By now, everyone has read the article in Fangraphs by Jeff Sullivan, on how Non-Clutch the Dodgers are as team, and individually! In analyzing the information, I think there are a few facts we need to consider, facts like the Dodgers should be much better than they actually are. Sullivan says this:
By almost every indicator, the Dodgers look like the super-team they were expected to be. They’re just not there in wins, because they haven’t shown up with the game on the line. Clutch hitting and clutch pitching — or the lack thereof — might well send the Dodgers home at the end of the regular season.
It’s not like this is something that’s just in the Dodgers’ DNA. Just last season, the Dodgers finished with the seventh-highest team Clutch score in baseball. But every month this season has been a bad one, in Clutch terms.
He went on to say:
…the Dodgers have a .768 OPS in low-leverage situations. In medium-leverage situations, that’s gone up to .803. But in high-leverage situations, the Dodgers have a combined OPS of .635.
But here is the best part:
This clutch hitting has been historically bad. The worst baseball’s seen since 1953, by this measure.
That’s what Sullivan wrote, but the opposite of Clutch is Choke, and with that in mind, he should have written it this way:
The Dodgers are the Biggest Choke Artists in Baseball in the last 65 years!
Then Sullivan names names:
Blame isn’t shared by everyone equally. Matt Kemp, for example, has a positive Clutch score. So does Enrique Hernandez. So did Logan Forsythe. But Joc Pederson’s Clutch score is strongly negative. Cody Bellinger’s is the sixth-worst in baseball. Max Muncy’s is the fifth-worst. Yasmani Grandal’s is the fourth-worst. It’s never simple to tell what might be signal and what might be noise in this area, but for the Dodgers, the damage has clearly already been done. With just a few more clutch hits at the right times, the current Dodgers would probably be in first place.
Some try band put the blame on FAZ, but Sullivan goes on to say:
It seems like the Dodgers haven’t actually come apart; the parts are still there of a National League super-roster. This doesn’t seem like a failure of ownership, or the front office, or the coaching staff. It’s a weird and almost inexplicable problem of timing. But it’s a problem, and a major problem, and it can’t be erased or undone. The Dodgers have been historically unclutch over the course of 128 games. There are only 34 more games to go, and they can’t afford to give up more ground. Because the Dodgers haven’t performed with the game on the line, it’s looking less and less likely they’ll play in the playoffs. Theirs are the players who haven’t hit well enough. Theirs are the players who haven’t pitched well enough. They’ve done well enough to look plenty strong overall, but they haven’t done well enough when it’s mattered. That partially helps to explain what sank a super-team in DC. It explains even better what’s been sinking a super-team in LA.
So, the pieces are there, much like they were there in Washington this year… and the Nationals imploded long ago. Sullivan ends with this:
It’s not too late, but it’s getting there fast. For the Dodgers, right now, the pressure is on. And they haven’t done well under pressure so far.
Well said! I just would not have sugarcoated it and call the Dodger’s play “unclutch.” I would call it what it is: CHOKE! I agree with Sullivan that the pieces of a superteam are still there. I believe this is the most talented roster in the NL, maybe all of baseball and I don’t put this on FAZ. Yes, they could have done a better job with the bullpen, but they had to stay under the Luxury Tax and that was one way they did it. The bullpen’s choke jobs would have been dramatically less had the hitters been more clutch and less choke!
Where I disagree with Sullivan is the coaching. As we saw in St. Louis, a managerial change can change everything about the way a team plays. It’s probably too late to change the manager or coaches at this juncture and maybe it’s just “one of those things” and it’s hard to win every year. If the Dodgers don’t make the playoffs, Roberts chances of returning are not good. I’m hoping that he returns, because that would likely mean the Dodgers made the playoffs.
The Dodgers have not had a Clutch Month this year. They have all been Choke Months. Maybe, just maybe September will be the first one…