There is no easy definition of clutch. It’s one of those "I’ll know it when I see it" type of ideas. Because of its ambiguous nature, the debates over what makes a player or moment clutch can be very fun and interesting. Is it possible to be clutch in the second inning? Should a player with weaker stats be considered for postseason awards over a player with better stats because of the "clutch factor?" Does clutch even exist in a meaningful manner? Can clutch even be quantified?
One way statisticians have tried to quantify clutch is through win expectancy. If you've looked at any game recap on Bless You Boys in the past few seasons, you'll notice a chart like this at the very end.
This is a win expectancy chart. If you follow along from left to right, you'll see the major moments that most effected the outcome of the game. After each plate appearance, the win probability changes (either positively or negatively) and this change gets tracked by FanGraphs for each plate appearance for each player.
The graph above is from September 18, 2015, when Dixon Machado hit a walk-off single to beat the Kansas City Royals. Before his plate appearance, the Tigers had a 66 percent chance of winning. After Machado's game-winning single, the Tigers had a 100 percent chance of winning. The .340 difference is his win probability added (WPA) for that one plate appearance. Following are the five highest WPA totals in a single plate appearance for the Tigers in 2015.
#5 James McCann's walk-off home run
Date: June 28
Situation: The Tigers were trailing 4-0 against the White Sox heading into the bottom of the eighth inning. The Tigers scored four runs that inning to tie it up. Then, with one out in the ninth, McCann smacked his third home run of the season in walk-off fashion.
#4 Rajai Davis triples in extra innings
Date: September 22
Situation: This was the Tigers' near combined no-hitter game started by Daniel Norris against the White Sox. The Tigers were leading 1-0 heading into the ninth inning where Neftali Feliz gave up the no-hitter, the shutout and the lead in a matter of minutes. With two outs in the tenth inning, Anthony Gose walked and then Davis tripled him home for the Tigers' victory.
#2 T-Victor Martinez homers
Date: August 8
Situation: The Tigers took a 5-3 lead into the seventh inning where the Red Sox scored three runs to overtook the lead 6-5. The Tigers weren't laying down though, as they scored two more in the seventh on Ian Kinsler's single and V-Mart's homer, proving that a hit in the seventh inning can affect the win probability more than a walk-off hit.
#2 T-Victor Martinez homers (again)
Date: September 19
Situation: Victor Martinez didn't hit many home runs in 2015, but when he did, he made them matter. It was the seventh inning trailing by one run again (this time against the Royals 4-3) where V-Mart homered again after a Miguel Cabrera walk.
#1 Ian Kinsler
Date: July 20
Situation: Ian Kinsler hit two walk-off home runs in 2015. This game is neither of them. The Tigers were trailing the Mariners 4-3 heading into the eighth inning. With one out, Jose Iglesias doubled and Rajai Davis advanced him to third with a groundout. The Tigers had a less than 50 percent chance of winning the game when Ian Kinsler smashed his second home run of the game to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead that they eventually held onto for a win.