By one metric, Daniel Descalso was runner-up to Paul Goldschmidt for Team MVP this year. That metric is Win Probability: for, despite having only 349 at-bats this year, Descalso accumulated +255% of win probability. Goldschmidt (+398%), David Peralta (+206%) and A.J. Pollock (+86%) were the only other position players to reach even +5%, which gives you some indication of how crucial Descalso was. By Fangraph’s clutch metric, Descalso rated a 1.63: not just best on the D-backs, but third-best in the National League, among all hitters with 300 or more plate-appearances. He was just edged out by Brian Anderson of the Marlins (1.67) and the Padres’ Freddy Galvis (1.64).
“I always like being up there with a chance to come through. Big spots are fun. What’s the worst that can happen? You get out; we’ve all done that hundreds of times before. Just try to slow down the game, take a deep breath and get a good pitch to hit.”
— Daniel Descalso
There’s nothing particularly new about this. Discounting the 37 PA in his debut season, Descalso has been positive in clutch every single season. Over that time, among the 271 players with two thousand or more PA, Daniel has been the clutchiest, and it’s not even close. He scores a 7.68. Jacob Ellsbury (6.28) is the only other player even at six. Our pals over at Beyond the Box Score noticed this back in July last year, writing a piece called, Daniel Descalso: a profile in “clutchness which concluded, “He has always been able to get on base in these situations, and maybe not get the RBI, but he can keep the inning alive to get to someone who can bring that run home.”
No at-bat was clutchier for Descalso this season than the one below, on May 8th in Los Angeles, when he broke a 12th-inning tie with a three-run homer.
However, Descalso’s production wasn’t purely limited to his clutchiness. All told, the 31-year-old had a pretty decent season: career highs in home-runs (13), RBI (57) and OPS (.789). The resulting OPS+ of 106 was also a personal best for Daniel, and all the more impressive given that his career OPS+ figure before this season was only 81. He also provided useful positional flexibility for the D-backs, starting games at four different spots (first, second, third and left) as well as being the team’s most-used designated hitter. Oh, and Descalso pitched emergency mop-up on more than one occasions - though sadly his perfect record on the mound is no more.
All told, he was worth 1.6 fWAR/1.1 bWAR, which is good value for the $2 million Descalso was paid this season. However, it’s worth noting that was very much an outlier: even after his success in 2018, Daniel’s total value over the nine years of his career has been only 2.2 fWAR/1.8 bWAR. Should the D-backs bet on Descalso reproducing his production this year going forward, especially with the player turning 32 next week? And if he is not able to, regressing to his replacement level form, would his clutchiness and positional flexibility still make him a useful weapon on the 2019 roster?