A week or so ago, my 18-year-old son had an interesting hypothetical question for me.
And I figured I’d bring it into the hypothetical bar (can’t bring my son in; he’ll get hypothetically carded).
He asked if I could choose one current Oriole to bat with the season on the line – say, bases loaded, two outs, tied score, Game 7 of the World Series – who would I select?
It was a great question – the kid has no interest in being a sportswriter, so he’s a smart kid – and I thought about it a little without looking at numbers.
Here was my answer: Manny Machado or Adam Jones, probably in that order.
Machado because he’s the team’s best player, and because he showed the ability to rise to the challenge during those ridiculous games this year against the Boston Red Sox. He is still young, though. And that’s a lot of pressure.
Jones may seem like an odd choice, because he doesn’t always have good at-bats – we all know that. But, my thinking is, if he is that close to a championship, Jones will find a way to win.
I gave my son those answers, and then I couched it. If I could use players from 2016, I might go Matt Wieters, because the guy always seemed to deliver a big hit when the Orioles needed it.
We saw that “clutch” ability on Wednesday against the Orioles, when Wieters hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Washington Nationals a 7-6 win. It was the ninth walkoff hit of his career; the first eight coming with the Orioles.
I was curious to see whether the stats backed up my thoughts about who’s been clutch for the Orioles – though many baseball observers will tell you there is no such thing as clutch; too many variables.
Anyway, one stat to at least get a feel for “clutch” is “late and close” – how a batter fares in the seventh inning or later in games in which his team is leading by one run, the score is tied or his team’s tying run is on-base, at-bat or on-deck.
Wieters has hit .276 with a .333 on-base percentage and .453 slugging percentage in his career in those situations. Last year, he slashed .329/.381/.618 with a team best six homers.
So, who else was “clutch” last year?
This may not surprise you: Hyun Soo Kim had the highest average in 2016 among Orioles in late-and-close situations with a .348. Wieters was second and Machado was third with a .313.
Jonathan Schoop had the most RBIs, 19, and hit .290. Jones batted just .238, Mark Trumbo, .221, and Chris Davis, .213. Davis led the team with 37 strikeouts. In 2013 and 2015, however, Davis was great in close-and-late situations; he hit 24 homers in those two years in 221 plate appearances.
Incidentally – because I know some of you would ask – the Oriole with the best average all-time in one season with more than 80 plate appearances in close-and-late situations is Cal Ripken Jr., back in 1984 when he hit .411 in 118 plate appearances.
So, all that said, give me your thoughts on which Oriole you’d want up at the plate with the game on the line. And tip my son for the question.
Tap-In Question: Which 2017 Oriole would you most want at the plate with the season on the line?