Martin Prado on Paul Goldschmidt: "Every time he comes to the plate, we expect great things from him." #Dbacks
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) August 14, 2013
So, yeah, Paul Goldschmidt. Have a night, dude. Game-tying home run in the ninth. Walk-off home run in the 11th -- your third of the season and fourth walk-off hit. Another dramatic win for the Diamondbacks, a thoroughly crushing 4-3 loss for the Orioles.
The stats guys say there's no such thing as clutch hitting. We can all debate that another time. But we can separate the idea of clutch hitting from the more objective measurement of big hits. And Paul Goldschmidt has been the king of late-inning big hits in 2013.
There is a statistic called Win Probability Added, which measures the change in probability of winning the game caused by each batter during the game. A score of plus-1 or minus-1 would mean one win added or lost. (The game situation comes into play here: A home run in the ninth inning of a tie game obviously changes the win probability much more than a home run in the sixth inning of a 9-2 game.)
Goldschmidt's WPA on Tuesday was .764, according to this FanGraphs chart. Using the Play Index at Baseball-Reference.com, we find that Goldschmidt's game is the 16th this season in which a batter scored 0.7 or higher. The top WPA game belongs to Jose Bautista, who scores a 1.056 in a 4-3 win on May 22 in which he went 4-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs, including a game-tying home run in the ninth and game-winning single in the 10th. Pretty much a one-man offense that game.
Back to our hero of the night. Goldschmidt has now had seven games this season of 0.4 WPA or higher, according to Baseball-Reference. He's just the ninth player since 1969 to have at least seven such games in a season. Here's that list:
Bobby Bonds, Giants, 1973: 9
Steve Finley, Padres, 1996: 8
Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, 2013: 7
Prince Fielder, Brewers, 2011: 7
Mike Piazza, Mets, 2001: 7
Barry Bonds, Giants, 2001: 7
Will Clark, Giants, 1989: 7
Don Baylor, Angels, 1982: 7
Jim Wynn, Astros 1972: 7
Here are the details of Goldschmidt's seven games:
1. April 5: Diamondbacks 3, Brewers 1 (0.452 WPA)
Go-ahead double in the fourth, leadoff walk in the seventh that led to two-run rally.
2. May 7: Diamondbacks 5, Dodgers 3 (0.421 WPA)
Hit two-run homer in the ninth off Brandon League.
3. May 8: Diamondbacks 3, Dodgers 2 (0.560 WPA)
4. June 4: Diamondbacks 7, Cardinals 6 (0.471 WPA)
Went 3-for-6 including go-ahead single in the 14th.
5. June 7: Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1 (0.486 WPA)
Hit three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off Jeremy Affeldt.
6. Aug. 9: Diamondbacks 5, Mets 4 (0.478 WPA)
Hit walk-off home run off Scott Atchison.
7. Aug. 13: Diamondbacks 4, Orioles 3 (0.764 WPA)
Note that the list doesn't include Goldschmidt's third walk-off homer run, which came off the Marlins' Chad Qualls on June 18. He got a .302 WPA that game, as he went 1-for-4.
WPA isn't for everyone; it's a little bit of a junk stat, but when we do talk about clutch hitting, it's the essence of what people are getting at: Who gets the big hits in close games at the most critical moments?
Nobody has been better at that in 2013 than Goldschmidt. Entering Tuesday, he led the NL in WPA at 5.4, ahead of the 4.2 of Adrian Gonzalez and Freddie Freeman. Andrew McCutchen might be the NL MVP favorite right now, but when you start dissecting the MVP race, those are seven games in Goldschmidt's favor.