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…

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…

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.