Mr. Never Clutch or Mr. Never Good Enough?

An article by posted on June 25, 2010

It’s always puzzling to me the way some Mets “fans” treat David Wright. Part of the problem I think has to be Derek Jeter.

Jeter has set the bar so high for being the “face of a NY franchise,” that no matter who puts on a Yankees or Mets jersey years from now, they will always be compared to Derek Jeter. The problem with that is overall, Jeter obviously is a great player. What makes him even greater is his supposed “clutch” play. It’s that reason alone that a pocket of Mets fans will never give David Wright a break.

If you look at the word clutch, there are several written opinions out there that there is in fact no such thing as a clutch hitter. How do you define the word clutch in terms of hitting? There’s no stat for it, so isn’t it based on opinion and specific situations? What’s the difference between an RBI double in the 4th inning that wins you a game and an RBI double in the 9th inning to win a game?

The idea of a clutch hitter is one of the lines in the sand when it comes to the “old school” thinking of baseball statistics and the supposed “new school.”

I recommend an article on Baseball Prospectus written by Joe Sheehan entitled The Concept of “Clutch” linked here

So the knock on David Wright this year has been his supposed inability to come through in big situations. I hope by now Wright has tuned out these critics because he could hit a Game winning HR and be called lucky, but a game ending K and he’s a choke artist. He’ll never win with some people.

I’m a David Wright fan, he’s a New York Met and he’s one of the best players at his position in the sport. I’m not a homer when it comes to him though. I don’t own any Wright apparel, and I don’t cheer for him any louder than I do Jose Reyes.

The problem I have with these critics is it’s based on situations that are convenient for them. David Wright struck out in a big spot last night, but you know what? It happens.

Since you can’t tell me how Wright or anybody in the NL will perform in September of 2010, let’s leave that part of this debate to the side for now. Wright hit .340 in September of 2008, and .223 in September of 2009. There’s no logical explanation either side can give me to tell me he’ll hit one way or the other in 2010. (By the way he hit .352 in 2007 and .360 in 2006)

So how do you want to define clutch for 2010? I went and defined it by the following situations.

Hitting with Runners on, hitting with men in scoring position, and hitting with men in scoring position and 2 outs.

I even kept it simple, because in terms of MOST people who talk about how Wright never comes through in a big spot they only talk about getting a hit and driving in runs.

I also only included NL teams. So let’s see where David Wright actually stacks up in the NL in these situations. For all of the situations, I lowered the at bat minimum to include more players. These numbers are intended to show you two things.

#1 The supposed clutch situations, may not produce the best hitters like some would hope. 

#2 Wright hasn’t been as bad as some like to make us believe.

For those that don’t like to use numbers to determine the value of a player, but prefer to use their opinion based on nothing except what they remember… please close your eyes. This will only hurt a bit.

With Runners On:  David Wright .295 average, 129 AB.

For Comparison: 109 AB minimum needed.

There are 15 hitters in the NL with a better average in this situation than David Wright. The leader is Gaby Sanchez (FLA) with a .354 average, and the closest to Wright’s average is Mark Reynolds (ARI) with a .299. 

The other hitters include in no particular order: Martin Prado, Troy Glaus, Melky Cabrera, Jason Heyward, Marlon Byrd, Jonny Gomes, Joey Votto, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, James Loney, Garrett Jones, Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe. 

With runners on base before you saw this, any of the Wright critics going to try to tell me they’d prefer guys like Melky Cabrera, Garrett Jones, and Juan Uribe at the plate over David Wright? 

With Runners On:  David Wright 52 RBI, 129 AB.

For Comparison: 109 AB minimum needed. 

Not one hitter in the NL can match that total. 

With Runners in Scoring Position: David Wright .309 average, 81 AB.
For Comparison: 61 AB minimum needed.

Again, there are only 15 hitters in the NL with a better average in this situation than David Wright.

The leader of the group is Albert Pujols (STL) with a .381 average, and the closest to Wright is Justin Upton (ARI) with a .317. 

The other hitters in this group include: Adam LaRoche, Chris Young, Ryan Theriot, Joey Votto, Jorge Cantu, Gaby Sanchez, James Loney, Ryan Braun, Alcides Escobar, Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones, David Freese and Ian Desmond. 

Again, before you saw this, try and tell me you’d prefer guys like Theriot, Escobar, Young and Desmond at the plate over David Wright? 

If we exclude the Runners on RBI total for now, the only players to appear on the runners on base by batting average list mentioned twice so far are, Joey Votto, Jorge Cantu, Gaby Sanchez, James Loney, and Garrett Jones.

With Runners in Scoring Position: David Wright 41 RBI, 81 AB.
For Comparison: 61 AB minimum needed.

This time, only two NL hitters have driven in more runs in this situation than David Wright. Troy Glaus (ATL) has driven in 43, while Adam LaRoche has driven in 42. James Loney is tied with Wright having driven in 41. 

With Runners in Scoring Position and 2 outs: David Wright .290 average, 31 AB.
For Comparison: 25 AB minimum needed. 

This is the longest of the three lists. Does this mean he’s not “clutch”? 

The best hitter to meet the requirements was Troy Glaus with an insane .400 average! There are 19 hitters in total who exceed Wright’s .290 average, and the closest to him is David Freese (STL) with a .293 average. 

The list includes: Angel Pagan, Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, Jason Heyward, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Theriot, Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Olivo, Ian Stewart, Jeff Keppinger, Casey Blake, James Loney, Ryan Braun, Casey McGehee, Rickie Weeks, Alcides Escobar, and Ryan Zimmerman. 

Just for those keeping score at home, the only player to appear on all three batting average lists is James Loney.

With Runners in Scoring Position and 2 outs: David Wright 14 RBI, 31 AB.
For Comparison: 25 AB minimum needed.

Lastly, there are 15 NL Hitters who qualified that have driven in more runs in this situation than David Wright. 

The leader of the group is Adam LaRoche with 21, and the closest to Wright’s 14 is a 5 way tie between Kelly Johnson, Carlos Lee, Corey Hart, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth all with 15 RBI. 

The rest of the list includes: Chris Young, Troy Glaus, Cody Ross, Jeff Keppinger, James Loney, Casey McGehee, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard and David Freese. 

So I guess clearly, Jeff Keppinger is who the Mets should get to replace Wright at 3B, right? (sarcasm) 

Again, only Troy Glaus & Adam LaRoche drive in more runs with runners in scoring position AND with runners in scoring position and 2 outs than David Wright. 

Conclusion  

David Wright is the 3B for the New York Mets. They are the team you cheer for. Most fans of other teams do not speak of David Wright’s supposed non-clutch hitting. They look at us and turn their heads like a dog who doesn’t understand when they hear some of us complain about our 27 year old 3B. 

Is it possible that at times David Wright will fail in a big spot? Absolutely, he’s a baseball player; they fail more than they succeed. However, until somebody out there can show me numbers that prove the consistent criticism of Wright’s 2010 season is warranted, I will have to revoke your membership as a Mets fan and kick you off the bandwagon.

About the Author ()

Michael Branda grew up a Mets fan watching the mid 1980's teams and his favorite Met of all-time is (and was) Wally Backman. When it comes to sabermetrics versus old school thinking, he's in the middle and believes adopting new ways to get answers is helpful, especially when the old way has not produced results.

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