As I have discussed in this space before, my estimation of Michael Brantley has not often aligned with those around me. Where I saw a player failing to live up to his on-base pedigree, others saw someone with innate clutchiness.1 Where I saw a player who seemed to lose his base-stealing ability upon meeting better opponents, others saw a gritty gamer whose presence made the team stronger. Where I saw a below average defensive center fielder, others were relieved finally to be rid of Grady Sizemore’s noodle arm.
Because I was so often on the opposite side of what I considered to be cock-eyed optimism, I was deemed a naysayer. This, to me, wasn’t entirely fair. As I’ve written several times, Michael Brantley is fine just the way he is. He is something like an average, everyday baseball player in the best professional baseball league in the world. Players like that are really valuable, and Cleveland should know, after the disgraces that have been roaming left field since Manny Ramirez left town. There’s nothing wrong with average and there’s nothing wrong with Michael Brantley.
- Look, Brantley has been better in what has generally been termed “clutch situations”. For the record, I’ve never argued that he hasn’t been. For his career, Brantley is a .315/.386/.433 hitter with runners in scoring position. The question isn’t whether, heretofore, he has performed well in high leverage situations (even better than RISP, actually: .343/.409/.429). The question is whether that sample of excellent performance is enough to convince us that what has happened in those clutch situations is repeatable, and not the product of randomness. Brantley has had a total of 210 at bats in what Fangraphs deems “high leverage”. That’s basically a third of a season. Is it unreasonable that a career .277/.331/.386 hitter might have two months of numbers better than that? Not to me, but we’ll fight about clutchiness another day. [↩]