MLB Playoffs: Is Boston Red Sox' David Ortiz Really The Clutch-Hitting Monster We Think He Is?

By Carter Roane
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever the Boston Red Sox have made it to the postseason and had some level of success, you typically think of one player and all the iconic moments that he has had during his Red Sox career.

That player would be the designated hitter David Ortiz. If you are a Red Sox fan, how can you forget his heroics during the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees? I also tend to think of the 2003 ALDS against the Oakland Athletics where Ortiz hadn’t gotten a hit all series, and then came up huge with a double that put Boston ahead.

It seems as though his Red Sox career has been full of clutch moment after clutch moment. However, if you look really carefully and apply some stats, this isn’t necessarily the case — as shocking as that seems.

I am not a sabermatrician by any stretch of the imagination, however, I did find this very interesting. Apparently, there is a formula out there called Clutch that was developed by Fangraphs. What Clutch does is that it compares a player’s overall performance against performances in high-leverage situations. That is when a positive outcome has a lot more impact on the outcome of the game.

If someone has a clutch score of zero, that would be the league average. 2.0 would be considered excellent, while -2.0 is terrible.

Ortiz has a -0.29 for his career, which would be considered below average. In the postseason, he was a little better at 1.04. I thought for sure it would have been much higher than that. I think we remember all the classic clutch moments that he has had over the years, but we forget a lot of the times in clutch situations that he hasn’t produced.

Not that it matters much at all — I’m grateful that he plays for the Red Sox, and 2004 wouldn’t have happened without him. It’s just a topic worth discussing. If you applied this formula to every Red Sox hitter ever, guess who would be first?

This really surprised me. It’s a name you know, but I think I will share that for another entry. All I know is that even if the numbers say one thing, if there is a situation where a big clutch hit is needed, I want Ortiz up at the plate, sabermetrics or not. I know what my heart tells me.

Carter Roane is a Boston Red Sox writer for Follow him on Twitter@CarterGRoane, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.


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