Do you believe in clutch?

I had one of those discussions last night.

You know, one of the ones where you're happily watching the game with some friends and one of them starts talking about how the offense is not "clutch" and can't pull the trigger and get runners in.  J.D. Drew got brought up several times, as did Jason Bay.

It's a point I'm generally happy to discuss with people because, like all over-opinionated people, I'm well aware that I'm correct all of the time.  And when I say discuss, I mean drive points home until they're either convinced that they were wrong or will just agree with me to get me to shut up.

Last night though was one of those times it was a little tough.  The Sox had plenty of chances, with everyone reaching against Pettitte during his outing, including 3 free passes and a pair of doubles.  Somehow, however the hits just kept failing to add up to become runs.  So of course, it begs the question, is there something wrong with this lineup?  Are these hitters that don't deal well with the pressure of men on base and are going to have trouble turning men on base into runs?  Let's look.

Although really, first of all, if any of these people have trouble with pressure, Fenway is not the place to be.  No, professional sports are not the place to be.  These are people that thrive on the energy and excitement enough to become successful pro players. 

But let's examine the king of unclutch, J.D. Drew.

Travelling through Red Sox Nation, it is clearly a well-known fact that Drew is just incapable of hitting when it matters.  Sure, his .914 OPS looks impressive on paper, but it always seems like he's walking or striking out with men is scoring position and when it matter.

Turns out in 2009, it was true.  With RISP, he hit only a miserable .213 with an OPS of .862.  Also, his OBP was still an impressive .399, which means he walked a TON in those situations; he came to bat with RISP 143 times in 2009 and walked 32 of those times.

Now lets look at those numbers a little more carefully.

First of all, that batting average seems suspiciously low.  Looking at his splits more carefully, I notice that his BABIP was an atrocious .216.  This is compared to his overall BABIP of .319 for the year (which is much closer to his career line of .317).  It looks to me there like he had good at bats but got horribly unlucky in that scenario for the year. 

But can I back that up?  Or does he just genuinely hit poorly with men on?  Let's compare with his career line.  HE hit better than usual last year- his career OPS is a bit lower, at .894.  His career OPS with RISP is actually HIGHER, at .906.  So yes, in 2009, Drew did not hit well with RISP, but that looks like a terrible case of bad luck.

Another quick Drew number- with two outs, his OPS actually skyrockets up to .938, though last year, it was a remarkable 1.079.  This is not a man who has trouble hitting in high-pressure situations or with men on, this is a very consistent hitter who just doesn't stand out enough to be noticeable.  He quietly produces for the Sox without any fanfare.

The fact is, the Red Sox lineup consists of solid, professional hitters who are going to do their job over the course of the season.  It wasn't pretty last night, but that's why they play 162 games in the regular season, it won't be pretty every night.  One of the joys of baseball is any given night, any given team has a chance to win.

Let's see what positives we can actually take out of last night- every member of the starting 9 reached base last night.  They just didn't happen to coincide enough to score enough runs.  That will happen.  Last year, it happened 17 times that they scored 1 run or less.  In the dominant 2007, it happened 24 times.

There are only 3 members of the Sox so far hitting under .300.  At least two of those guys, Ellsbury and Drew, have proven that year to year, they're going to put up pretty reliable numbers (With Ells hopefully improving).  The rest of the team will of course fall further and be at more human levels, but it's not a bad start against the defending world chamion MFY.

 

A few other unrelated rambles that I wanted to fit in:

  • Peter Abraham may be the sole voice of reason in the fear-driven Boston media.  I'm glad we stole him from New York.
  • It's just one game, but I get the impression that Lackey knows how to pitch into groundballs when he knows he has a defense this solid behind him (10-3 GB-FB ratio yesterday).  He also marks the fastest I have gone from hating a player to loving him.
  • Beltre is going to be every bit as good for the Sox as I had hoped.
  • Schoenweis has looked much better than I expected.  Manny Delcarmen and Ramon Ramirez are scaring me just as much as I expected.  I don't think bring Papelbon out for a second inning was remotely a good idea for his second appearance of 2010.
  • Now that Ortiz has a hit and drove in our only run yesterday, can we leave him alone for a few days?  I'm talking to you, Shaughnessy.
  • And no, I don't believe in clutch.
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