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Who have been the Yankees’ most clutch and un-clutch hitters?

Taking a look at the Yankee hitters who have thrived and struggled in the big spots.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This article features a list of the Yankees’ most clutch and un-clutch hitters in 2018. Before revealing that list, I’d like to make a disclaimer: I don’t believe that clutch hitting is a repeatable skill. As such, I’m not suggesting that the players on the “clutch” list are better than those on the “un-clutch” list, although I won’t stop you from drawing that conclusion. All I’m doing is showing you who has fared well and who hasn’t in clutch situations this year, just for the sake of it. Think of it as a starting point for discussion.

To elaborate briefly on my position on clutch hitters, it’s not that I think they don’t exist at all; I’m just not convinced that a rational argument can be made for the existence of clutch hitters based on the data and analytical methods currently available to us. Neil Weinberg’s post over at FanGraphs is one of the most nuanced and easy-to-read discussions on this topic, and it provides links to more in-depth analyses. If you’re interested, please go read it.

So, who have been the Yankees’ most clutch and un-clutch hitters this season? To answer that question, I defined clutch as hitting well - but not necessarily better than usual - in clutch situations. I mean, you don’t really think of a guy who hits .250/.300/.400 with RISP and .230/.280/.370 overall as “clutch” just because he hits better with RISP, right? By taking a player’s “normal” performance level out of consideration, we can focus on who actually hit well in clutch situations, as opposed to bad players who were less bad.

“Clutch situations” were harder to define. There were two options available to me. One was using FanGraphs’ “high leverage” split, which captures in-game context and excels in rewarding late-inning heroics, but undervalues runs scored in the early innings of a game. The other was using the splits for runners in scoring position, which doesn’t take into account in-game context for better and for worse. In the end, I copped out and made a list according to each of the two indices, making it four lists in total. So, without further ado, here they are.

The most clutch Yankee hitters of 2018, by wRC+ in high leverage situations (min. 40 PA)

  1. Gleyber Torres - 285 wRC+ (.487/.524/.897)
  2. Miguel Andujar - 132 wRC+ (.375/.386/.500)
  3. Brett Gardner - 113 wRC+ (.263/.368/.467)

The most un-clutch Yankee hitters of 2018, by wRC+ in high leverage situations (min. 40 PA)

  1. Didi Gregorius - 35 wRC+ (.189/.273/.243)
  2. Giancarlo Stanton - 56 wRC+ (.190/.238/.414)
  3. Gary Sanchez - 74 wRC+ (.143/.250/.400)

The most clutch Yankee hitters of 2018, by wRC+ with RISP (min. 40 PA)

  1. Gleyber Torres - 145 wRC+ (.306/.374/.571)
  2. Miguel Andujar - 139 wRC+ (.293/.351/.560)
  3. Aaron Judge - 137 wRC+ (.282/.443/.423)

The most un-clutch Yankee hitters of 2018, by wRC+ with RISP (min. 40 PA)

  1. Brett Gardner - 65 wRC+ (.208/.286/.327)
  2. Giancarlo Stanton - 78 wRC+ (.244/.319/.374)
  3. Didi Gregorius - 82 wRC+ (.232/.281/.442)

In place of a proper conclusion, I’d like to part with a few observations.

  • Any Yankee fans who are displeased with the Yankees’ 2018 season should remind themselves that they got to witness the rookie seasons of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar. If you’ve done that, and are still convinced that this season was an abject failure, then I really don’t know what to tell you.
  • Depending on your definition of clutch, Brett Gardner has been the worst choker on the team or one of its best clutch hitters. Make of that what you will. For me, it just shows how poorly defined a concept clutch is.
  • There’s really no sugarcoating this; Giancarlo Stanton has been awful when the Yankees have needed him the most this season. There’s no reason for this to continue, but there’s also no reason for this not to continue. One can only hope his true talent shines through in the big spots in the coming weeks. I’ll be rooting for him, hard.
  • For as bad as Stanton has been in the clutch, Didi Gregorius has been right there with him. He hasn’t been criticized for it much yet, probably due to his high batting average, avoidance of strikeouts, and Stanton receiving all of the hate. However, if this continues, the Johnny Angryfan section of the Yankees fan base might have a new target. I still believe in Didi. I can only hope I’ll be rewarded for it.