Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

January 23, 2007

Alex Rodriguez and His Clutchness (or Lack Thereof)
by SG

For as long as Alex Rodriguez has been and will be a Yankee, the question about his "clutchness" or lack thereof has been coming up and will likely keep coming up. Thanks to the great book Baseball Hacks, and the wonderful organization, I've been able to create a play by play database on my computer that can let me look at data that was previously almost impossible to look at in any reasonable time frame.

Today I'm going to use that data to try and break down Alex Rodriguez's performance as a Yankee in certain situations. As a caveat, we're dealing with very small sample sizes in many of these situations, so keep that in mind.

The first myth I'd like to deal with is that Rodriguez's production always comes when the Yankees are already ahead. Thanks to the play by play data, that's easy enough to verify. This chart breaks down Rodriguez's production based on the deficit the Yankees were facing at the time of his plate appearances. A negative deficit indicates the Yankees were trailing by that many runs, a positive number means they were leading by that many. In addition to the well-known stats like AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS, I've added Weighted On Base Average (wOBA), which does a better job of weighing the components of an offensive player's performances relative to their value in run-scoring. wOBA was devised by Tango Tiger, Andy Dolphin, and MGL in The Book, and scales very closely to OBP, ie: .300 is not so good, .400 is pretty good, .500 is outstanding. (click on any of the images below to enlarge them)

So Rodriguez has batted 730 times with the Yankees trailing, and he's hit .301/.395/.553 for a wOBA of .408. He's batted 776 times with the Yankees ahead and has hit .321/.402/.562 with a wOBA of .415. That's a slight difference, but hardly the chasm the media and many fans would have you believe exists.

But what about the myth that Rodriguez does all his damage early in the game, when it supposedly doesn't count?

Here's a graphical representation of that chart, plotting Rodriguez's wOBA by inning.

There's a bit more of a split here, as he's hit .303/.403/.560 for a wOBA of .414 in innings 1-6, and .297/.377/.536 for a wOBA of .392, but again not nearly the split that you'd think given his coverage in the press. You can use wOBA to estimate a run value by multiplying it by the plate appearances and dividing it by 1.15. To figure out the difference in the performance we can subtract one wOBA from the other and do the same thing.

So (.414-.392)/1.15 x 600 PA gives you a difference of about 11 runs over a full season.

This table just looks at the sum of his production by both inning and deficit. The sample sizes here are again way too small, so this is really just for information.

Let's take just the plate appearances where the Yankees are trailing by 3 runs or fewer or are tied, from the seventh inning on.

Now we can see a pretty severe falloff, although we're dealing with just 204 plate appearances.

In summary, these numbers tell me that Rodriguez's reputation of failing in the clutch is a little unfair. The last table is certainly valid evidence that he has not been as good in the specific situations where the Yankees needed him most, but the other stuff about how he does all his damage in blowouts and early in games is pretty overblown.

I've uploaded this data to a Google Spreadsheet for anyone who wants it.

These don't include playoff games, which I hope to eventually incorporate into my play-by-play database. Next time, I'm going to look at the same splits for Derek Jeter, whose clutch reputation is the polar opposite of Rodriguez's.

Update: By request, here are Rodriguez's splits by deficit broken down into 2004, 2005, and 2006. I cut off the deficits that were not present in all three seasons for comparison's sake, but they were all very small samples. The Google
spreadsheet has also been updated for the visually challenged.

Another Update Over at Was Watching a reader noticed my numbers were off for the season data. I re-checked and he was right, so here are the revised numbers for 2004, 2005, and 2006.