First impressions are often difficult to overcome, whether good, bad or indifferent. That’s true in life and it’s almost always true in baseball. The rookie that comes up big early in his career is often seen as “clutch” for weeks, months or maybe even years after the initial event that made him “clutch”, despite not performing in crunch time over and over.
Chas McCormick is a good example of this, as his power laden May-June stretch has turned into a 2 for 14 post All-Star game struggle, albeit in limited playing time. If you follow the Houston Astros closely, you can likely tick off the names of the players that hit best with runners in scoring position (RISP): Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez.
Jose Altuve is batting a pedestrian .277 on the season, but raking at a .339 clip with RISP. Some quick math shows that equates to a .265 clip without runners in scoring position.
Jose Altuve’s average jumps 74 points with runners in scoring position. Talk about clutch for the Houston Astros.
Here’s the Astros numbers with runners in scoring position:
AVG HR RBI
Altuve .339 5 40
Brantley .303 1 29
Alvarez .306 9 55
Correa .272 3 40
Gurriel .286 2 47
Tucker .276 7 46
Straw .244 0 31
Maldonado .180 3 20
Bregman .296 2 26
Diaz .371 1 19
McCormick .406 2 24
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Michael Brantley is having an incredible season for a player his age. At 34-years-old, he’s batting .324 and, let’s face it, with a sprint speed in the 24th percentile he’s not legging out many infield hits, but there he is with an xBA in the 100th percentile as August approaches. Brantley’s also doing it with RISP, as evidenced by his .303 number in those situations.
One of the more surprising names near the top of the list for me is Yordan Alvarez. He’s obviously a different hitter than Altuve and he’s up there to mash. Yet Alvarez has also shown an uncanny ability to produce with RISP, as he’s hitting .306/9/55 in those situations as opposed to .274 in other at bats, a difference of 32 points.
This was surprising, at least to me, as in my mind Alvarez has struggled a bit in these situations and in his case I used the numbers to recalibrate my view of Alvarez’s season to date. That said, the heart and soul of this team resides inside a 5’6 second baseman. There are many reasons to appreciate what Altuve brings to the team on the diamond, but near the top has to be that he produces when his team is threatening and doesn’t kill rallies.
Sometimes, as in Alvarez’s case above, the numbers don’t match the recollection of events and we need to rethink our position. In Altuve’s case though, all three components come together in agreement: The eyeball test, the numbers and the results all agree: Altuve is clutch.