St. Louis Cardinals: Who was the most clutch hitter in the first half of 2023?

The Cardinals have been searching most of the season for someone to get a big hit in a crucial situation. One player has actually been among the best in baseball.
Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals
Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals / Scott Kane/GettyImages

There has been plenty of reasons why the Cardinals had such a brutal first half of the 2023 season, but one reason is the team's lack of ability to get the clutch hit when they needed it the most.

For the most part this season, the offense has produced as they are 11th in baseball in runs per game, some of the offensive performances have been overshadowed by some bad pitching, but they have left lots of chances to score more runs on the bases. Despite being close to a top-10 offense, they've stranded 7.11 runners on base a game on average in the first half which is the 5th most in the league, and they are hitting .189 with the bases loaded which is the 3rd worst in baseball and the worst in the National League. It is safe to say that the Cardinal offense has not had a whole lot of clutch hitting.

So how do you measure how "clutch" a hitter is? There is no definitive way to find it from a statistical standpoint, but there is a handful of ways to give yourself an idea of how clutch or not clutch a player is. One stat that's used quite often to determine the " clutchness " of a player, is called Win Probability Added ( WPA).

WPA is a study that shows how a player's plate appearance affected his team's probability to win the game positively or negatively. For example, if a team has a 47% chance of winning a game when the score is tied in the ninth inning and someone hits a walk-off to win the game, the probability of that team winning the game, of course, goes to 100% so that players Win Probability Added for that at-bat was +53% ( or 5.3 WPA). It is a very effective way to determine how a hitter performs in the most important moments of a game.

According to this statistic, the Cardinals' best hitter based on WPA has been utility man Brendan Donovan, who recorded a 1.79 WPA in the first half which is tied for 31st in all of baseball. In just his second season in the big leagues, Donovan has already come up with some huge hits for the Cards. His most productive day of the season was against Detroit when he hit the go-ahead Grand Slam which ultimately was the game-deciding hit to help the Cardinals end a miserable eight-game losing streak in early May. Donovan recorded a 4.0 WPA that game, which means he increased the Cardinals' chances of winning with his at-bats by 40%.

As a team, the Cardinals actually have a positive WPA on the season at +1.71. However, the clutch stat, which is calculated by the analytical website FanGraphs, takes WPA and divides that by something called the leverage index, which measures the importance of a situation of a game based on things like the inning, score, outs, runners on, etc. the Cardinals are the 4th worst team in the clutch stat in the league.


It is starting to become more and more of a reality that the Cardinals are going to be selling off pieces at the trade deadline as the chances of turning this season on its head and making the playoffs seem to be fading away. And one out of many categories that we can look at as to why the Cardinals are in the current situation they're in is because of their inability to get the big hit.

dark. Next. 3 pitchers. The Cardinals are interested in these three pitchers