The Cubs’ Woes with Runners in Scoring Position and Other Bullets

dale sveum mediaYasiel Puig sure would be an interesting player to write about – not just the performance, but the unique disposition. He got pulled yesterday against the Cubs for apparently nonchalanting a few plays, and I wonder how that kind of thing would go over among Cubs fans … given how well he’s performing.

  • Dale Sveum underscores something that has killed the Cubs all year: failure to perform with runners in scoring position. Per Patrick Mooney: “You hate to keep beating it up, because the players hear it. But the bottom line is when you hit .220 with men in scoring position, in those close games you just can’t add on. You get people out there, and you lose by two, you lose by one. The ‘cyber’ [aka 'saber'] people don’t say it’s a big, big stat. But it’s a big stat. It’s timely hitting that’s going to end up winning a lot of games for you.”
  • It’s not that sabermetrically-inclined folks say BA/RISP isn’t a big stat; we say it’s a stat over which players have very little control, and thus it is not a useful stat in predicting future performance or describing true talent level. It’s plenty useful as a hindsight tool – i.e., the Cubs have lost a X number of games despite underlying performances that suggest they should have lost only Y number of games; the reason, in part, is negative variance in performance with runners in scoring position. I think it’s probably true that some guys clam up with runners on base, but, generally speaking, the stats have never borne out the idea of “clutch.” The only tried and true method for improving a team’s performance with runners in scoring position (other than just waiting for regression) is by getting better overall hitters. Good hitters tend to perform well regardless of the situation.
  • (All of that said, I actually think Sveum is more sabermetrically-inclined than he may think or admit.)
  • On his ejection yesterday for the Yasiel Puig non-call on a check swing, Dale Sveum says it wasn’t the initial argument that got him bounced – it was the umpire “[keeping] his head in the dugout” for a long time, waiting for someone else to say something. Sveum said that, unfortunately, he said something. (Per We’ve said it before: don’t eyeball Dale Sveum.
  • Scott Baker threw five scoreless yesterday at Kane County, giving up just one hit in the process. It was probably the best outing of his rehab stretches, and we’ll see if it sets him up for one more quality minor league outing. From there, it’s possible he makes his debut with the Cubs.
  • A fun read from Patrick Mooney on the Cubs facing big-time starters, and the evolution of the game.
  • The Cubs have increased their sales team, and expanded their sponsorship efforts (presumably in the wake of receiving permission to add more advertising space in and around the ballpark).
  • Javier Baez talks about the Smokies making the playoffs, and his breakout season.
  • BN’er Patrick takes a look at the last decade of Cubs first round picks – a mixed bag, to be sure.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

148 responses to “The Cubs’ Woes with Runners in Scoring Position and Other Bullets”

  1. Myles

    It’d be interesting to see what type of manager ole’ Dale would be on a good team.

    1. mjhurdle

      I love his defensive shifts, i think he works with the players well to get as much out of them as possible, and i dont mind his bullpen management as much as others do. I think he would be a pretty good manager with a decent team.

  2. Noah

    I love your second bullet on this one Brett. It’s not that those of us who are sabermetrically inclined don’t think that the hitting with RISP problems have not been a huge issue for this team. They just are not indicative that this team or these players (wherever they may be) will face similar issues next season.

  3. BigPappa

    I wish the Cubs would be more strict about player readiness and such. They’ve sat Castro a few times, but I think they should have done it sooner and possibly more often. It sends a message not only to the one player involved, but to the whole team about what expectations are as far as readiness, hustling, etc… Puig admitted that “there was some fatigue”. If that’s the case a little rest is exactly what he needed. There’s no shame in taking a seat, getting some R&R, and letting someone else get a little PT. It is a very long season. I’d rather see a player fresh and at his best than wore out and losing their concentration.

    1. Eternal Pessimist

      I remember when the uproar over Castro’s benching occurred, and so many on this site were talking about how it would ruin his confidence. Also claims of how unique it was. No the Dodgers bench “mister-everything” for being such a dick. Good to see. Some times you just gotta bench the guys…though I think Sveum probably should have been less forthcoming in the press conference about Castro’s shortcomings. The benching was enough.

      1. C. Steadman

        i like how mattingly handled it…didnt call out Puig at all…just said Shumaker gave them the best chance to win(obviously a coverup even though Skip did well replacing Puig) and in miami didnt call Puig out either…I like Don as a manager

        1. Eternal Pessimist

          yep…agree with that.

  4. macpete22

    Reinsdorf told Cuban not to try and buy the Cubs

    1. Kevin

      It’s a sad day when Reinsdorf doesn’t allow Cuban to be a possible candidate to purchase the Cubs. Reinsdorf was allowed to buy the White Sox and Magic was allowed to buy the Dodgers. What good reason is given to prevent Cuban from purchasing a baseball team?

      1. aaronb

        The reason was that Bud didn’t want a guy outspending the Brewers and Reinsdorf didn’t want someone outspending the Sox.

        It was purely a move to make the Cubs a mid market team.

        1. Kevin

          I think Zell had the new owner on a restricted spending budget regardless who bought the team.

          1. macpete22

            I’m curious if we would have Theo/Jed if Cuban would have actually bought the team. Definitely would of been weird having the same guy own my two favorite sports teams too

            1. On The Farm

              Too much ego, I like Cuban, but I feel that he likes to be in control, and he definitley wouldn’t like to take too many Net Operating Loss years.

  5. bob

    The Cubs problems with runners in scoring position are a direct result of just having a bad overall lineup. What’s really amazing is that we get any runners in scoring position at all! When the top batting average in your lineup is about .240, you can’t expect much more. I believe the talent to be better is there in many of our guys, but as much as I appreciate their efforts, the Gillespies, Ransoms, Murphys, etc. just do not make a Major League starting lineup. Even the better pieces (Sweeney, Bogusevic, Schierholtz, Valbuena) are complementary pieces at best, where taken one or maybe two at a time they can be functional starters, but fill the lineup with them and you’re Triple-A level.

  6. Jon

    It’s not an issue of RISP, it’s an issue of a horrible, talent-lacking lineup.

  7. DarthHater


    1. Eternal Pessimist

      The ump is that guy in the bar who just can’t let go of an argument until it comes to blows. I hope he gets “benched” for triggering Sveum’s reaction. Too much pride ump.

    2. miggy80

      I want to see Dale cover the plate some day

      I’ve done it a couple of times in softball when I was younger. I know, I know, but hey it’s fun.


  8. EQ76

    it’s a bad lineup, underachieving Rizzo and Castro, not hitting with RISP, but also a severe lack of fundamentals to even put many guys in scoring position. You rarely see a manufactured run from the Cubs.. Guy takes a walk, steals 2nd, sac bunt moves him to 3rd, sac fly scores the run. We never seem to get runs that way and it’s plagued us for decades.

    1. Jay

      Who on this team can steal a base? Only person who tries is Castro and he gets thrown out half the time.

    2. Hee Seop Chode

      Well bunting is pretty stupid so…

  9. aCubsFan

    The battle between the Rooftops and the Cubs has just ramped up with the legislation that passed in Springfield and was signed by Quinn. It exempts the Rooftop owners from Happy Hour liquor laws. It concerned the Cubs so much they hired Pritchey as a consultant to combat the legislation because in a recent promotion the Rooftops were selling all you could drink and a ticket for $69. These types of promotions will eat into the Cubs attendance and concession sales.

    Tunney was worried about the pedestrian bridge because fans would throw beer at motorists. Is he not concerned about people from the rooftops causing all kinds of hell after all you can drink?

    1. frank

      Not when the rooftop owners donate so much money to his campaigns.

  10. AlwaysNextYear

    Dale Sevum still thinks a issue not to take advantage with men in scoring position and I agree……. Well no crap

  11. ssckelley

    That article on first round picks by Patrick is a good read, kinda depressing but the horror stories of the Cubs #1 draft picks get even worse.

    Ryan Harvey was a guy with a lot of power but struck out to much. But I wish the Cubs would have offered him a minor league deal to come back instead of old veterans like McDonald. Even though it has been 10 years since the Cubs drafted him he was still only 28 years old coming into this season (turns 29 tomorrow). I know it is against lower competition but he has done well in the independent league.

    1. Patrick G

      Thanks for the kind words and thank you to Brett again for posting it

  12. Jason

    Marlon Byrd a hero with Pirates last night . Question is whether Pirates made deals in time to win it this season. Campana did not start last night but did pinch hit with a single. Just have to root for Pirates as fans deserve a break–they just picked up catcher John Buck and so Michael McKennry might be available soon–good arm and excellent defense. Just have to root for Pirate fans for all those years.

    1. gocatsgo2003

      Yeah… I’m going to wager that the Pirates aren’t going to get rid of any possible future catchers for a 33-year old who can’t really hit and will be a free agent after this season.

  13. jt

    batters who earn a high OBP over time are good hitters.
    good hitters with a high OBP and a high BA component of that OBP will move runners along more often than good hitters with high OBP with a large BB component of that OBP. That is to say a runner will more often take 2 bases on a hit than on a BB.
    Hitters with the same OPS but differ to a great extent in the OBP/SLG will perform differently in RISP in pretty much the same way they perform in non-RISP. The guy with a higher SLG will probably hit more 3 run HR’s. The guy with the higher OBP/BA will probably hit for a higher RISP-BA.
    The Cubs are good a SLG but poor OBP team. Yeah, their RISP-BA sucks. As for the 3 run home run? Well, you have to get guys on base to create the opportunity.

    1. gocatsgo2003

      “That is to say a runner will more often take 2 bases on a hit than on a BB.”

      Stupendous revelation right there. Truly mind-blowing.

      1. jt

        words and phrases become vernacular and lose depth of meaning. we gloss over them. OBP is not atomic. OBP is the sum of its parts and those parts bring different flavors to the table.
        Eddie Yost had 9175 PA’s and an OBP of 0.394 yet was not considered to be a good hitter because of his 0.254 BA. George Brett was considered a great hitter with his 0.369 OBP. The ablility to get hits is more valuable than the ability to get walks. Getting to 2nd base without depending on another hitter is more valuable than a guy who hits singles and walks but does not steal bases. That is to say unless you hit ahead of guys like Ted Williams, Hank Aaron or Joey Votto.
        Yeah, the vernacular sometimes glosses over that and when it does, it should be said.
        The Cubs have not hit well in RISP situations because The Cubs have not hit well.

        1. Fastball

          JT I agree with you completely.

          1. gocatsgo2003

            How can you agree with it if it is only kind of English?

            1. On The Farm

              I don’t know, I agree with jt. I mean how often does a guy get to second base as a result of a BB? Now compare that to how often does a runner get to second as a result of a hit. Other than that I am not sure I have a clue with what he is trying to say.

              1. jt

                “Other than that I am not sure I have a clue with what he is trying to say.”
                –On The Farm
                The mantra has been that The Cubs SLG has been good so The Cubs should be good. If they only had a bit more luck on the “getting on base” side then that SLG would drive those lucky base runners home.
                That thinking disconnects getting on base with skill: Castro was lucky to have had a high BAbip for 3 years; Eddie Yost was lucky to have gotten so many BB over 1975 PA’s. It refuses to acknowledge that the defensive and pitching patterns could have changed regarding Castro. It refuses to consider that Yost had a good eye and was adept at fouling off close pitches. Perhaps The Washington Senator teams didn’t have hitters behind Yost good enough to make SP’ers want to waste pitches getting him out. Remember that BP’s were not as good then as now.
                In plain English. These events have context. A guy getting on base for the 1958 Senators is not the same as a guy getting on base for the 2013 Tigers.
                Stats themselves have context. OBP BB driven is not the same as OBP hit driven.
                The Cubs have had SLG. But the OBP has been low. They get fewer PA’s per game. The % of PA’s in which that SLG manifests itself has been low. So they have to match a PA where they get successful SLG **AND** have a runner in scoring position. Both are low probability events. For them to match up is going to be a very low probability event. Why? Because the context of the over all stats indicates that The Cub hitters have not been very good. The Cubs have had a whole lot of unsuccessful PA’s. The context is just more noticeable during RISP.

                1. Drew7

                  “If they only had a bit more luck on the “getting on base” side then that SLG would drive those lucky base runners home.”

                  Who says this? I’ve heard plenty of people say (correctly) that if The Cubs didn’t suck at getting on-base, they’d score a lot more runs, but haven’t heard anything about “luck” being involved – they simply lack players that have good on-base skills.

                  1. jt

                    you never read anyone here saying that when Cub hitters regress through luck to a norm of BAbip they would score more runs?
                    hmmmmm, selective memory?

                2. Hansman1982

                  Actually, the cubs, if I remember correctly from running correlation numbers the other day, have one of the highest PA numbers in the bigs.

                  1. jt

                    “Actually, the cubs, if I remember correctly from running correlation numbers the other day, have one of the highest PA numbers in the bigs.”
                    – Hansman1982
                    At day break on Aug 29 The Cubs were tied for 16th in # of PA’s. Of the 13 teams who have fewer PA’s than The Cubs only The Yanks and The Phils have played as many games. The Phillies also suck. The Yanks have won 13 more home games than Chi. 13 home wins is 39 outs not made minus the outs made in in wins during the last at bat. Then there are the on bases that were made in the that last frame of those extra 13 Cubs home losses.
                    League avg for home wins is 35; Chi has won 25 at Wrigley. Losing at home is a heck of a way to get PA’s.
                    To my point: Stats have context. You just proved it.

                    1. Hansman1982

                      I guess that’s what I get trying to remember a “hey that’s interesting” stat from a few days ago that I wasn’t actually looking for and didn’t do any research into the why behind the Cubs having so many PA.

                      I’m not sure what’s being debated here.

  14. Funn Dave

    The draft picks article is interesting, but my God does that dude need an editor.

    1. Patrick G

      It’s all voluntary work but always appreciate constructive criticism

  15. Sully

    It’s a huge stat. One of the most important there is. No brainer. No need for anyone to over think this.

  16. Fastball

    I know the stats don’t support clutch hitting. But when you played a lot of baseball and your standing on 2nd or 3rd you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to no whether the guy at the plate is likely to drive you in or not. Some guys have a reputation for hitting when it counts and others just don’t excel at it. High OBP guys don’t necessarily make good RBI guys and vice versa. It’s pretty easy to look at the Cubs and make the assumption that they suck at hitting and they suck even more at hitting with RISP. Do the Cubs rank really high in Runners Left On Base. They strand more runners than anybody I have ever seen.
    IMO, being Clutch is a leadership thing in baseball. Your leadership guys are usually the ones who can deliver. This gets a player respect amongst his team and the league. A guy who leaves guys on 2nd and 3rd most of the time isn’t getting much respect from his teammates because they can’t rely on him. The current Cubs team has a lot of guys who fit the mold of not being at all reliable.

    1. Jason

      Some of us come out of our shoes with men on–others shrink. Fastball understands because you have to play the game and for a long time. Then you know the difference.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      One thing about “reputation”: it’s rare that it means much of anything, be it in baseball or otherwise!

      1. Jason

        Doc: Having survived a profession or two reputation can not be dismissed so easily.

    3. TWC

      Fastball, you used to play baseball? Gee, why haven’t we heard that before.

      Tell us about the time you threw the ball over the mountain, Uncle Rico!

    4. Hansman1982

      I know the science doesn’t support a geocentric view of the universe but when you stand outside and look at the sky everyday, you will see everything moving around the Earth!

      1. TWC

        You obviously didn’t play baseball.

      2. Internet Random


        And on a related note, how cool is it that we have someone commenting on BN that actually played baseball? I seriously doubt that any other Cubs site can claim such.

        1. Jason

          Yes, it is courageous to admit that you played the game for a long time because a beating you will receive, guaranteed.

    5. DarthHater

      “when you played a lot of baseball and your standing on 2nd or 3rd you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to no whether the guy at the plate is likely to drive you in or not.”

      When you’ve used the English language a lot, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the difference between “know” and “no.”

      1. TWC

        Or “your” and “you’re”.

        1. DarthHater

          I deliberately left that out because it’s a mistake one can easily make by typo, rather than by ignorance. But mixing up “no” and “know” is not a typo.

          1. TWC

            You’re too generous. IMO a “typo” stops at one keystroke.

          2. Internet Random


  17. DocPeterWimsey

    Here is another way to look at it. Below are the teams ranked by “choke,” at least insofar as BAwRiSP is concerned. (What is amusing is that another measure of “choke/clutch,” BA in “close and late” gives utterly different results!) This gives each team, the difference in BA between RiSP and nRiSP, and then an expression of the odds based on the probability of doing this if the “true” BA in all situations was the overall BA. The Pirates are doing the worse: but we expect one team in 11 to be “choking” this much just by chance. The Cubs are second, at about 1 in 9.

    Team ∆BA One Team in:
    PIT -0.025 11.3
    CHC -0.024 8.9
    MIN -0.019 5.6
    MIL -0.017 3.8
    LAD -0.012 2.3
    ARZ -0.012 2.3
    SnD -0.011 2.3
    TEX -0.011 2.3
    WAS -0.011 2.0
    LAA -0.011 2.1
    SnF -0.011 2.1
    SEA -0.010 2.0
    COL -0.008 1.7
    TOR -0.003 1.2
    HOU 0.000 1.0
    BOS 0.001 1.1
    DET 0.002 1.1
    PHI 0.002 1.1
    MIA 0.004 1.3
    ATL 0.004 1.2
    CWS 0.007 1.5
    CIN 0.008 1.7
    NYM 0.008 1.6
    NYY 0.008 1.7
    CLV 0.009 1.8
    BAL 0.013 2.3
    KCY 0.014 2.8
    OAK 0.015 3.0
    TBy 0.021 5.6
    StL 0.074 504660.3

    The Cards are a historic freak show. What is funny is that they actually are BAD (in terms of BA) in “late and close.” So, which is truly “clutch/choke”?

    1. MichiganGoat

      Ah I love it when Doc shows these numbers and scientifically refutes the notion of clutch. I know it’s hard to believe that numbers don’t support the preconceived notions of clutch scrappy players but science will always trump the myths of the world, but it won’t stop people from shaking fist and demanding that the science is wrong. So I’ll sit back and enjoy the show- it’s always fun when a robot is declared a heretic. ;)

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        My goal is to be an excommunicant (or analog thereof) for all of the world’s major religions, especially The High Church of Sports Talk Radio.

        1. MichiganGoat


          1. Mark

            Burn him. Does he have a debilitating disease that has robot characteristics that require death? All in time –all in time.

          2. Jason

            Wow. Kind of over the top for a conversation. Are you o.k.?

    2. jt

      Below are the teams ranked by “choke,”
      Also, consider that the team batting averages are not homogeneous throughout the lineup.
      BA and OBP are not equivalent but please allow the change:
      A player with the higher OBP than the team avg is more likely to be the player in scoring position because he is more likely to be on base.
      The player batting RISP is more likely to be a player with a lower than team avg OBP because he is not the guy on base.
      If the above in true and if it does indeed translate to BA then teams with greater variance in BA throughout the lineup should have a worse BAwRiSP

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        I suspect that OBP is relevant here in two ways. One is how heterogeneous OBP is in a lineup and the other is the batting order. If heterogeneity is high, then the team average means less for any given batter. If heterogeneity is high AND the manager clumps his high OBP guys together, then a disproportionate number of PAs with runners in scoring postion will have a high OBP batter.

        However, that isn’t really what is happening with the Cards. They are just having an amazingly unusual year. What is doubly odd is that it isn’t translating into a lot of extra wins for them. They actually are pretty bad late ib close ball games, so the crazy high BAwRiSP is not helping them there. Instead, they are just pummeling other teams early a lot.

        Still, their October is going to be better than ours, no matter what happens.

        1. jt

          Cards are strong lineup spots 1-6 and weak 7-9.
          Cards runs per inning in order space by threes
          82, 61, 78,…88, 72, 96,…76, 53, 29
          9th inning home wins don’t usually score runs but the depressed 8th inning indicates pitching may have something to do with it also. OPS/8th = 0.672 and 9th = 0.556.
          This somewhat mirrors the rest of the ML teams. Other teams avg more in the 5th than The Cards and StL has a bit more of a jump in the 6th.

          interesting look see…thanks

    3. Danimal8

      I am sick and tired of the Cardinals being the outlier. Something strange going on over in Cardinal land. Fix is in!

  18. Jason

    Fine and good Doc–but go to any Mgr. LaRussa, Lasorda, Torre etc. and they well remember the clutch players, offensively and defensively. Choke is the middle name for some guys and often reputation well earned.

    1. Patrick W.

      Yes in 1650 you might have said “Well and good, but if you go to any doctor, they know that blood letting will reduce fever, and also that witches float.” because for 2000 years everybody believed that too.

  19. Jason

    Patrick: blood letting will lower your hematocrit and cause hemoglobin variance and maybe hypotension and syncope–surprise-come to the office and we will consider it. Hope you are enjoying your residency.

    1. Patrick W.

      Jason, it won’t reduce fever. Unless you “let” all of the “blood”.

    2. Patrick W.

      And, witches don’t exist.

      1. Hansman1982

        To be fair, witches do exist; it’s the magic that doesn’t exist.

        1. Internet Random


          1. Hansman1982

            You know, I really despise most women comedians. Far too many of them are incapable of doing intelligent clean humor.

            1. Cyranojoe

              I don’t know about that, I think many can. (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, etc.)

              That said… Sarah Silverman is one who cannot, 99% of the time. Saw her live at a stand-up place once and she bombed harrrrd. It was awful, as is most of her material.

            2. Internet Random

              Who does intelligent, clean humor?

              1. Hansman1982

                Bill Cosby.

                1. Internet Random

                  That’s it?

                  1. Crockett

                    Brian Regan. Jim Gaffigan.

                    1. Internet Random

                      Brian Regan is not humor.

                      I’m pretty sure that I’ve heard Gaffigan do some less-than-squeaky-clean humor.

                    2. Hansman1982

                      Gaffigan can be hilarious even when perfectly clean. Dunham is clean. He’ll even Chris rock can be hilarious when he is clean.

                      Foxworthy has his moments of hilarity.

                      I just think clean (or at least semi-clean) humor is funnier and takes a ton more talent.

                    3. Internet Random

                      Dunham has never been funny in his life.

                      If you’re just looking for “occasionally clean”, then Sarah Silverman falls into that category too. I suspect you’re basing your judgment on a small sample of her work.

                      Seinfeld would be another example of someone pretty much exclusively clean, and he’s actually still funny to me now that I’m an adult. (I’m looking at you, Bill Cosby.)

                    4. Hansman1982

                      I’ve never seen anything of Silverman’s that leads me to think she is funny. To each their own I suppose.

                      Can we agree that the recent influx in crude English comedians needs to stop?

                    5. Internet Random

                      I’m okay with your not finding Silverman funny. Let’s just not pretend it’s because she is sometimes crude, unless we’re not going to give anyone else a pass on that either.

            3. Soda Popinski

              As a young man, I did construction. Now, I’m in the corporate world. One of the things I miss about construction is standing around and telling dirty jokes. As you can imagine, in that circle nothing was off limits and we would laugh so hard. Now it’s just some old guys ripping on each other’s golf shots (hyuk hyuk hyuk). Clean, intelligent humor is overrated.

            4. waittilthisyear

              i tend to think women who think female comedians are funny only say so because they are obligated to. then again, what do i know. other than the fact that most of em aren’t funny

        2. Danimal8

          Well played

      2. Jason

        But if they did, they would be clutch performers.

      3. DarthHater

        If witches don’t exist, then who turned me into a newt?

  20. Jason

    Darth–keep it going but I am going out for an evening of NFl and a buffet and lick my wounds. Vegas lights await.

    1. DarthHater

      Just don’t lick your wounds over the buffet table. Blech!

    2. Danimal8

      Beware the Bacillus cereus!

      1. jt

        are you gram positive about that?

        1. Danimal8

          Microbiologist humor!

  21. DocPeterWimsey

    OK, here is why I don’t like “clutch.” Supposedly, when the game matters, some guys rise to the occasion better than do others. Right now, we are worried about whole teams: just what are the Cards doing to be so good when it matters?

    Or are they? Runners in scoring position is one idea of “clutch.” Late and close is another: after all, in a close game late, every batter is under pressure. After all, some of the “big hits” we still remember are the hits that *started* rallies. If it is all the same, then deviations in “clutch” vs. “non-clutch” should correlate across different clutch stats.

    And they don’t:

    The clutch Cards (with runners in scoring position) are the choking Cards when it is late and close. (Keep in mind that RiSP includes Late & Close with men in RiSP, and vice versa.) The Tigers who are very normal with RiSP are awful Late and Close.

    Even just looking at ranks, there isn’t a correlation. So, which should I take to be truly clutch?

    1. Hansman1982

      Clearly you’ve never played baseball and therefore don’t know clutch when you see it.

      1. DocPeterWimsey

        Ooooh, well, then: I retract the post above!

        1. Hansman1982

          Yes, and you should give up your day job since you never saw any of these ancient species in real life. How dare you make judgements about them.

          1. DocPeterWimsey

            I’m audacious, judgmental and very bold.

            1. MichiganGoat

              If the Doc weighs more than a duck it’s a witch! BURN IT!

              1. DocPeterWimsey

                *pulls all the ducks out of chest cavity and replaces them with helium balloon*

                *cackles evilly….*

                1. MichiganGoat

                  Damn your necromancy you Dirty Robot Witch!

              2. Danimal8

                Very small rocks?

    2. Hansman1982

      Also batting average is a horribly flawed stat to be using…ever.

      It doesn’t correlate well with run scoring nor does it even correlate well with itself year over year.

      1. MichiganGoat

        But but but my baseball cards!

      2. DocPeterWimsey

        heh, I looked at OBP, too: and that does give you a better idea of “failure” rate.

        Here is OBP: (The fact that everyone gets on base a bit more often reflects intentional walks.)

        And here is BA with the axes done right (Project Runway was intense tonight!):

        1. Patrick W.

          That’s all well and good, Doc, but you go ask manager after manager, LaRussa, Torre, Weaver, Mack… they’ll all tell you the same thing: quit bothering unless you are refilling my burboun.

          1. Mike

            And yet they won and won and won and won and won. How is this other working for you? Reality v.s. spin

            1. Drew7

              Right, because teams led by those 3 were *always* good, right?

              Wait…that’s right – they won when the had good players, and ::gasp:: lost when they didn’t!

              Whoda thunk it?

    3. jt
      I don’t believe in MLB clutch because I can’t figure out how they could get to The Show if they couldn’t perform under pressure. That is my assumption. I honestly don’t have a proof for it.
      I like your attempt at method. It is much better than I would have come up with.
      If it is science, method has to be questioned.
      All hitting stats in 2013 go down in the 8th and 9th innings. I’m guessing that is even more so during close games. That is when the very best set up and closers are pitching. 4th and 5th starters have to pitch in the 1st and 2nd innings. 4th and 5th starters are usually not the very best. They don’t often get to the 8th and 9th.
      So does a study of the ability of most Card’s hitters to succeed vs the very pitchers effect the way we should view Carpenter’s ( I guess he is supposed to be the the stud ) ability to hit clutch?
      I just don’t see that it should!

    4. wilbur

      nice analyses but I think you are looking at the wrong things, or the right thing but the wrong way round. First the spread between the pirates and the cubs for risp shows that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Late and close is not, imo, explanatory for risp, I would guess it includes risp too does it not? So comparing them may not be that revealing.

      I think ba/risp is better understood as what the pitcher is able to do to the batter than what the batter is able to do in that circumstance. So for the cards as the extreme, the pitchers aren’t able to do much against their batters relative to other teams. Which to me is pretty interesting, that could be indicative of any number of things couldn’t? And to me, it coiuld be due as much to disguising what the hitters will do, or be vulnerable to, than it is a question of ability talent or even approach.

      One of the amusing things to me is watching what happens to hitters when they are said to be trying to increase OBP or see mor pitches, when everyone, including opposing pitchers knows that is what they are trying to do. This is statistical tomfoolery, may as well just start out with two strikes and go from there.

      If you can’t disguise your vulnerabilities to opposing pitchers, or make adjustments for situational hitting, then you then you will lose more of the matchups with risp than other more opaque teams. How did the cubs hitters look against the dodgers when they were getting swept in the playoffs? think having maddox on the Dodgers bench calling pitches had anything to do with it?

      1. wilbur

        spread between the pirates and the cards, that should be…

      2. DocPeterWimsey

        If “clutch” (or “choke”) are real and reflect how well players handle “pressure” situations, then we should see a strong correlation between performance under two different types of “pressure” performance. If we do not (and we don’t), then either one of them actually is not a “pressure” performance, or “pressure” actually is not the relevant variable.

        However, I would ask you to do this at the very least: the next time you read/hear an explanation for why the Cards hit so well with men in scoring position, ask why they do not do that in late and close situations, too!

  22. Carne Harris

    Best strategy for getting better with RISP isn’t to get better hitters, it’s to get better hitters with RISP. Tautology, I know, but it always drives me a little crazy that peeps good in math can one minute dismiss BA wRISP and the next minute discuss something like BA with 2 strikes. Once you realize a batter’s approach changes, you realize it’s a refinement of data, not random variance that will regress to the mean. Compare non-small sample size career data of BA wRISP vs. BA w/oRISP of guys like Willie Mays sometime if you need this proven to you.

    1. cub2014

      Carne, I totally agree. Life is about leaders and
      followers its no different in baseball.

      Sabermetrics are important to a degree. But look at
      pitching, now ERA is not a big deal? Its about whether
      or not a pitcher has had bad luck. When hitters get on
      base some pitchers become better some become worse.
      Some pitchers give up 6 hits for a game and 5 runs
      others give up 8 hits and 1 run. Same goes on the
      hitting side some hitters are much more effective
      with runners in front of them, its just human nature.

      1. Chad

        In that case should it not be run average rather than earned. Some pitchers pitch poorly when their defense fails them. So in reality is ERA that important, or is it the WAR of every player. Not saying these things don’t matter, but they are a measure that explains a player’s value. One statistic such as ERA, OPS, OBP, BA, etc. don’t explain the whole story.

        1. cub2014

          Chad, your right they all play a factor. Unearned
          runs caused by the pitcher should factor into his
          ERA and yes absolutely some pitchers fall apart
          with errors committed behind them. So its all
          important but I guess I am still old school. Runs
          allowed and runs produced will always be my
          most important factors for evaluating players.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      Really? OK, let’s take Willie Mays. We’ll use BA, simply because I don’t have data on intentional walks handy. Here are the breakdowns:
      wRiSP: 725 for 2366 (0.306)
      woRiSP: 2558 for 8515 (0.300)

      Yes, that is right: the Great Willie Mays had exactly 14 more hits with runners in scoring position than you would expect given his batting average without runners in scoring position! That’s like, wow, one every non-election year! Clearly, elections distracted him…. (For reference, we expect one player in every 1.7 to deviate from expectations by this amount simply by chance.)

      1. TWC

        “Clearly, elections distracted him…. ”

        Don’t blame Willie. He voted for Kodos.

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          Sadly, he would have had problems being allowed to vote during a lot of his career….

  23. Die hard

    Runs would increase if try to hit to opposite field with runners in scoring position and to shorten swing with 2 strikes— even little leaguers know to choke up with 2 strikes so don’t choke —-

    1. Scotti

      My theory on why Rizzo’s BA is down is that the “Look for your pitch and drive it” concept engenders a “Swing hard all of the time” mentality that leads to increased XBH and an increase in catchable FB (even some that are considered LD) and slow, easy dribblers to the infield. Every now and then you just need to be content with a freakin’ base hit (Vogelbach is actually really good at this–hope they don’t screw with his approach).

  24. UK

    In other words, the high-tech workforce shed by a downsizing BlackBerry is feeding the founding and growth of small startups in tech’s never-ending cycle of creative destruction. It’s painful and it’s harsh, but it’s also necessary and results in new growth.

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