Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mike Napoli with runners in scoring position

The batting average of most major leaguers is a few ticks higher when runners are on base than when the bases are empty.  That is to be expected.  When a runner is on base, the pitcher will be more worried about issuing walks, and so is more likely to throw balls down the center of the plate.  The pitcher may also be distracted by the threat of a stolen base, or may be worrying about what went wrong during the last at bat.  The very fact that there are runners are on base may simply indicate that the pitcher is starting to tire.  And, with the chance to knock in a few runs, the batter may be just a little more focused. 

Or, in Mike Napoli's case, a whole lot more focused.  With bases empty he is hitting a paltry 0.194.  That's the kind of batting average that earns you a date with the bench.  But when there are runners on base, he is hitting 0.333.  But wait, there's more!  With runners in scoring position, he is hitting a monstrous 0.370.  And with bases loaded, he is hitting a monstrous 0.667.

If I didn't know better, I'd say Napoli's is an RBI machine, an absolute clutch player.  

But I do know better: there is absolutely no statistical correlation between past clutch performance and future clutch performance in baseball. 

(If all the players in the major leagues were asked to flip a coin five times in a row, there are surely several who would get heads all five times.  Does that mean those players are really good at flipping heads?  Nope; on the sixth flip they are just as likely to flip tails as anyone else.  Similarly, statistics show that players who exhibit "clutch" hitting over a week or a month or a season are no more likely to continue being "clutch" than anyone else.)

So, don't get your expectations too high because of Napoli's early season exploits, and don't get too disappointed when he looks decidedly more average come the summer.  Just enjoy the ride.


  1. Update on Mike Napoli: two weeks since I posted and already he's looking decidedly more average. With bases empty, he's now hitting 0.241. With runners on base, he's hitting 0.286. With runners in scoring position, he's hitting 0.304. With bases loaded, he's still hitting 0.667, but that's only because he hasn't been in another bases loaded position.

    Still good "clutch" numbers, but they're going to keep flattening out as the season wears on.

  2. With bases empty, Mike Napoli is now up to 0.297! And with runners in scoring position, he is now down to 0.227. So, I guess he now the anti-Napoli.

    Told you so.