Josh Reddick Has Been the Anti-Willie Bloomquist

A short while ago, I published a Willie Bloomquist career retrospective you might have seen. But, I know you’re probably tired of reading Willie Bloomquist career retrospectives. Ever since Bloomquist announced his retirement late last week, the Internet has been dominated by Willie Bloomquist career retrospectives. When I navigate over to Google News, all I see filling every individual section are innumerable different Willie Bloomquist career retrospectives. So in case you didn’t bother to read my latest, out of Willie Bloomquist career retrospective fatigue, let me boil it down: Bloomquist was a lot of different things over the course of his career, but one of those things, interestingly, is that Bloomquist was clutch. He hit a little better when the stakes were a little higher.

I didn’t intend for that post to spark a series. And, really, this isn’t a series — all this is is another post, the subject of which was discovered while researching the earlier post. But, okay: You probably didn’t know before today that Bloomquist was objectively clutch. And you probably didn’t know before right now that Josh Reddick has been objective unclutch. By a lot, I mean. The numbers are dreadful.

Space must always be carved out to discuss the difference between performance record and ability. I don’t know if Bloomquist was actually clutch, and I don’t know if Reddick is actually unclutch. But I know that Reddick has performed like an unclutch player, and that’s what’s mattered to this point for him and for his team. Performance within context can be hard to predict, but performance within context wins and loses baseball games. Josh Reddick has won the A’s fewer baseball games than you’d think, based on, say, his slash line.

When you think about Reddick as a player, you probably think of him as a solidly good corner outfielder, who seems to struggle with injuries. That would be a pretty accurate impression. Reddick has been an above-average hitter, he’s quietly been an excellent baserunner, and he’s been terrific in the field. Since 2002, 467 players have batted at least 2,000 times. If you sort by WAR per 600 plate appearances, Reddick ranks 60th, around names like Jose Bautista, Jonathan Lucroy, and Jim Thome. Bloomquist, as noted in the earlier post, ranks 447th. Reddick has been good. Bloomquist was right around replacement-level.

Yet, from the earlier post, we know that Bloomquist ranks first out of everyone in Clutch per 600 plate appearances. This is a little explainer for our Clutch statistic. It’s kind of like the difference between actual Win Probability Added and expected Win Probability Added, based on the player’s performance level. Clutch accounts for context, where something like WAR does not. Bloomquist is first in the whole group. Reddick is dead last. If you fold in Clutch to create a sort of “adjusted” WAR per 600 plate appearances, then Reddick ranks 257th, while Bloomquist ranks 327th. Reddick’s WAR/600 advantage drops from 3.3 to 0.4.

Not that the point is simply to compare Josh Reddick and Willie Bloomquist. The latter has nothing to do with the former. It’s just that we were already talking about Bloomquist earlier. Let’s leave him out, now. We have win-expectancy data from 1974 on. Since then, 1,184 players have batted at least 2,000 times. Here are the bottom 10 players by Clutch per 600:

10 Lowest Clutch/600 PA, 1974 – 2015
Player PA Clutch Clutch/600
Josh Reddick 2495 -7.0 -1.7
Ron Kittle 3013 -6.8 -1.3
Richard Hidalgo 3929 -8.7 -1.3
Ken Phelps 2288 -4.7 -1.2
David Ross 2439 -5.0 -1.2
Gaby Sanchez 2271 -4.4 -1.2
Giancarlo Stanton 2958 -5.5 -1.1
Gene Tenace 4254 -7.9 -1.1
Ken Henderson 2453 -4.5 -1.1
Mike Napoli 4200 -7.1 -1.0

Reddick is the worst, out of well more than a thousand players. And though it might not seem like the gap is that big, he’s the worst by four-tenths of a point compared to the second-worst. Look at how tightly-grouped the other players are. Reddick stands out from the players who already stand out from the other players. Reddick, of course, has a long way to go in his career, but this has been a very strong negative.

Here’s how Reddick’s career has gone. One line shows ordinary WAR, while the thicker line shows WAR adjusted for single-season Clutch.

reddick-clutch-war

What probably stands out most is 2012. That year, Reddick was worth four and a half wins, but viewed another way, he was worth less than one win. His single-season Clutch was -3.9, which is the single lowest Clutch we have on record. Reddick hasn’t threatened that mark again, and that season really drags down the rest of Reddick’s record, but it’s not like he’s turned positive — in each of the last two seasons, Reddick has been a win less valuable than regular WAR would indicate. I understand, again, that just adding WAR + Clutch has its issues, but I do like it as an easy indicator.

What we know: Reddick has been unclutch. Finding an explanation isn’t easy. This should be obvious, but it follows that Reddick has under-performed in important situations. These are his Baseball-Reference career splits:

  • High Leverage: .606 OPS
  • Medium Leverage: .729
  • Low Leverage: .816

Relative to his overall performance line, Reddick has been arguably the worst high-leverage hitter ever. (Rajai Davis has also been terrible.) Interestingly, Reddick has actually hit relievers better than starters. And while he’s performed worse against power pitchers, pretty much everyone does. Reddick has a .690 career OPS when the game is within a run, and he has an .830 OPS when the margin is greater than four runs. Reddick has been one of the rare hitters who’s hit better with the bases empty than with runners on.

I don’t know if it’s a focus thing, I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing, and I don’t know if it’s a random-noise thing. I’m not sure why Reddick would be so vulnerable in tougher spots. He was unclutch last season despite what was easily a career-low strikeout rate. I’m not sure how to speculate on this and my default presumption is typically “it’s noise.” But if nothing else, it’s been important noise. These have been real plate appearances and real outs for Reddick and the A’s, and they’ve been costly. Oakland should only hope Reddick won’t keep this up moving forward, as the organization has talked about giving Reddick an extension.

On that note, Reddick remains in last place if you just look at all players since 1974 by Clutch/600 through age 28. Of the players who also then batted at least 1,000 times after age 28, the 25 least-clutch players through 28 averaged a Clutch/600 of -0.9, and then a Clutch/600 of -0.3 after 28. They regressed 70% of the way to the mean, which would put Reddick at an average of -0.5 moving forward. But, of course, there’s fluctuation. Mike Schmidt stayed unclutch. Chet Lemon stayed unclutch. Mike Lieberthal stayed unclutch. Miguel Montero became moderately clutch. Alfonso Soriano regressed to 0.0. Projecting skill is hard. Projecting what might be partly a skill is harder. Good luck, Oakland!

By the ways that people look at baseball players, Josh Reddick has been a good baseball player. He’s done at least a little bit of everything, but on the downside, Reddick has contributed less to his team than you’d assume, after you fold in timing. Maybe that’s important, and maybe that isn’t. Maybe that’s something the A’s think about, and maybe that isn’t. If they choose to ignore it as they draft an extension proposal, maybe the A’s would be doing the right thing, and maybe they wouldn’t be.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Walter
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Walter

For that last bit, didn’t The Book basically tell us how we should project Reddick? No need to look at just 25 players right?

If Reddick performs, for example, .050 points* worse than expected in high leverage over 251 PAs, then don’t we have to regress this towards league average using 7600 PAs (http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/clutch_skill_does_exist/)? Wouldn’t that come out to expecting him to perform just .0016 points of wOBA worse than normal going forward?

Isn’t this the whole point of the “clutch exists but clutch players don’t” bit, that even terrible performances confer essentially no predictability going forward?