Baseball is a numbers game. Stat lines go pages deep with numbers and data that can take a whole team of analysts to decipher. Fans are able to spew gobs of stats for players who are long retired like they are quoting speeches by the world's best orators; however, there is one concept in sports that cannot be quantified: the clutch factor.
Sports writers, analysts, and fans have long debated the concept of "clutch". Is it coming up in big moments? Is it performing well regardless of the stakes? Do playoff performances increase your clutch factor more than regular season performances?
Does batting average with runners in scoring position matter the most? What about runs batted in during the last three innings of a game? How about walk-off hits or home runs? Maybe you value postseason performances more than regular season performances regardless of the situation. Perhaps even limiting damage with runners in scoring position is your cup of tea for a clutch player. Regardless, quantifying clutchness is a near-impossible task.
Several players come to mind immediately when thinking of truly clutch players. Bryce Harper has been known to get hits in key moments in games. Derek Jeter ranks at the top of baseball history in postseason performances. Mariano Rivera played possibly the most "clutch" position the best anyone has ever seen.
"How much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment."- David Appleman
Sounds easy enough. Most players in baseball fall between the 1 and -1 score. Players with a score greater than 2.0 are known as "excellent" clutch players, while those with a score of -2.0 or worse are described as "awful" clutch players.
The St. Louis Cardinals Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt just so happen to be on opposite sides of the clutch spectrum, and it doesn't fall the way you would expect. Per Fangraphs, Tommy Edman ranks 23rd among all qualified batters in the clutch factor with a score of 0.81. Paul Goldschmidt, on the other hand, ranks 88th out of 134 qualified batters with a score of -0.68.
Clutch is a concept that the greatest baseball minds will never be able to quantify or agree on. It's a gut feeling more than anything. Fans will always have a preference on who they want to take the bat or the ball in the final moments of a game. Take your pick on who you want to come to the plate or stand on the mound when it matters most.