The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Jason Giambi – The Definition of Clutch



So, how ’bout that ballgame last night? Great throughout with the added finish of an extreme low point followed quickly by a 180 flip of emotions with an even more extreme high point. Wow. And not to overshadow how well Ubaldo continues to pitch, how great Brantley was in the game, or how unsettling Perez getting blown up is, but, damn…how about that launch the fireworks boomstick win by Giambi?!


Jason Giambi coming through to beat the White Sox with his team down a run and on their last out, got me thinking about why Francona (beyond his borderline love-affair type appreciation he has for Jason) sent him up to bat in that situation in the first place. You have Matt Carson due up who’s the cause célèbre of September call ups, and he decides to have Giambi hit instead? I thought Giambi must have torched Chicago’s pitcher Addison Reed before? Nope, he’d been plunked once and otherwise was 0-2. Then I thought that the opposite that Carson must have been torched by Reed, and/or,  just wasn’t any good against right handed pitching? And nope again. Carson’s only prior at bat against Reed resulted in a run producing sac fly, and for his career he’s actually been a better hitter against righties than lefties. After eliminating those obvious conclusions, the answer I kept going back to that isn’t just the simplest notion of Tito having a “I heart Giambi” tattoo, is the stat “clutch“, and how this year its very definition has been Giambi.

Clutch, it’s one of the more fun win probability stats the geeks and I like to use, and it’s also one of the more easier measurements to misunderstand. By name alone it is what you think it is in that it refers to how well a player produces in high leverage situations. The confusing part of it though, is that as much as the stat appears self explanatory in name alone, it also isn’t in that the players who typically put up the best overall numbers, typically aren’t very “clutch”.

The reason for this counterintuitive nature of the clutch statistic is that the fundamental aspects of it compares players to themselves. Basically, if a batter is hitting Miguel Cabrera MVP type numbers overall and puts up relatively the same very good numbers in high pressure key moments of a game as they do all other times, though still insane, they aren’t however raising their game any higher for the high pressure situations, and as such, often post a low clutch rating. Case in point, said Miguel Cabrera is again unbelievable this year, even better than last year when he won the Triple Crown, yet, his clutch rating is -.04 which is slightly below average. Main reason? He hits relatively the same in key moments as he does in low leverage and medium leverage situations.

Then you have a guy like Jason Giambi who’d been batting a buck thirty-six with 2 home runs and 6 RBI since the All-Star break entering last night’s arena, and he promptly steps up and pinch hits his 3rd pinch hit home run of the season and 2nd in walk-off fashion.1 The guy’s had one RBI since the middle of August and he comes in and wins it with the Tribe’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance? Again, incredible. What’s even more interesting is how he’s risen to the occasion like this all year.

With 182 official at bats this year and batting .181 with 9 home runs, in the 8% of those at bats when he’s come in as a pinch hitter he’s hit a third of his home runs and outright won two games. And that’s clutch, a guy who goes from ordinary (or in this case WAY BELOW ORDINARY), to extraordinary in high pressure situations. In fact, on the year Giambi ranks 2nd overall for the Tribe2 with a great clutch rating of 1.57, ahead of Brantley, Kipnis, Stubbs, Bourn, and yes, even Carson. With only a 1 game lead on the Wild Card and knowing Giambi has won 2 games with the last swing, it’s easy to see why this statistic is on point and also why it’s so much fun3.

Last night was what Jason Giambi has been this year for the 2013 Indians, a guy who gets 30 at bats or so a month with very little to show for it other than the continued faith in him from Francona, and then when he’s needed most, he’s been just clutch just enough at times to prove Terry a madman genius. Giambi may very well be done after this year and retire, and we very well might have just seen the last home run of his career, and if so, wow, what a way to go out. About the only thing that could be better, really, is if he steps in and does it again this postseason.

Go Tribe.


-Mike James


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  1. Best part, his 3rd pinch hit home run was also his 3rd hit as a pinch hitter. Talk about only swinging for the fences. []
  2. Behind Santana’s incredible 2.09 clutch rating []
  3. For those of you who like their stats to pass the eye test on both ends of the spectrum, can you guess who’s been the worst all year at the plate in clutch situations? With a very poor rating of 1.24, Asdrubal Cabrera is bringing up the rear when it comes to helping his team out. The big question there is why hasn’t Tito been pinch hitting Giambi for Cabrera all year. Hell, have Giambi play shortstop sometimes too, his range can’t be that much worse than Cabrera’s, can it? []

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Posted by on Sep 25 2013. Filed under Featured, Show Reports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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