The Clutch Gene exists.
It’s most definitely real. As a practicing sabermetrician, I’m not supposed to admit this. It’s not in the party platform. Several of my comrades from other websites will scoff at my lead. Nonsense! It’s a fallacy! I can already hear the jeers.
Yet the Clutch Gene is real. And spectacular.
Long-time Royals watchers will point directly to George Brett. My god, did that guy ever own the Clutch Gene. A great player, a Hall of Famer, one of the best ever to play the game, he somehow managed to elevate his game at just the right moment when the spotlight shone the brightest. Of the most identifiable moments from the first run of franchise glory, almost all of them feature Number Five.
Thirty years later, we saw it again. Another Royal who stepped forward when the team desperately needed a hit, when the team needed someone to bring them across the finish line.
Eric Hosmer has the Clutch Gene.
Go ahead and scoff. But deep in your sabermetric heart, you know it’s true. Witness:
2014 AL Wild Card
Oakland 8, Royals 7
B12 – Triple
wWPA – 30%
The Greatest Game Ever Played was highlighted by big hits and amazing moments. Salvador Perez slashed the game winning hit, but nothing happens without Hosmer coming this close to a home run in left-center for a one out triple. He scored two pitches later on a Christian Colon chopper to tie the game. When I say nothing happens, make sure you think about that for a moment. Without that triple, without that win, everything likely changes. I write this without hyperbole: That was the defining hit for the franchise.
Oh, yeah. Hosmer also walked in the first, drove home the go-ahead run in the third, walked in the eighth and scored the run that cut the deficit to one, and singled in the 10th.
2014 ALDS, Game 2
Royals 2, Angels 2
T11 – Home Run
wWPA – 43%
Mike Moustakas broke a tie the night earlier, now it was Hosmer’s turn to step forward again. With Lorenzo Cain on first, Hosmer drilled one into the right field seats to propel the Royals to a 2-0 lead in the series.
2014 ALDS, Game 3
Angels 1, Royals 3
B3 – Home Run
wWPA – 12%
So many of the Hosmer clutch moments weren’t game winners like the previous entry, rather they were hits that pushed a game out of reach. This was the case on a rainy Sunday night at The K. After chasing starter CJ Wilson in the first, the Royals held a two run lead into the third. With Nori Aoki on first, Hosmer crushed a 2-0 pitch to put the game, and the series, out of reach.
2014 ALCS, Game 3
Orioles 1, Royals 1
B6 – Single
wWPA – 10%
With the Royals holding a 2-0 lead in the 2014 ALCS, the series moved to Kauffman for a pair of nailbiters. In the first one, with the Royals struggling to get anything going against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, Aoki led off the sixth with a single. After a Cain strikeout, Hosmer singled, advancing pinch runner Jarrod Dyson to third. Dyson scored the game winning run on a Billy Butler sac fly.
2014 ALCS, Game 4
Orioles 0, Royals 0
B1 – Fielders Choice
wWPA – 12%
Sometimes, all you have to do is put the ball in play. With the first two batters of the game reaching base against starter Miguel Gonzales, Hosmer hit a ground ball to first. We’d seen it a thousand times where he would roll his wrists and pull a ball on the ground. With Alcides Escobar breaking from third on contact, the throw comes home, but the catcher Donnie Joseph can’t hold on to the ball. Aoki follows him home. The Royals made those two runs stand for 24 more outs and their first trip to the World Series in 29 years.
2014 World Series, Game 3
Royals 2, Giants 0
T6 – Single
wWPA – 8%
This one won’t register as highly as others on this list, but it’s just as impressive. With the Royals holding a 1-0 lead through five, they tack on another with an Alex Gordon double in the top of the sixth. With two out and Gordon still at second, Hosmer battled through an 11 pitch plate appearance before singling to center to bring home the third run. That was the margin of the game as the Giants found two runs of their own in the bottom half of the frame.
2015 ALDS, Game 2
Astros 4, Royals 2
B6 – Single
wWPA – 12%
This wasn’t the biggest event of the game. That would come later in the inning. However, with the Royals 13 outs from a 2-0 deficit in the best of five series, the pressure was mounting as Hosmer approached the plate with Cain at second. Down 0-2, Hosmer lined a slider off lefty Oliver Perez to move the game to within a run.
2015 ALDS, Game 4
Royals 3, Astros 6
T8 – Single
wWPA – 15%
Royals 7, Astros 6
T9 – Home Run
wWPA – 12%
You know all about this one. Keep the line moving. The big hit in the eighth came from Kendrys Morales, the little spinner that found it’s way up the middle to tie the game. Hosmer’s single was the second most important event in that inning.
The home run off Josh Fields in the ninth is something that was almost as important. With a one run lead, Hosmer gave his team the extra padding to deflate the Astros as the series moved back to Kansas City for the fifth and deciding game. It was 453 feet of destruction.
2015 ALDS, Game 5
Astros 2, Royals 0
B4 – Single
wWPA – 12%
Again, the Royals were facing a deficit. It really seemed like they were clawing out of some sort of danger the entire series. Again, it was Hosmer to the rescue. Not with the game winning hit, rather another single to open the scoring and chip away at the lead.
2015 ALCS, Game 2
Blue Jays 3, Royals 0
B7 – Single
wWPA – 18%
It’s almost the same as the game above. Down to David Price, who cruised through six innings, the Royals plated five in the seventh to break the game open and take a 2-0 series lead. Hosmer opened the scoring with a single to center. He also scored the final run of the game after a two out walk in the bottom of the eighth.
2015 ALCS, Game 6
Blue Jays 3, Royals 3
B8 – Single
wWPA – 22%
No words needed. Just turn up the sound and soak it all in.
If, for some reason, you don’t decide to play the video, the screencap of Hosmer’s reaction says everything.
2015 World Series, Game 2
Mets 1, Royals 1
B5 – Single
wWPA – 22%
The Royals ran away with this one in the later innings, but for the first four and a half frames, things were tight. Three consecutive Royals reached to open the inning, but it looked like the Mets and Jacob deGrom were going to escape. Hosmer approached with two down and grounded one back up the middle for the go ahead score. Moustakas brought home Hosmer for the third run in the inning.
2015 World Series, Game 4
Mets 3, Royals 2
T8 – Reached on E4
wWPA – 32%
Hey, nobody said being clutch was about getting a base hit. Like Game Four of the 2014 ALCS, Hosmer needed to put the ball in play. It was a little chopper to second. With runners on first and second, Daniel Murphy has no shot at turning two, but didn’t get the glove down to make any play. Zobrist scored from second and the Royals tied the game. Moustakas and Perez followed with singles of their own to keep the line moving and Wade Davis shut things down with a six out save.
2015 World Series, Game 5
Mets 2, Royals 0
T9 – Double
wWPA – 20%
Mets 2, Royals 1
T9 – !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
wWPA – 17%
We come full circle with Homser sliding face-first across home plate on a Christian Colon chopper to third.
Naturally, it’s all set up by Hosmer doubling to score Cain with the Royals first run, chasing Matt Harvey from the game. Both plays were the WPA leaders.
Three innings later, the Royals had their first World Series title in 30 years.
This is just an amazing amount of clutch. And what’s funny (at least to me) is that Hosmer didn’t really perform well offensively in most of these series.
|2 Yr||2 Yr||2 Yr||2 Yr||2 Yr||2 Yr||31||138||123||18||34||4||1||3||29||1||1||12||33||.276||.333||.398||.732||49|
|1 AL||1 AL||1 AL||1 AL||1 AL||1 AL||1||6||4||2||3||0||1||0||1||0||1||2||0||.750||.833||1.250||2.083||5|
|2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||8||34||31||6||8||0||0||3||9||0||0||3||8||.258||.324||.548||.872||17|
|2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||2 AL||10||43||39||4||12||1||0||0||9||0||0||3||10||.308||.349||.333||.682||13|
|2 WS||2 WS||2 WS||2 WS||2 WS||2 WS||12||55||49||6||11||3||0||0||10||1||0||4||15||.224||.273||.286||.558||14|
He tore through his first eight postseason games, but then didn’t do much the rest of the way. At least when you look at the statistics. We know differently, though. The evidence is above. In the biggest moments of the biggest game, no Royal consistently stepped forward like Eric Hosmer. It wasn’t always a hit, or a run, but there was always something he created to make things happen. Always. That, my friends, is the Clutch Gene.
The wild ride of 2014 and 2015 doesn’t happen if Hosmer isn’t on this team. Sure, it’s disappointing that the economics and structure of the game make it impossible for the Royals to hold on to their best players. And even if you think, like I do, that the Padres made a mistake in offering that kind of contract to Hosmer, (paying for an intangible like the Clutch Gene is a fool’s errand, there’s no guarantee San Diego will find itself in the position to utilize this magic) that in no way diminishes his accomplishments in Kansas City. Time and again he put this franchise and this city on his back. Time and again he answered.
What a ballplayer.