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.