A Plea to Stop the “Prince Isn’t Clutch” Thing

There are few things that annoy me more than talk about Prince Fielder not being clutch. Forget for a minute the whole argument over whether or not “clutch” even exists or is measurable. I just have no idea where this idea came from.

Yes, he struggled with runners in scoring position last season. In 206 plate appearances with RISP last season (a relatively small sample size), he hit .233/.451/.301. That doesn’t look good if you only look at the batting average, but the man still avoided making an out in those situations 45% of the time. He simply wasn’t given anything to hit, and when he was — only about 155 plate appearances — he wasn’t able to do much. It happens.

For his career, Fielder is hitting .267/.419/.461 with RISP. That’s not terrible, although it still is working with a smaller sample of 981 plate appearances (about 1.5 season’s worth). I’m not sure what people are expecting, considering he’s never really been one to hit for a high average to begin with — he’s hit .279 over about 3500 career plate appearances, with a career OBP of .385.

The bigger problem is Fielder pulling the ball as much as he does, but that’s not something just limited to RISP situations. 693 of his 832 career hits have come up the middle or to right field…right into the drastic shift that has developed over the years. On Wednesday night, Fielder was able to find holes toward the left side while driving in his 3 runs. Even before Wednesday night, the problem wasn’t so much that he wasn’t making good contact with RISP — it was that the contact was made right at an infielder.

Fielder’s career numbers — both traditional and advanced — are very good. Whatever he’s been doing has been working well. He’s worth the money he’s making this year, and he should be worth whatever he’ll be making next year. Just let the “clutch” thing die.

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