Team Clutch Hitting

As Eric and I have been illustrating over the last few days, there’s some really cool stuff in the new team pages that you guys should be checking out. Here’s one more example – a graph of all team’s Clutch scores, which measure the portion of their WPA that came from their performance in high leverage situations. Essentially, this is how team’s performed when it mattered.

Team Clutch Hitting

Notice how most teams aren’t that far from zero? 23 of the 30 teams had scores between +3 and -3, meaning that they won three more or less games thanks to their high leverage hitting. It helps, but clearly, it’s not the thing that makes or breaks a ballclub.

But look at those two big bars on the far left hand side, especially the biggest one – that’s a clutch score of +7.32. That’s the 2008 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who added almost seven and a half wins to their total by performing well in high leverage situations. That’s 2.6 standard deviations from the mean – a true outlier if ever there was one. A huge portion of Anaheim’s success in 2008 was directly due to clutch hitting.

Guess what – they led the league in 2007, too, posting a +5.19 clutch score. That’s 12.5 wins in two years thanks to timely hitting. Yes, it’s probably random variation, but it’s interesting random variation.

Just for kicks, here are their clutch scores and MLB ranks for the entire decade, which happens to be the length of Mike Scioscia’s managerial reign.

2000: -2.08 (21st)
2001: -5.41 (25th)
2002: 4.54 (3rd)
2003: 0.13 (11th)
2004: 1.33 (6th)
2005: 4.28 (2nd)
2006: -1.85 (21st)
2007: 5.19 (1st)
2008: 7.32 (1st)

This probably doesn’t mean anything, and I certainly wouldn’t advise betting on the Angels to be among the league leaders in clutch hitting again next year. But a +20 clutch score over the last seven years sure is eye opening. If you keep looking at those rosters and trying to figure out how they won so many games, here you go.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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David Appelmanmember
15 years ago

It’s worth noting the Angels threw in another +7 wins in Clutch pitching too this year, which made them an amazing 15 some games better because of their timely performance! Clutch wins made the AL West crazy lopsided.

I remember this time last year everyone was talking about the Diamondbacks and how they outperformed their record. They were only +11 clutch wins.