The more we learn about how the new regime – both the front office and the coaching staff – are doing things, the easier it is to see just how antiquated the old ways were. And we already thought they were very antiquated.

The latest bullet in the chamber, so to speak, is the coaching staff’s use of video and related data to help players stay their sharpest with runners in scoring position. I’m assuming the concept of studying video is not entirely foreign to the Cubs, but when was the last time you read an article like this about the organization? From

“It was a problem last year with the Cubs and, so far, it’s been a problem this spring, too,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said about hitting with runners in scoring position.

What he and the other coaches have tried to do is show the players what a pitcher’s tendency is, using data from video.

“They’re not going to pitch you the same when you came up in the second inning leading off with nobody on base,” Sveum said. “That’s the mindset you have to make younger hitters and people who may struggle in those situations understand what pitchers are doing.” …

Sveum has spent time in the video room with the players and said he’ll do it during the regular season, too ….

He said players are often unaware of the tendencies until they’re shown the information.

“Many of the guys are like, ‘Wow, I had no idea it was that blatant of a stat.’ … When you can look at a grid and Joe Blow, 90 percent of every ball he throws is away,” Sveum said. “You put that into play in your head when you walk up to the box and you say, ‘I just saw this, so I don’t have to worry about anything inside.'”

While I’m thrilled that the Cubs are utilizing these technological tools (that have been around for a long time), it saddens and disturbs me to hear Dale Sveum talk about situational video data as though it’s a brand new concept to the organization. Maybe it is. I don’t presume to know the inner workings of the front office or coaching staff, but I know that I don’t remember reading much like this just a year or two ago.

As an aside, about runners in scoring position, Sveum aptly articulates my belief about clutch/unclutch (namely, that it doesn’t really exist): “A lot of guys who hit [well] with guys in scoring position, it’s because they’re able to relax more and their anxiety level doesn’t get up. That’s why some guys hit well with two strikes, because the anxiety level isn’t as high as other guys and they don’t feel like they have to do it.”

Bingo. Stats have borne out the idea that “clutch” guys are really just those who are able to maintain their historical averages in high leverage situations. In other words, “clutch” guys aren’t better than average in those situations, they just don’t crap their pants.

  • Frank

    But isn’t the ability to stay calm in high leverage situations the definition of “clutch”? It seems what you’re saying, Brett, is that clutch hitting does exist–but it’s defined differently–maintaining your average while everyone else is choking is the definition of “clutch.” Like the Kipling poem–“If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs . . .”

    • Spencer

      ^^ Exactly. Clutch guys ARE better than average in those situations, BECAUSE they don’t crap their pants. Just like a buzzer beater in basketball or a game winning touchdown pass with 3 seconds left.

      • Wilbur

        In other words, “clutch” guys aren’t better than average in those situations, they just don’t crap their pants.

        I’m sure there is an element of not letting the pressure of the situation drive you to bad decisions that makes some better than others. But it is also likely that there is an element of if I’m being pitched differently with runners on base and I adjust to that reality and look for a different pitch pattern I will maintain my average level of performance.

        It may also be the focus on adjustments that need to be made a) pushes the emotions related to the situation to the back of the mind and/or b) the focus on adjustments gives the batter confidence which outweigh the “oh shit …” reaction.

        Interesting topic …

    • Brett

      Yeah, we’re saying the same thing. I’m just talking about clutch not existing in the traditional sense.

  • Chef

    All you have to do is recall the multiple images of Soriano flailing helplessly at sliders away 3x in a row to know definitively that video was not being used to its fullest extent in years past.

  • Webb

    A far better example of “clutch” is the player who increases his production in those high-anxiety situations. While not crapping one’s pants is certainly a nice thing to have, I would not consider it clutch by any means. When runners are on first and second the odds of seeing pitches in the strike zone should drastically escillate (I’m not digging for research just to comment), which should lend itself to a better hitting situation and theoretically higher batting averages, not lower. The actual results for Cubs hitters have actually had the opposite effects in recent years, however. It appears Sveum attributes this to a lack of situational pitching information. Here’s to hoping he knows what he’s talking about.

    • Brett

      “A far better example of “clutch” is the player who increases his production in those high-anxiety situations.”

      The point I’m making (and with which Sveum appears to agree (and which stats bear out)) is that that kind of “clutch” doesn’t exist, as much as we want to believe it does.

      • MichiganGoat

        I think ARam was a perfect example of this “clutch” conversation. For years he was considered “clutch” because a a few games where he didn’t crap his pants, but the advanced stats dispute just how clutch he was as a Cub.

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Brett, some players perform better with the game on the line. I recall a few year back, David Ortiz was winning games in the last at bat for Boston on a weekly bases. Now you can get lucky, but I know he had to have 6-7 walk off hits in a couple months. While he was a great hitter anyways, his late game performance was ridiculous. I think its cause he stayed calm, focused on the situation at hand, and came through. That is the definition of clutch.

        • MichiganGoat

          I think it is the memory of these game winning hits that give us the “clutch” namesake. We don’t remember the games where a player craps his pants if every 5th game he hits in a pressure situations. Until a statistic can quantify the “clutch factor” this is a qualitative discussion.

  • Cubbie Blues

    That should be the BN shirt ““clutch” guys aren’t better than average in those situations, they just don’t crap their pants” or “Cubs: crapping their pants since 1908”

    • Wilbur

      That’s is such a disappointing and unattractive concept to consider on several levels …

    • MichiganGoat

      The shirt is “this year we aren’t kidding around” if Brett can get create the image.

      • Brett

        I have that, and another good idea. Time is the only hurdle. Once the big, big post goes up on Wednesday (a 4000 word article to get you ready for Opening Day), I’ll have a bit more time.

        • MichiganGoat

          So you asking for patience? Who do you think we are? We are Cub fans we don’t like to wait. MOAR, results NOW is the only language we know! Who do you think you are the Epstein of Cub blogging?

  • Kyle

    Don’t believe in any of it. Outside of a few, very rare mental breakdowns (Ankiel), no such thing as clutch hitters.

    The small, small existence of clutch that people have found with baseball hitters is just the existence of hitters whose styles (ground-ball, contact heavy) allow them to take advantage of inefficient defensive positioning from trying to deal with baserunners.

    • MichiganGoat

      But, but, but what about Tebow :)

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Tebow is not clutch, that an “Angel in the outfield” type situation. Hard to win going against God.

  • NL_Cubs

    I think it is safe to say that the most recent managers of the Cubs have not been too motivated to learn new tools, particularly those of technology. Baker, Piniella and certainly Quade along with GM Hendry were old school good ole boys of a previous generation of thinking.

    This is just another reason why I am enjoying sitting back and watching this new generation of thinkers develop this team into a different organization from what we have seen in the past. Utilizing technology tools, player accountability and expectations, providing direction, building from the bottom up.

    The  “Cubs Way” is going well so far! Can’t wait for the Opener on Thursday!

    • Jay Anderson Jr

      I compare all this “new school thinking” to the wildcat formation in the NFL. It’s fun to look at, causes good debate, but how many championship games has it won. Ideas come and go in baseball all the time. The one thing that remains constant is baseball is still baseball. 10 years from now, this will be forgotten because something new will come out.

      • drew

        You make it sound like people are suggesting 4 man outfield or something. This isnt a complete overhaul of baseball, mostly just a new look on statistics that have been around for a long time.

        And about how many championships it has won: I can say for certain teams using this approach have won two in the last ten years.

        • Jay Anderson Jr

          I’m not against it as much as I’m just not excited by it. Yeah, Boston won 2, but they also had superior talent those year. That played a bigger parts then analytics. Also, if everybody is using it, where is the advantage.

          • MichiganGoat

            Using those analyticals is how you get that top talent to become champion. Remember Theo traded one of his top talent players (Nomar) and won a World Series. Yes everyone is using it, yes top talent is necessary, but not everyone uses it correctly. If it didn’t produce winners then people would not use it.

          • DocWimsey

            Analytics had a lot to do with how Theo (and Duquette before him) assembled the Sox. And it played a role in how they had Little & Francona manage, and what they instructed up and down the system: the whole “selectively aggressive” philosophy, few sacrifice bunts, limited stealing, stressing “every situation is the same batting” contributed a lot to the offensive half of the Sox success.

            Conversely, looking for pitchers with low BB and HR rates contributed a lot to the defensive half of Sox success.

            As for the “where is the advantage” of using analytics if everyone else is, it’s called not losing because you are not using analytics! (We call this The Red Queen!) Look at keeping HR rates low: that’s a general stat that masks things like K rates, GB:FB ratios, popup rates, etc. Analytics are not “done”: working further and further to actual “process” (e.g., types of pitches thrown) from more exact patterns (e.g., grounders or flyballs) still needs to be done.

      • MichiganGoat

        Um I think Theo has two rings that would like to say differently.

  • Fishin Phil

    New sign recently seen in Cub’s clubhouse: Don’t Crap Your Pants!

    It’s the Cub’s way!

    • Wilbur

      We need more puppets playing for the Cubs, it’s impossible for them to crap their pants …

      • MichiganGoat

        Or Goats… We don’t wear pants.

        • Deer

          same goes for us deers. We actually considered pants, and although they looked nice, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

          • Wilbur

            Are we defining the new competitive edge for Theo/Jed to exploit!!!

  • hansman1982

    Apparently the Reds are being brilliant and stupid on the same day.

    Extension for Votto is close

    Chapman being moved to the pen because one of their pen guys isn’t ready for the bigs.
    Thank God for Dusty Baker.

    • MichiganGoat

      I’m almost ready to believe the Cubs will finish better than the Reds.

  • Norm

    Clutch hitting exists.
    “Clutch” as a skill, does not.

  • lou brock lives

    The only stats that really show clutch are % success RISP or driving in the run from 3rd with less than 2 outs. All else is guess work. Look for trend – not just one year’s results. I believe Barney led the Cubs last year – but that is only one year, let’s see if he can do it again.

  • Ivy Walls

    First let me talk about clutch or not crapping one’s pants in “game situations”. As a once collegiate golfer there were moments when I was faced with the winning situation, when parring the final hole meant winning the match or tourney or not. My father was a big proponent in setting up game or pressure situations in all sorts of stuff including washing the dishes, playing ping pong or playing against him in golf, baseball or basketball or even starting a lawn mower where there was a risk of failure. He taught me to slow down, concentrate, think through the fundementals of what you are doing. Play the percentages not take inordinate risks.

    Sandburg talked about Bruce Suter’s tendancy that his ball left the hitting zone and fell inside so you had to swing where you thought it would be not where you saw it. That is how he hit consecutive HR’s to tie the Babe Ruth game

    I learned to perform better in golf in pressure situations than in normal because of this ability to concentrate in those moments.

    What really gets me is not using situational tendancies. Reading about McKay, Sveum and Bosio’s approaches I can only think their cumalative approach might equate to 6 or 8 WAR’s.

    • DocWimsey

      The problem with this analogy is that golf is nothing like batting. It is, however, very much like pitching. That is, it’s a thinking action: you decide what the best approach is given the situation (type of pitch, type of swing), then you try to clear your mind and execute a motion.

      A better comparison for batting (in baseball, not softball!) is fencing. In both cases, the thinking is all in the preparation: once you are doing it, it’s trained reaction. If you think, then you are (so to speak!) dead in either endeavor: it happens to fast. This relates to your Sandberg anecdote; another example is Kirk Gibson looking for a backdoor slider from Dennis Eckersley because the Dodgers scouts noted that this was his favorite 2-strike pitch. In both cases, the guy was thinking before the pitch: and, of course, that is where watching video helps.

      As for the prep, for years players have been using laptops and iPods to watch game videos. I thought that I’d read about Cubs doing that.

  • coal

    Isn’t it *possible* that the lack of video prep work explains the Cubs recent performance challenges as much as day games? Just sayin’ there’s a lot going on (or in this case, not going on) behind the scenes….

    • DocWimsey

      How would not watching game films explain the Cubs tendency to fade at the end of the year? At any rate, this doesn’t seem like a very good explanation for the 1969, 1971, 1973, etc., Cubs. A single explanation is always preferred!

  • FromFenwayPahk

    Theo said that the Cubs would be using more in-game video. He said this in reference to (trying to improve) the (challenging) physical layout at Wrigley. Sorry no link or memory of where I read this. But I think he said it back in 2011 (when my only Chicago source was probably the Tribune)
    I don’t know how this works on the road, but I expect more dvrs and consoles just out of our view behind the dugout, with dedicated video engineers (who know the players and coaches well) cueing up previous at bats for hitters (and for soto, pitchers and who ever is calling pitches).
    Any chance of a tunnel or bridge to the newly acquired McD’s property to relocate some of the mechanical stuff (laundry, etc) to get a batting cage and more video space at Wrigley?
    Love to hear Sveum teaching this (relatively) new fundamental. And coaching up Castro. I like this guy.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    …I kinda like Doc, too.

    • ty

      At a crossroads-buy into Doc or go hug a 60 year old scout!

      • Brett

        Well, he is a doctor.

  • DocWimsey

    My blushes…….

  • Ian Afterbirth

    Well I’d say not crapping one’s pants is pretty clutch.