Meet the new Captain Clutch, one Brett M. Gardner. When there’s a tight game, clutch situation with men on base, he’s the guy you want to see at the dish. On the 2011 New York Yankees he currently leads the team with a .348 BA with RISP, good for best on the team among everyday players. Is this a new found skill Brett has acquired? Has he learned how to relax with men on base and let his inner awesomeness shine through? Probably not. RISP as a stat tends to be more about luck than skill, varying greatly from year to year, since were dealing in the small samples of situational baseball. For example, last year Brett batted just .233 in those situations, though it’s worth noting he maintained a high OBP of .370. So it appears his approach didn’t change much, just his results.
It’s a story we’ve seen before. In early 2009, Francisco Cervelli was the King of Klutch. He was batting .455 in May of that year and everything he touched seemed to turn to gold. Then came the inevitable correction where his numbers came back down to earth. He finished the year at healthy .360 in clutch situations, although in a mere 25 ABs for the season. Then in 2010, he seemed to be able to repeat hitting above his season average, batting .316 with. RISP.
Is there a reason why hitters like Cervelli and Gardner would tend to outperform in those spots? One of those ‘baseball between the numbers’ moments? It stands to reason, when there are men on base opposing infielders have the dual task of fielding their position and holding the runner on the bag. Most hitters should benefit from this defensive hindrance. So let’s look at the numbers. Last year the overall batting average in the AL was .260, and with RISP it was ….258. Maybe that was an off year, how about 2009? .267 overall, .269 with RISP. Pretty much any year you look at, the difference between the two falls between a margin of error. Leverage numbers don’t vary much in terms of BA, either. Some say it’s better to be lucky than good, I’d suggest we enjoy Brett’s luck while it lasts.
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