of winning.
On-base percentage is another large factor in determining a player’s clutch factor, since the single most important thing a player can do is to get on base to prolong an inning.