Friday, 9 October 2009

How Clutch Is Ronnie Belliard?

In tonight's game between the St Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, I found myself rooting for Casey Blake to get on base in the bottom of the ninth just so we could see Ronnie Belliard come up. Washington Nationals' radio listeners will remember the commercial - 'Belliard bats over .300 with runners in scoring position'. (It's currently at .281.) So how clutch is he?

It's well known in the sabermetric world that clutch hitting doesn't exist. Actually, that's not true. Sabermetrics actually argues that by the time we work out whether a hitter is clutch or not, his career is almost over. It takes that many plate appearances to remove the uncertainty. From season-to-season it's not supposed to be a repeatable skill. How does Belliard look on that basis? Is he feasting one year, only to suffer famine the next?

Season-by-season, excluding a 1998 cup of coffee, here's how he did. (Slash line = batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage)

Season totals RISP Close&Late
1999 294/379/429 339/435/527 368/444/500
2000 268/354/389 307/423/474 247/348/289
2001 264/335/443 317/397/475 200/286/260
2002 211/257/287 167/232/200 208/295/264
2003 277/351/409 316/398/439 184/298/265
2004 282/348/425 284/394/454 316/400/453
2005 284/328/450 259/299/468 247/281/461
2006 CLE 291/387/420 269/352/355 320/393/480
2006 StL 237/295/371 192/288/269 125/152/156
2007 290/332/427 267/321/422 311/337/378
2008 287/372/473 305/380/524 200/375/380

When you break it out this way, you see that his record Close & Late is very wayward. Some season's he's hot, others he's not. There's almost no consistent sign of improvement with RISP, either. You could almost argue that he had a talent for rising to the occasion through about 2003, but after that he seems to get worse, until 2008.

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