Can the Dodgers Stay Clutch, with Runners in Scoring Position?

After a tough loss last night, I thought we could all use a little bit of optimism. I wanted to talk to you today about something the Dodgers have excelled in this year. Yes, I am talking about clutch hitting, and how it has been a huge reason why the Dodgers are the best team in Baseball.

Webster’s Dictionary has defined clutch hitting or a clutch hitter as the following…

“A clutch hitter is a baseball player with a knack for coming up with the “big” hit. The big hit is typically a game-deciding hit, sometimes a home run, often coming with two outs. Being known as a clutch hitter is a position of high honor and responsibility, as the clutch hitter is recognized as the “go-to guy” for the team, and his exploits in pressure situations are celebrated by both fans and players alike.”

For the Dodgers in 2012, clutch hitting has been a double edged sword. It has been a strength and a weakness. A big reason for the Dodgers success this season has been timely hits. It’s simple, when the Dodgers hit with runners in scoring position, they win, when they don’t, they lose. Many teams live and die with runners in scoring position during the summer months.

The Dodgers rank fifth in the national league in hitting with runners in scoring position and eleventh overall. The boys in blue have put up a line of .261/.362/.402 with 14 home runs and 220 RBIs. They rank third in RBIs and third in runs scored with 230. Their 148 hits rank them fourth in the NL, and their 93 walks leads the National league. Patience has been a big weapon this year for the Dodgers as well. Several Dodgers have had excellent plate discipline this season. You know what they say, walks are almost as good as hits. The more men you put on base, the more runs you will score. The Dodgers have followed this recipe to be able to manufacture a lot of runs, thus leading to more wins.

One of the deadliest clutch hitters in the league is Andre Ethier. Take a look at the rest of the Dodgers with RISP. Of course Matt Kemp is no slouch in this department either. Most are doing very well, which is a big reason for the Dodgers success in 2012.

Andre Ethier-.362/.434/.580 2 HR 42 RBI

Matt Kemp- .375/.485/.958 4 HR 17 RBI

A.J. Ellis-  .271/.462/.521 3 HR 21 RBI 16 BB

Bobby Abreu- .313/.465/.406 0 HR 12 RBI

Juan Rivera- .294/.308/.471 2 HR 17 RBI

James Loney- .310/.429/.431 1 HR 19 RBI

Tony Gwynn Jr.- .368/.455/.474 0 HR 16 RBI

Jerry Hairston Jr.- .276/.371/.517 1HR 13 RBI

These numbers above are the reason the Dodgers are in first place in mid June, and have the best record in Baseball. The improved offense has helped a lot. What makes this most impressive is they are doing this without Matt Kemp, who is still sidelined with a strained left hamstring, The Dodgers will have to stay afloat until Kemp returns, sometime at the end of the month.

Some people don’t believe clutch hitting exists, but it does. It’s basically the ability to hit with runners in scoring position. Take a look at this Ish, with the game tied, the Dodgers lead the NL with 70 walks, and a .352 OBP. When the Dodgers are behind, they are the best hitting team in the league. When the boys in blue are trailing they are hitting .288/.352/.404 9 HR 79 RBI and a NL leading .756 OPS. Amazing rallies and comebacks have been an integral part of the 2012 season.

Every night there is a different hero. It was Matt Kemp’s heroics in April. It was Andre Ethier’s grand slam home run. It was Scott Van Slyke’s three-run bomb on Sunday night Baseball, Ivan Dejesus’s two-run double against Arizona. It was Elian Herrera’s two game winning hits in Philadelphia, it was Dee Gordon’s walk-off against the Padres, and Juan Rivera’s three-run bomb to beat the Angels on Tuesday night. This year has been filled with great clutch performances.

The Dodgers remain four games ahead of the second place Giants in the NL West with a 40-24 record. Can the Dodgers continue to get the clutch performances they have been receiving? The Dodgers are going to have to keep finding ways to get timely hits and score runs with runners in scoring position if they want to stay in first place. Of course a little more good luck wouldn’t hurt either. The Giants continue to chase the Dodgers, as the boys in blue drive their magical run towards the NL West division title.

The Dodgers have defied the odds all season long. The 1988 world championship team did the same thing,and received similar clutch efforts. If the Dodgers keep getting hits with runners in scoring position, then they’ll keep winning, and we all might be making ticket reservations this October.

Topics: A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Bobby Abreu, Dee Gordon, Dodgers, Don Mattingly, James Loney, Jerry Hairston Jr., Juan Rivera, Matt Kemp, Tony Gwynn Jr.

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