But just how bad really are the Cubs in these situations? Are they really any worse than other teams? Or is it just that they are a bad offensive team, so naturally they’re bad w/ RISP just like they are any other time. Let’s delve into the numbers and see. I’m just going to look at batting average for now, to limit the scope of our investigation to: “How good are the Cubs at getting hits when they need them, relative to the rest of the league?” So, I’ve compiled Batting Averages for all MLB teams for 2009 to 2012 from Fangraphs, so that we can do just that.
First off, the Cubs are a bad offensive team. The top plot shows a histogram of MLB team batting averages, and the Cubs are in the bottom half of the league, with a BA of just .255 since 2009.
But, they’re even worse with RISP, as the second plot shows, batting an anemic .243. That’s good for 27th in the league. Yea, your eyes don’t deceive you, the Cubs really are bad. But, as we said earlier that they’re bad in all situations, it’s not that surprising that they would be terrible w/RISP as well, right?
In order to quantify how much worse the Cubs are w/ RISP than in all other situations, and compare that to other teams around the league, I simply subtracted a team’s BA from their BA w/ RISP, a proxy for the “clutch-ness” of a team. The difference shows how much better (positive values) or worse (negative values) a team is with RISP than otherwise. A value of zero means that they have the same batting average with RISP as their overall BA. This is what the bottom plot shows. And guess what? The Cubs are terrible. Their difference is -.012 since 2009, 28th in all of baseball. Now we can say, with reasonable certainty, that the Cubs have been bad with RISP. What does that mean though? It’s really really annoying to watch, for sure. But how much does it matter? Well, the team with the lowest difference between their BA w RISP and BA over their last three years? The Giants, at -.017. And they won a world series in 2010 (with a difference of -.009 that year). Also, the Yankees won a championship in ’09 with a difference of -.011. Now, the Cards won the series last year with ridiculous difference of .016 for 2011, but this year so far have put up an atrocious difference of -.022 with very little lineup turnover.
So, my inclination is that it might make a difference around the peripherals of a teams’ performance (maybe a few wins here and there), but it’s not going to make or break a team. It is however, very frustrating to watch. An interesting question might be to ask why some teams are better or worse in these situations than others? The plot is pretty Gaussian, but those outliers on the bottom (Giants, Mariners, Cubs) are pretty ugly. Is there something different about the makeup of these teams? Is it plate discipline? Coaching? Chemistry? Any thoughts?
Edited by SirCub, 30 May 2012 - 04:49 PM.