Being Clutch

There are a number of situations that transpire during a baseball game that can either help you or hurt you. With all the numerous amounts of stats at our disposal, anyone can analyze these until their eyes fall out of their head or contract dizzy spells that may last for a week. It doesn’t all depend if you’re good with numbers. All it really depends on is if you understand the situation.

When we look strictly at the records when comparing the 2010 Reds to this year’s Reds, there are a couple of factors that I feel get lost. We observe the record after a certain number of games…and some will pretty much drop it there. Well, I don’t think you can. I’m of the opinion (and I have expressed such before) that you cannot compare them.

A team’s record is the “ultimate stat”. No one can deny that fact in any way, shape or form. That one stat determines where you sit. But it should be taken simply as that as instrumental as your record is. To see how you’re team is actually doing, just dig a bit into the stats. And if you want to compare, look at those and not only the record.

After Jay Bruce laced that bases-clearing double last evening, I though about “being clutch” and “clutch hitting”. That was one area where it is believed the Reds excelled in last season. I took five stats and compared them for the 2010 season to the 49 games the Reds have played this season.

Baseball Reference has a fair number of these stats easily at our ready. There are five in particular that I look at on a consistent basis: RISP, runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs, runner on 3rd and 2 outs, bases loaded, and RISP and 2 outs. I view them in really no particular order. If you want to compare 2010 to 2011, this is one way to do so. On these five stats, here’s how it looks…

  2010     2011  
RISP .278 .365 .434 .274 .363 .427
ON 3RD, LT 2 OUT .299 .349 .535 .357 .386 .655
ON 3RD, 2 OUT .271 .374 .399 .192 .337 .288
BASES LOADED .269 .306 .393 .227 .309 .364
RISP, 2 OUTS .269 .376 .415 .197 .322 .283

As I stated, these are worth looking at in addition to a team’s record. These show a team’s performance in those certain, clutch situations. By viewing these, we can deduce the following:

With regards to RISP, the good guys are about on par with that of 2010. Makes you wonder where the issues from which scoring difficulties stem. All you need to do is peek at the last three lines of this table and the plot is revealed.

With a runner on 3rd and 2 outs or when bases are loaded or when there is a runner in scoring position with two outs, there is a drastic drop off in the numbers from 2010 to 2011 (especially in a couple as you will soon see). And these are three critical areas where you must take advantage of the game situation. Thus far in 2011, the Reds have stumbled. Without having you pull out your calculator, the differences in these three are: .079 (ON 3RD, 2 OUTS), .042 (BASES LOADED), and .072 (RISP, 2 OUTS).

One thought that might pop into your head is that the guys are striking out with a greater frequency this season. While I originally thought the exact same thing, it’s not the case. In the five game situations I have listed here, only in RISP and 2 outs are the Reds striking out at a higher rate and it’s only a percentage point higher (19% in 2010, 20% in 2011).

We all know that the bats have been in a bit of a slumber as of late. I mean Cincinnati did rank as the #1 overall offense last season. They aren’t really that far off (2nd in runs, 3rd in BA, 2nd in OBP, SLG, and OPS).

But it’s not only the bats that have to perform in the clutch as well. So, too, do the arms. In using these same five ares, let’s see how the Reds pitching staff holds up when the opposing batters are in these same clutch at-bats…

  2010     2011  
RISP .255 .344 .411 .261 .366 .413
ON 3RD, LT 2 OUT .380 .413 .624 .329 .409 .529
ON 3RD, 2 OUT .248 .357 .390 .188 .233 .235
BASES LOADED .309 .357 .574 .293 .390 .390
RISP, 2 OUTS .226 .335 .358 .239 .332 .338

From an overall point, the Reds pitchers have ever so slightly outperformed in these areas in comparison to 2010. The two biggest differences are in whenever there’s a runner on third regardless of the number of outs. Well, you really don’t like seeing your opponent hitting over .300 in any situation…

And there’s no substantial dropoff in strikeout rate. Now the rates aren’t as high as the bats, but they are pretty much in line from 2010. In all five stats, the only one where there is a drop of over 2% is when the bases are loaded (18% in 2010 compared to 15% in 2011). So the pitching, from a clutch standpoint (of sorts), in very close to that of 2010.

No question the Reds staff substantially benefited from an extremely productive offense in 2010. 2011 had created a few more obstacles in clutch areas, but the bats continue to improve in one area, bases loaded. At one time, the Reds were 1-for-20.

If the bats can approach the quality of clutch at-bats that was the case in 2010, things really will be all right as long as the arms maintain or even improve.

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Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds MLB Reds Hitting Reds Pitching

  • beeker

    Nice statistical summary. After watching the 19 inning debacle last night, I worded my gut feeling of this very thing this way: “It seems like this team has reverted back to the way they played under Jerry Narron… get ‘em on, get ‘em over, get ‘em out.”

    I have to admit that the loss last night is eating my lunch today. I’m prone to typical fan over-reaction in the heat of the moment, but I can usually regain perspective the next day. But I’m still really PO’ed about this one. It seemed that every weak spot that is making the Reds a merely average team this year was on display.

    - First inning woes. In how many games this year have the Reds not given up runs in the first inning? Two? I know it isn’t really two. But it sure feels like two. I bet it’s close to half. It’s insane. I’ve never seen a team put itself behind so consistently like this.

    - No RISP. Three runs on a dozen hits in the first 9. That’s it? Really? Really?

    - Slumbering bats. One hit in innings 11-19? One? Including 3 pop-ups off of their 2B-turned-pitcher? Holy crap.

    - I’m not going to hammer Cordero for the blown save. It happens. But I will question his decision to try to put a fastball by Ryan Howard. Just dumb.

    - Phillips’ mental lapse in the 11th was absolutely brutal. He let a struggling pitcher off the hook by losing focus. That simply can’t happen.

    - Fisher did a remarkable job, throwing over 90 pitches. I give him a ton of respect for that. But he was clearly done going into the 19th. It was obvious two pitches into the inning. I’d rather lose than do to LeCure or Mallony what happened to Harang in San Diego a few years ago. But good grief Dusty, go to Janish or something. A weak horse is better than a dead one. At least Charlie Manuel understands that.

    This loss was a combination of failures at several points. Last year’s team found a way to exploit one of those opportunities and got the win. This year’s team has let too many of those opportunities slip by, which is why they are only 2 games over .500 again, 3rd in the division and 3.5 games back.

    • Steve Engbloom

      It is ironic that I finally have a post about clutch and last night’s game occurs. It simply magnified everything I covered.

      • beeker

        Steve, you jinxed them! (And on the anniversary of the 18 inning game in SD no less!)

        For the love of pie, man, find a positive stat to write about today! Anything that will assist in a win over Cliff Lee!

  • beeker

    Did you watch the game last night? I didn’t include it in my rant because I don’t blame losses on umps. I don’t care how loose or tight the zone is, as long as it is consistent. But that guy was brutal last night. He was all over the place. Both teams were barking at him, but it was clear that he goes by the adage that the proven guy gets the benefit of the doubt because Halliday was getting calls no one else did.

  • beeker

    More ramblings from a depressed lunatic:

    I am not at all surprised that the Reds lost again today. Not because they faced Cliff Lee, but because they lost last night. The loser of a 19 inning game isn’t going to sleep as well as the winner, so they come in at a slight disadvantage. Combine that with the ongoing skid, and the frustration that comes with it, and it was an uphill game for them all the way.

    I won’t be at all surprised if the Reds go 1-2 in Atlanta, ending the road trip at 2-8 and back at .500 again.

    Going into the road trip, sports talk show host Lance McAlister dubbed it the “Show Me Whatcha Got” tour. Clearly they don’t have much right now.

    Sometimes I get frustrated that national know-it-all sports writers in the NE, Cards fans, and the like don’t give the Reds respect. Now I remember why.

    It’s getting harder and harder to think that the starting pitching for this team is hitting hard luck or under-achieving. It’s becoming clear that they simply are not as good as we thought they were. Yet. Young teams are erratic, and Dusty’s Mr Miagi-like magic touch isn’t working quite the same this year.

    Wow, is this team wasting some fantastic hitting by Jay Bruce. 9-for-20 in Philly. Incredible.

    I’m saying all this in the hopes that the Reds will go out and make me look stupid for saying it. But now that I’ve said that, they probably won’t.

  • beeker

    Also, my curiosity got the best of me. To answer my own question, the Reds have allowed first inning runs in 19 games. 19 out of 49 = 38.78%. So not exactly half, but a frightening number nonetheless.

    In those 19 games, the Reds are 6-13. Or, in 13 of their 24 losses, the opponent plated runs in the first inning.

    By contrast, the Reds are 19-11 when the opponent does not score in the first inning. What a difference one inning makes!

    • Steve Engbloom

      Especially when you’re behind (sometimes) before you even get to the plate!

  • John Heitz

    I think there is another problem that Reds players are struggling with and that is the self fulfilling prophesy. I have read a number of quotes attributed to Dusty, BP and others talking about how difficult this road trip was going to be. Couple that with the Pirate games and suddenly you have a crisis of confidence and you expect to lose. At some point they need to recognize that they are as good as anyone in the league, stop pressing and remember the fundamentals. They are too talented not to win unless they beat themselves.

    • Steve Engbloom

      Confidence is a fragile thing. Part of that is not looking up at the scoreboard and almost always seeing that you’re in a hole. That will catch up to you no matter how many times you have come back to win games in the past.

      Even with the one win in Philly, I think there’s a feeling of dread when going there. You know it had to cross some minds about last year’s postseason. Even though Atlanta was a bit harsh on these guys last year, I don’t think it will be the same this time around. Personally, I feel at ease on some things in going there. Winning the Braves series would be excellent medicine.

      Oh, and how about that Jay Bruce guy? Pretty damn awesome…

  • beeker

    I don’t see it so much as a matter of confidence. I think these guys know that if they play their game, they can hang with anybody. They got plenty of hits off of Halliday on Wed, and if anyone ought to intimidate them, it’s him.

    I think they are pressing right now. They are trying to force things at times when they need to let things come to them. Patience and discipline. (Two things young guys don’t always have a lot of.) They have an unusual number of errors lately. Plate discipline looks down to me, as the Ks seem to be up of late. Even Votto seems to be either tired or trying too hard.

    And my guess is that this is the players reaction to the starting pitching. It looked like that had finally come together around the recent STL series, but the wheels have fallen off again. It has to get tiring to fall behind game after game.

    When I am watching, I feel like they are always behind. Even when they are ahead by 1-2 runs or tied, it still feels like they are behind because I can’t help but wonder if the next inning will be the big one for the opponent. No lead feels safe, especially when the starters are out there (except for Cueto and Bailey).

    If it feels that way through the TV, I can only guess how it feels in the club house. I would probably press too if I didn’t completely trust my pitchers.

  • beeker

    I forgot to add that if this season hang on any one person in the Reds organization right now, that person would be Brian Price. If he can exorcise the demons from the starting staff, this team will kick into gear and start challenging everyone they play. If he can’t, and they get a steady diet of these 3 and 4 inning starts, we can kiss the playoffs goodbye.