The Stats For Clutch Are Also The Stats For Choke

By now, everyone has read the article inFangraphs by Jeff Sullivan, on howNon-Clutchthe 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…

This article has 51 Comments

  1. Nice article by Jeff Sullivan and he just might have nailed the Dodgers problem. I might go one step further that the problem isn’t just that the team doesn’t hit in clutch situations it’s that they make such poor hard contact at al in clutch situations.

    Last night as an example…third and second no outs. Yaz strikes out, Puig strikes out and then a meek flyout to the OF. Had Yaz or Puig made contact something good might have happened…a sac fly, a hit, an error, a leg single, but nothing happens when you don’t put the ball in play. While that’s on the players it’s also on the coaches for not stressing fundamental baseball.

    Yes, this team is terrible in the clutch because they K way too much and fail to play smart baseball when they need to and yes KJ is not right. The heart is nothing he should take lightly but I might suggest he spend some time conditioning in the off season….it appears a ten-fifteen pound weight loss might do him well. His mechanics are off, his control isn’t the same and his pitches seem flat and often in the nitro zone.

    1. Not a big thing, but to set the record straight. In the situation you wrote about, Yaz struck out followed by Taylor who also K’ed and then Puig hit a flyout.

      1. Not a big thing, as I was paying attention to the game via gamecast, but gamecast noted “Puig lines out sharply to CF”. Was it not a sharp out? Was it just a routine fly ball?

  2. We got lucky last night to win. A loss would’ve been insanely demoralizing. But we won. And we’re 2.5 out. I’ll take it. AZ is the one that suffered a demoralizing loss. Now let’s sweep our slump busters today and get something good going. Alex Wood needs to man up today.

  3. If you have a $20M closer you put him in, right? That was the right move, just did not work last night. But after that Doc brought in Maeda for the 10th and Caleb for the next 2-he was going to win this game or go down with his best. It’s not quite raining frogs but having Kike sacrifice the winning run into scoring position right before JT’s winning hit show me a subtle change in Doc’s thinking and it paid off. They let a Kershaw win get away but he was leading the celebration on the walk off. Maybe I’m wearing blue colored glasses but I saw some nice signs of a different attitude taking hold. The past does not equal the future and this could turn into a real win streak. The rotation has been shuffled with the 2 much needed off days and Ryu goes today for the sweep and Buehler goes Tue in Texas and Wood gets extra rest. Stripling is ready to join the bullpen and Sept 1st is around the corner. This is the time for the chokers to turn clutch and it happens one day, one game, one at bat at a time as the confidence and momentum build. The next 3 games set the table for the 4 game crucial series at home with Az. The SP is solid, the bullpen is coming together, and the hitting is good too-now just fine tune the timing! I have my broom ready!

  4. This has been painful since game 7 2017 World Series and hasn’t been shook off since. It’s high time for these guys to say enough and not except the loser mentality just about at every level. Even those of them who’ve risen above some major challenges have had moments of weakness at the wrong time. It’s time now to step it up Dodgers and get that Medal of Honor you’ve worked your whole life for and hoist the trophy that you could have hoisted last year. Show us fans what you’re really made of as we’ve been here year after year. I know Dodgers won’t come in 3rd in the division but 2nd ain’t good enough. Shit 2nd ain’t good enough for both leagues even. Anything short of the championship sucks!

  5. Man, Tony Gonsolin and Gavin Lux have thoroughly dominated at Tulsa so far. I do wonder how close they are to reaching the big show?

    1. I think both could arrive next year… mid-year maybe.

      Lux has certainly moved up and is one of the Dodgers TOP 3 Prospects… Maybe #1! I could make that argument:
      1. Lux
      2. Verdugo
      3. Ruiz

      1. The other day AC was mentioned Mitchell White’s latest gem. I asked him if he felt White’s upside was a tad higher than Dustin May’s. Perhaps he didn’t see my question so Ill raise it again.

        How do you guys rate/project Gonsolin, May, White ? And as compared to Ferguson, Urias (pre and post surgery)? I won’t include Buehler in this discussion as he’s proving he’s at worst a #2 starter in the bigs.

        1. Bobby, I still believe that White has a higher ceiling than May. White is starting to get back in his routine. In his last 8 starts, he has 47.1 IP, 40 K and 7 BB with a 2.47 ERA. He is finishing the year strong after starting the season on the DL. White has been working on his change this year trying to make it a quality 4th pitch. His fastball and slider are plus plus and his curve his plus and has tremendous swing and miss potential. He has also been working on his control, and that certainly seems to be getting better as the season continues.
          .
          That is not to take anything away from May who has a 4 pitch repertoire and is getting better. If he continues to progress as much as he did this year, he could surpass White’s ceiling. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo already do, but I believe that is more due to White’s beginning of the season.
          .
          Ceiling – I rate them White very slightly higher than May, then May, then Gonsolin. But I do believe all three will be ML pitchers. May will be a starting pitcher, and while White and Gonsolin can start and be good, they also have the ability to be lock down late inning high leverage relievers.
          .
          I see all three starting in OKC next year with Santana. If Ferguson is tabbed to continue to start, he will also be at OKC and the starting rotation at OKC will be the best in minor league.

  6. Hit the dam ball. This is twice this week that we had runners at second and third with nobody out and nobody scores. I am hanging this on Doc and his coaches. Last week we started to steal some bases. We were successful. This week nothing. Did the players steal on their own? At least Kike did bunt. Did he do this on his own? I am just wondering.

  7. The question that the Fangraphs article doesn’t address and neither does our host – why are the Dodgers so “non-clutch”? This is where the argument about coaching and roster construction come in and why I don’t give the Braintrust a pass.

    Tbe high K rate, inability to make “productive outs” or engage in good situational hitting is due to coaching and to roster design. All of the stuff about launch angle, hitting HR’s as often as possible, the failure to hit behind the runner or to shorten up with 2 strikes – this is all about philosophy. The SABRlovers don’t appreciate all of this hoary baseball wisdom. Everyone walks and hits HR’s – that’s it. Don’t worry about bat-to-ball skills.

    It’s way easier to hit in the clutch when you, you know, actually make contact with the ball?

    “This doesn’t seem like a failure of ownership, or the front office, or the coaching staff. ” This statement presupposes that the inability to hit in the clutch is totally the players’ fault. But it’s the players assembled by teh ‘Trust and they way that they are coached that have much to do with the performance of this bunch.

  8. Quas I feel your pain… If you listen to AC you’ll see the future is bright pitching wise..
    Bum and Joc!!! MT and Yasmani!!! What’s the diff?? Except of late MT disavows DNA results…
    AC – Like to hear your feelings on the Choke Artist’s handle being tossed around for the Dodgers…
    I think earlier comments had the Blue purposely blowing games for a solid trade come September… Yep that eliminates the choke artist handle!!!
    If only we could have Sandy talk to our pitchers!!!

    1. Future is bright up and down the roster.

      I read from someone (perhaps Keith Law?) that in his opinion (far greater of value than mine) that the Dodgers have a top 3 player development program.

      That’s vital, with new International Signing restrictions and with the low-end draft position this team is likely to be tasked with.

    1. Its easier to win the division than the wild card. After we claim the West by 5+ games, people will feel foolish they ever gave up.

    2. Bobby

      I am surprised Muncy is not playing today.

      Lefties hit this Padre’s starter better, and you know that Muncy is hitting lefties better then most of this line up, including Kike’.

      1. yes, but it’s more fun letting a pitcher see every single hitter of the opposite side!!!

        Doc clearly got hammered last night after that huge win and let a dead monkey choose this lineup

  9. the lack of timely batting is by design. FO has been looking for the HR and the hitters train for this. you also have to see how they integrate the lineup for example today Kike and Ct3 on line zero hitting timely

  10. Yeah, the Dodgers have the most talented team in the NL. And, it’s not even close. I have been long frustrated with their lack of hitting with men in scoring position. Last year was an aberration. This has been going on for years. With the HR, SO, or walk mantra set forth by management and coaches it’s difficult to just turn on a dime. Management’s SBR approach is a failure and has never won a championship. By no team EVER. Houston had, I believe, the lowest SO rate in baseball last year and is again near the lowest this year (anti SBR). And, during the World Series, their manager actually allowed his pitching be successful with pitchers that SBR would say take them out. Roberts , not so much. SBR didn’t win them the Series. It may have help them to get there, but when it came down to actual winning, traditional baseball strategy won out (anti SBR).
    Winning baseball is a simple game. See the ball. Hit the ball. Catch the ball. Throw the ball. And, hustle without assuming this is an easy out (Manny Machado). Last night’s game proved this to a tee. Sacrifice bunt (anti SBR) and a bloop fly ball (contact in play) that the other team failed not only catch, but “assumed” Kemp would score without a play (anti SBR). Turner saw the ball, hit the ball. Padres didn’t catch the ball and had no interest in throwing the ball. And, Kemp hustles home with the winning run. Yeah, it’s that basic. FAZ and his braintrust can take all their fancy and nonsensical formulas and go play somewhere else. Just watch what’s happening on the field, not on a spreadsheet.

    Just a comment on Joc Pederson. Not to go all conspiracy theory, but check out his stats since June:
    June: .283 BA, .867 Slug, 10 HR, 15% SO rate
    July: .267 BA, .480 Slug, 3 HR, 21% SO rate
    TRADE DEADLINE (not traded)
    August: .154 BA, .453 Slug, 5 HR, 21% SO rate
    Joc knows how to game the system. I’ve never been a Joc fan even when he was successful early on his career. Just hated his swing. So when June happened, I said “finally”. He has a real baseball swing. Long through the hitting zone, hitting to all fields and then going off with HR while keeping his SO rate within reason. Well, unfortunately, that was an aberration. He back to acting like a clown in the batters box. Wild swings, no plan. He definitely needs to move on. What a waste of talent.
    Let’s go for three in a row!!

    1. Very well said! I have been watching Machado too, how he does not always hustle down the line. That’s not a guy to throw big money at (IMO) and if you don’t hold him accountable then everyone else gets a pass.

      Why did Doc switch out Kike for Muncy last night? Was it for better defense with Cody going from CF to 1B? Muncy had 2 hits and a walk plus his 30th HR and would have hit twice in key situations later in the game.

  11. I like the use of “non-clutch.” I remember listening several years ago to a recorded interview of Jackie Robinson in which he was asked, “Who do you like to see come up to bat in a clutch situation?” On those Robinson teams, there were a lot of intriguing possibilities: Snider?Campanella? Hodges? Furillo? However, he said “Someone like Billy Cox.” He explained that big stars often try to do something extra in those situations while Billy just stayed in his game. I think “choking” implies the lack of guts, and I don’t think that is the case with the Dodgers. I think that our Dodgers may be pressing as a team. Maybe it started by trying to compensate for the absence of Turner from the lineup and developed habits they haven’t been able to turn off.

  12. Vegas … Very astute comment and it reads like a person who studies the game!!!
    Also it is the reason that many states are reluctant to legalize it even for medical purposes!!!

  13. Taylor leads the league in strikeouts with 150 while our catchers have 150 plus. I have no idea why Barnes is still on the roster. With Colorado losing today we could gain a game but risp again. Kemp leads off with a double and never moves. I just don’t see any urgency, fire, passion these guys just go through the motions. Why would you have Muncy on the bench today? Oh I forgot he hit a homer yesterday let’s dont wear him out.

  14. Keeping CT3 and Barnes in the lineup right now is flat out managerial malpractice.

    If only we had a few guys in AAA we could call up that were better contact hitters.

    1. Can’t do that; we are gunning for that AAA title this year and can’t weaken the OKC lineup!

    2. Like I already said, Muncy has better numbers against lefties, then most of this team, and this Padre pitcher has reverse splits!

  15. Ryu with more hits this game than Barnes has in the last 6 weeks. Why is Barnes still on the 25 man roster?

  16. I’m thinking now that the Dodgers need to just scrap the farm system and put all their money into finding a way to clone JT

    1. I don’t think even if we cloned him, we would get this same guy, because they don’t make them like him, even in the 21 century.

      Turner is the meaning of clutch on this team!

  17. 1sr and 2nd nobody out and top of the order coming up. I should be feeling confident, so why am I anxious?

  18. Manny pops up with 2 out and stands at home plate watching it. What about a gust of wind, losing it in the sun, both fielders colliding, glancing off the glove? He would still have been out because he never ran down to 1st! Twice just today he failed to hustle.

    On a positive note the team gained on someone each of the last 3 days and get another off day before 2 at TX while the Rocks travel to Anaheim and Snakes go to SF. Take advantage of the schedule when they can! After Sat Doc won’t run out of players in extra inning games anymore and can make all the moves he wants.

  19. Well we did our job. We swept a crap team, and picked up 2 games in 3 days.
    Next up another crap team in Texas. And we get to root for our bff’s the Giants over AZ.

  20. The farm teams had 8 games yesterday and won 7 of them. All US teams won and the two DSL teams split. All 6 US teams have either secured playoff spots or are in solid position to get there.
    .
    The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, the California League affiliate, is the prized affiliate this year. They have won 80 games thus far and won both halves. Former prospect Rylan Bannon was California League MVP and Rookie of the Year. Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and Cody Thomas were also California League Post Season All Stars.
    .
    In yesterday’s 5-0 shutout victory, Tulsa was led by Gavin Lux and Tony Gonsolin. Lux went 2-4 with his 4th HR at AA. Gonsolin pitched 5.0 scoreless innings allowing 1 hit and 2 walks with 2 K’s. At 20 years old in AA, Lux is now batting .347/.424/.533/.957. I know a lot has been made of Ruiz’s young age at AA, but he is only 8 months younger than Lux. Lux should be a top 50 prospect before next season.
    .
    Gonsolin is now 6-0 with 8 games started. In 42 IP, Gonsolin has 46K’s and 11 BB’s, with a 1.93 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in AA. The one curious part of last night’s game was that Gonsolin only threw 59 pitches. Why was he pulled? This is an organizational strategy.
    .
    Other highlights from Saturday’s games, 19 year old RHP, Gerardo Carrillo, continued to showcase his potential with 7.0 scoreless IP for the surging Great Lakes Loons. In 8 games started for the full season A league, Carrillo has started 8 games with 44 IP and has compiled a 1.43 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Carrillo is now the Dodgers’ #27 prospect.
    .
    Cristian Santana hit his league leading 24th HR for RC and now has an also league leading 104 RBI’s. Santana remains a top prospect (#24). He burst on the scene last year, and I wrote quite extensively about him. Santana is back at 3B and could move quickly through the organization.

    1. As the current group of high salary starters cycle out, we look poised to replace them with buehler (already done), santana, may, gonsolin, white, and possibly stripling and Ferguson. I’d like to keep kershaw and maeda seems destined to stick around too. I see next year as buehler, kershaw, maeda, wood, stripling as the rotation as we transition into the next era. Of course the ultimate wild card is urias.

      1. I personally think we’ll resign Ryu at a good price, and look to move Wood. Wood’s salary is due to escalate in the next year or two. I’d think over the next 4-5 years, Ryu’s total cost would be much less than Wood’s, with similar or even better production.

        1. I like having players in the last year of their contracts. Ryu has been superb this year aside from the injury and I’m willing the ride with wood one more year. Hell, at this point might as well keep Puig until his contract’s up too. Knowing we have rotation options 1-2 years away is a perfect match for expiring contracts. In some ways short term contracts for older pitchers (like hill, whom I completely forgot about) is ideal. Not sure we’ll pursue ryu but we can send him.out on top this year.

  21. For those who are unaware, Julio Urias has been removed from the DL and was optioned to Rancho. He is scheduled to be added to the Dodgers roster once the roster expands a=in September. He will be starting for RC tomorrow to see if he can lengthen his outing to 3 innings. He is being groomed for relief in September, but it will not be in back to back games. To make room on the 40 man, Josh Fields was moved to the 60 day DL. He is not scheduled to be back up until he works back to back games. Do not expect to see Fields before September.

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