David Ortiz isn’t clutch, he’s just good

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Red Sox manager John Farrell says DH David Ortiz has a “knack for the moment”, as Sean McAdam reports in a column for CSN New England. Ortiz hit a go-ahead solo home run in the 10th inning after Koji Uehara blew his first save of the season in Sunday afternoon’s series finale against the Athletics.

The concept of Ortiz as clutch isn’t a new one. He’s a three-time World Series champion and is coming off of a post-season in which he posted a 1.206 OPS with five home runs and 13 RBI in 16 games. He had a similarly otherworldly post-season run in 2004 as well.

But if you dig into the numbers, one finds that Ortiz is just as good in “clutch” moments as he is overall:

  • Career: .926 OPS
  • Post-season: .962
  • 2 outs, RISP: .950
  • “Late & Close”: .871
  • High leverage: .936

He is very slightly better in “clutch” situations but the difference isn’t so large as to be explained by factors unrelated to Ortiz, including simple statistical variance.

A career .926 OPS is really, really good. He’s one of 28 players since 1901 to post a .925 OPS or better in at least 8,000 career plate appearances, according to Baseball Reference. Ortiz may not be clutch, but he is quite a productive hitter. We don’t need to exaggerate his prowess when citing his everyday performance does the job.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.