Are Lucas Duda and the Mets not clutch enough?

Lucas DudaIn last night’s loss to the Diamondbacks, Lucas Duda went 0-4 with a strikeout. It obviously wasn’t a particularly good day at the plate, but it was made worse by the fact that he left seven runners on base. That strikeout came in the first inning with the bases loaded. The Mets as a team are hitting .143 with the bases loaded this season. Does that mean they’re not “clutch”? Can we really measure “clutch”?

The word clutch is incredibly loaded when it comes to evaluating a player and their performance. It’s a hot topic because a player’s relative “clutchness” doesn’t appear to be a repeatable skill and varies from year to year, regardless of how much people think the opposite. There’s sometimes a fundamental flaw in the way we view performance statistics, though, and how we apply them to the players that generated them.

Most stats can (very generally) be grouped into two broader categories: predictors for the value a player is expected to add to his team (based on his skill) and the value a player has provided to his team (what he’s done).* The former category would include statistics such as weighted on-base percentages, strikeout and walk rates, and generally outcomes predicated by the player’s natural ability that can be used, with a large enough sample, to gauge what a player will add to the team moving forward. The latter category would include stats like RBI, where they identify how much value a player has provided their team, in very specific ways, but don’t necessarily indicate particular skill or player quality.

For instance, Player A and Player B could put up almost identical statistics in most of the skill categories, but Player B might have more RBIs than Player A by a decent margin. Some may use that as an indicator that Player B is the better player. However, it could just be that Player B has had more opportunities to drive in runs than Player A (maybe Player B is a number five hitter and Player A is a number two hitter, for example) and has taken advantage of those opportunities. Those RBIs are examples of what the player provided to the team based more on the situation rather than strictly based on his ability, at least when compared to Player A.

With these ideas in mind, we need to understand that most traditional statistics are context-neutral. A single in the top of the fourth in a blowout is much less valuable than a single with a runner on second in the bottom of the eighth in a tie game. The players’ batting average would simply reflect a single in either case, but that does nothing to reflect the vastly different situations in which that player got that single and the differing affects to the outcome of the game. Luckily there is a statistic we can look at to measure this, Win Probability Added (WPA).

WPA calculates the affect a player’s performance has on his team’s Win Expectancy, which takes into account the score, number of men on base, the inning, number of outs, etc., on a per-play basis. In other words, the context of the situation is taken into account. Basically, the team has x chance at winning a game before a player comes to bat and y after that at-bat, depending on what said player did at the plate. The outcome increases or decreases the team’s chance to win and, thus, either increases or decreases the player’s WPA.

WPA is a counting statistic, accumulating in a similar way to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and one point of WPA is equivalent to one win. This means that a player’s contribution to his team can’t be fully evaluated until the end of the season, but we can still track it as the season progresses. A WPA of 1 over a given season is considered average on this scale. So far this season, Duda has a WPA of 0.20. That means that he’s actually helped the team win more than he’s hurt it. Juan Lagares leads the team with a 0.80.

Does this tell us that Lagares has been more “clutch” than Duda, though? Well, not really. Clutch is a pretty hard thing to measure, and even the Clutch stat available at sites like FanGraphs don’t really get to what most people think of as “clutch.”** This simply tells us that Lagares has helped the team at the plate more than he’s hurt them and more so than Duda.

The Mets as a team have a WPA of 0.17, which is actually good enough for sixth in the National League (NL) and ahead of teams like the Braves, Nationals, and Cardinals. What does this tell us? It doesn’t really tell us anything, yet, since again WPA is a counting stat. The Mets were 11th in the NL in WPA in 2013, while the Cardinals and Braves topped the list. From 2011 to 2013, the team accumulated 2.57 WPA, good enough for 9th in the NL. Over that same span the top three teams in the NL are the Cardinals (25.39), the Giants (15.23), and the Braves (13.92).

It’s not really entirely accurate to classify Duda or the Mets as clutch or not clutch, since again we’re looking at statistics that only show what a player did not predictors of what they will do. We can certainly say they haven’t performed very well in high-leverage situations over the last few seasons, though. This brings us to the obvious: good players will generally perform well while bad players will not, regardless of the situation. That translates to team wins. The Mets have not been a particularly good bunch recently, in case you hadn’t noticed. So it’s no surprise that they haven’t executed when it matters most.

*Of course this is an incredibly simplistic way to break them down, but a good way to differentiate performance predictors from “story telling” stats.

**The Clutch stat measures a hitter’s performance in high-leverage situations, but it does so using a baseline created from that own player’s performance. This means that a player who constantly performs at a high level, regardless of situation, may not appear to be clutch.

19 comments for “Are Lucas Duda and the Mets not clutch enough?

  1. Robert McCutchan
    May 25, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    The fact of the matter is this: Lucas Duda has never been a clutch player and never even gave any inclination of being one! Quite frankly he doesn’t even appear to be a major league talent. At best he might be a triple A player but not the type player a team can look to as a long term solution. And to be further frank, my impression of him is that he is not a very bright baseball player and one that lacks the self confidence to be anything more than what he is right now. If brief I think it takes him an hour and a half to watch ’60 Minutes’. If you are the type that wants to see Lucas up at bat with the game on the line, I think you need your medication changed. He cannot handle the pressure to be a big time player. For the life of me I cannot understand why Sandy Alderson chose him over Ike Davis. But then again I cannot understand why Sandy decided to start this season with such an offensive challenged team and expect them to win 90 games. I think Sandy needs HIS medication changed as well!

    • Name
      May 25, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      ” For the life of me I cannot understand why Sandy Alderson chose him over Ike Davis”

      OK then. Please prove to me, using statistics or some objective method (no I think/believe crap), how Ike Davis is superior to Lucas Duda coming into the 2014 season.

      Good Luck, you’ll need it because it’s impossible.

      • Jerry Grote
        May 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

        Age is the most compelling thing in comparing players, especially early in their careers.

        Players that come up with
        58 HR
        186 RBI
        5.5 WAR
        797 OPS

        before their age 26 season tend to overwhelmingly have excellent careers. Comparatively, Duda’s numbers (even pro-rated to a 162 game season) aren’t even close.

        And sure enough, Duda is trailing Davis in production since Davis has moved on. Davis will end his career with 100 more HRs than Duda, and at *least*! 15 more WAR.

        Duda has a lifetime negative WAR. Please, spare me the “but we put in him LF” crap. He’s at 1B now, and he’s still producing negative WAR.

  2. Name
    May 25, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    It’s odd, because Duda last year couldn’t buy a hit with men on base, and this year he is smashing the ball with men on base (almost 1000 OPS). He even has a 1000+ OPS with men in RISP. However, for some reason (probably unlucky), he just hasn’t hit with the bases loaded this year as he is now down to 0-5 with just 1 rbi. And those numbers are with him scuffling the last week at home when he left a lot of men on base.

  3. Robert McCutchan
    May 25, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    If you read my comment with more care I never said Ike Davis was more superior to Lucas. All I said was for the life of me I can’t see why Sandy chose Lucas over Davis. What was it that he saw in Lucas that made him think Lucas was a better solution to the first base problem? Lucas have never shown .. To date .. that he can handle the pressure of being a major league starting player. He lacks patience, he lacks discipline, and he lacks confidence in his ability. Some players can handle the pressure in big spots, Lucas does not have it. If you are the type that wants Lucas up in a big pressure situation you wil be disappointed 9 out of 10 times. I’m not implying Davis is the answer either. I’m simply saying it appears BOTH cannot be the solution, but I do think Ike has more of an upside than Duda. You can site any stat you want, but name me one gives you the confidence to disprove what your eyes tells you different from what you see day after day from him.

    • Name
      May 26, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      “If you read my comment with more care I never said Ike Davis was more superior to Lucas”

      “All I said was for the life of me I can’t see why Sandy chose Lucas over Davis”

      These 2 statements are equivalent. By saying that you “can’t believe” that Sandy chose Duda over Davis, you are implying that Davis is the better player.

      “He lacks patience, he lacks discipline”
      Absolutely false. If you had been paying attention the last few years, he knock on him was that he was too patient.

      “but I do think Ike has more of an upside than Duda”
      Anything to back it up or just purely opinion? You can say that, but if you can’t back it up, you can’t expect others to share this sentiment. They have the same minor league stats and major league stats. The only difference is the round in the draft they were picked in.

      My original beef is that you are criticizing Sandy for choosing Duda over Davis, implying that Davis is the better player, which is not true because they have been almost identical to this point in their career. I will note, that Duda is cheaper and under control for one more year, which is why I think he was the better choice to be kept.

  4. Robert McCutchan
    May 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    There are some things stats cannot tell you, and as much as you seem to cling to them as Gospel, they cannot tell you what you see with your eyes day after day with him. Stats are an excellent guide, but they are not necessarily going to lead you to the proper conclusion.

  5. Larry Rothstein
    May 25, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Lucas duda not the answer put Murphy at first Eric young Jr second base Eric Campbell in left field instead of Chris young

  6. TexasGusCC
    May 26, 2014 at 1:52 am

    For me the definition of clutch is that piece of sit shortstop on the Jankees. I hate him, I admire him, I can’t stand him, I can’t top him. He always seemed to be calm and confident in clutch situations without being overly aggressive, but focused and always staying within his game. That, to me is clutch. How many Mets do we have that can do that? Murphy, sometimes, if he isn’t swinging 1-0 and flying out to left center. Wright, occasionally.

    • Chris F
      May 26, 2014 at 8:41 am

      Ok let’s remember jeter is a first ballot hall of Famer, so any comparison is like saying why isn’t every pitching prospect Seaver.

      Having said that let’s not get captured in the moment. Neither Ike nor Duda is a likely long-term answer. What did Alderson see? It’s easy: $$$. And the many more Ike costs to have for similar or marginally better/worse production. Ok, so Duda seems to have a higher “off the bat” speed if you believe in parsing the data that fine (I don’t), but the story is cash plain and simple. Remember we just dumped Farnsworth for 750k$. We have the 5th lowest budget in baseball. Every dollar counts in the Wilpon charade. Did uAnyone see the games yesterday? On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in perfect weather…absolutely no one in the stands. The lack of turn style receipts is almost surely killing the team.

      • TexasGusCC
        May 26, 2014 at 3:01 pm

        Chris, I agree about Jeter but I was referring to the title saying that the Mets as a team aren’t clutch and I agree. Maybe Flores has a chance to dispel that because he looks to put the bat on the ball and as they say, “anything can happen”. Our strike one, strike two, swing and miss strike three approach will never, ever, be clutch because the quality of the at bat decreases with every good pitch taken. We have heard many times from great hitters that every at bat should give you a good pitch to hit, maybe two good pitches at most. But, having non baseball people make the rules for baseball people is like doctors writing insurance policies.

        • Chris F
          May 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

          Or insurers deciding on medical care!

          By the way, I hear ya Gus.

  7. Jim OMalley
    May 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    The longer we stay away, the more Katz might sway Wilpon into selling. Not likely but gaaaaad, one can wish.

  8. Robert McCutchan
    May 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    You are right, what it all boils down to is Duda is cheaper to keep. Both have their own head issues but Duda is cheaper. But he is still not the type of first baseman a winning team must have!

  9. SL
    May 27, 2014 at 1:11 am

    To even have a discussion about Duda, is, frankly, a joke. A guy who has never produced, has more career k’s than hits, a negative career WAR (and I’m not a Sabremetrics guy even though I’m a member of SABR) and is, to say the best, lumbering around the bag.
    Like so many other Mets, on a solid team, he’d be an acceptable #7 hitter to supply occassional power, but today’s game is the perfect Duda demonstration. After 3 days of nothing, a HR when it was exactly what wasn’t needed. Pad the stats, but do nothing for the team.

    Editor’s Note – Please do not capitalize words in your post, as it is a violation of our Comment Policy.

  10. Patrick Albanesius
    May 27, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    I guess I’m too old-school but the only clutch stat that matters is if you can hit with RISP. Put runs on the board and get your team ahead. Getting on-base is valuable, as is great defense. But you have to drive those runs in when they get on base. That’s it. That’s the entire point of the game.

    • Jerry Grote
      May 27, 2014 at 1:23 pm


      I believe in RBIs.

      • Name
        May 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

        I guess you guys are very pleased with Duda this year then.
        .265/.405/.500 and .905 OPS this season.

  11. Robert McCutchan
    May 27, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Not me! He usually hits when the game is out of control, he doesn’t hot in clutch spots. The Mets problem is they can’t hit with RISP and there are too many minor league every day players on the rooster that aren’t major league ready or not talented enough to be successful. And Captain Doofey at first base is a prime example. Like I’ve said before, he is a head case and not secure enough in his ability to be a difference maker, and I still think it takes him an hour and a half to watch ’60 Minutes’.

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