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Royals by OBI%: A Sinkhole Named Alex

"Clutch" doesn't exist. However, being a good hitter does, and having an opportunity to be "clutch" does as well. Good hitters who get the chance, will be "clutch", the numbers bear this out time and time again. The margins between "clutch", "average" and "choker" are actually incredibly small. The clutchest manly men in the AL are driving in around 22% of men on base for them, while the average guys are around 16% and the quivering cowards towards 12%. In many cases, this is basically a single a week difference, sometimes less.

Baseball Prospectus keeps a stat called OBI% (Others Batted in Percentage) which tells us what percentage of men on base a said hitter has been able to drive in. For example, if Lexus O'Toole has an OBI% of 17%, that means that 17% of those men who were standing on a base when O'Toole came to the plate ended up being driven home by O'Toole. OBI% does not include those times a hitter drives himself in (i.e., his RsBI from homers).

Royals by OBI% (min 10 PAs):

1. Ross Gload: 23% (45 PAs w/ROB)
2. Ryan Shealy: 18% (38 PAs w/ROB)
3. Reggie Sanders: 17.6% (22 PAs w/ROB)
4. Mark Teahen: 17.1% (91 PAs w/ROB)
5. Paul Phillips: 16.6% (8 PAs w/ROB)
6. Esteban German: 15.7% (48 PAs w/ROB)
7. Emil Brown: 14.7% (57 PAs w/ROB)
8. Mark Grudz: 14.7% (71 PAs w/ROB)
9. Billy Butler: 13.3% (21 PAs w/ROB)
10. Mike Sweeney: 12.7% (84 PAs w/ROB)
11. Tony Pena JR: 11.5% (75 PAs w/ROB)
12. Shane Costa: 11.1% (11 PAs w/ROB)
13. John Buck: 10.8% (58 PAs w/ROB)
14. Jason Larue: 9.1% (18 PAs w/ROB)
15. David DeJesus: 7.6% (71 PAs w/ROB)
16. Alex Gordon: 2.6% (88 PAs w/ROB)

Given the relatively small number of games played this season, theres still quite a bit of uneven noise in this data. Obviously, not all baserunners are created equal, as its much easier to be the heroic RBI man with a runner on third than on first. In part, that helps to explain some seemingly shocking discrepancies. Yes, Gload did EXPLODE for awhile there, but the key to his team leading OBI% is/was his ability to get men in from third, something he has done a team-leading 53.8% of the time. Gload also benefiting from having a man waiting for him on third 13 times, a relatively high number given his playing time. If you poke around the date you'll find lots of minor, probably meaningless facts like this one.

Here are the top five OBI% men in the AL (min 50 PAs):

1. Toriiiiiii Hunter: 24.3% OBI
3. Jack Cust: 22.6%
4. Brad Wilkerson: 22.5%
5. Magglio Ordonez: 22.1%

The rest of the top 30 and beyond plays out in a similar pattern, a slow decline of basically interchangeable parts; Ryan Shealy for example, is all the way down to 28th in the AL, despite a quite-similar-to-Gload OBI% of 18%. OBI% hovers around 13-22%, a extremely small range given the seemingly large differences between the hitting ability of players. Delmon Young is 60th in the AL with an OBI% of 15.2%, only a single here or there from being 30th.

There is much more that could be said about these numbers, but from the KC perspective, what really jumps out from the OBI% data is Alex Gordon's OBI% of 2.6%, dead last in the AL.

Here's Gordo's breakdown:

Total PAs: 170
PAs w/ROB: 88
Total ROB: 114
ROB driven in: 3

Gordon's stepped to the plate with men on base 88 times, with a total of 114 ducks on the pond, and he's driven in 3 of those guys.


Here's the even more bizarre thing: Gordo's failed to drive in a runner from second base all season long. Your standard issue single to right field scoring a runner from 2nd: never happened. Of his 3 RsBI, two are men from first and one is a man from third.

Gordo is hitting .186/.302/.283 overall.

Hungry for more Gordo breakdowns?

-Runners On: .125/.276/.194
-RISP: .139/.340/.139
-Man on first, nothing else: .111/.200/.250
-Man on second, nothing else: .308/.471/.308
-Man on third, nothing else: .250/.625/.250
-Man on first and second: .000/.214/.000
-Man on first and third: .000/.000/.000 (3 PAs)
-Man on second and third: .000/.000/.000 (2 PAs)
-Bases loaded: .000/.000/.000 (3 PAs)

This is pretty incredible data... I do not mean to suggest that Gordon isn't "clutch" or is a coward or isn't a real man, or whatever the rhetoric of your fancy is. I'd also be hesitant to glean that he's changing his approach with men on (mentally or physically), especially without looking at hours of swing by swing data.

Hell, he's been a very bad hitter this season, however which way you look at it, so it makes sense he'd also be bad with men on base.

What matters more, or has mattered more, for the Royals, is that Gordon has been at or near the middle of the order for 40+ games now, and has been a Jalepena-esque Out Machine. He's played one game as the #4 hitter, 13 as the #5, 11 as the #6 and 13 as the #7, all of which have essentially been bad choices, because, sadly, there isn't a lineup hole for slot #12 or #13.

Not that 2007 matters, but the effect on the offense can be plainly seen.


Postscript: After posting, it was brought to my attention that the venerable Royals Authority had offered its own take on Gordon just one day ago. It is highly worth reading.