Baseball is in a new era when it comes to stats and numbers. Thanks to the saber-metric era, we can measure every situation, and every detail that contributes to a team’s chances of winning or losing a baseball game.
We can even measure a teams ability to perform in “clutch” or high leverage situations. Often times especially in a close game, high pressure situations determine who wins and who looses.
There is a debate going on in the baseball community whether clutch actually exists, and the impact it has. There is in question that hitting with RISP is important.
According to Yahoo, the Diamondbacks batted .241 last season with RISP, good for 23rd in the MLB. That is simply not getting the job done. The Dbacks batted .206 with RISP with two outs, and they batted .237 with the bases loaded.
Situational hitting is more important in the National League because there is no DH, and the Snakes didn’t take advantage of scoring chances, which hurt their chances to win games.
Despite what some numbers say, it’s obvious that being able to move a runner from second to third with less than two outs via a sac fly or a sac bunt, increases the chances of bringing that runner to home plate.
Despite this, the numbers tell a different story. According to Baseball Reference, if you look at all the sac bunts attempted in 2014, it resulted in a -18.7 WPA.
For those that aren’t familiar, WPA or Win Probability Added is an advanced baseball stat that measures the contextual value of a given play.
For example, a home run with 2 outs in the 9th inning, is worth more than a leadoff single in the first inning. WPA is more reliable for individual in game situations than overall team numbers. However, team numbers suggest how successful a team is in clutch situations.
When you look at sac bunting itself, which again is more important in the N.L., the Dbacks weren’t very good in 2014. Last season the Snakes had a 0.0 sac bunt WPA, which is below average. The Royals had the best mark at 1.0, and look at where they ended up, which is why this is important.
If you want to go deeper, we can look at RE24, and the “Clutch” statistic. RE24 or run expectancy verses the 24 base out is based on run expectancy or the number of runs expected given a situation. The 24 represents the number of base out possibilities including zero or one out.
I prefer FanGraphs “Clutch” stat. It measures a player’s or teams WPA in the highest pressure situations, vs. the situations with no pressure. A negative clutch score means the player or team doesn’t do very well in high leverage situations.
In 2014, the Diamondbacks finished with the lowest WPA in the majors at -10.86, the lowest RE24 in the majors at -79.41, and a clutch score of -0.69 which is below average. The Royals and Giants finished with the best clutch scores at 4.21 and 4.08 respectively and they made it to the World Series.
That stat proves alone that hitting with RISP, and hitting in high leverage situations is important in baseball, and the Dbacks are going to have to be better at that in 2015, if there going to compete.
When Chip Hale was hired as the manager of the Dbacks, he preached getting back to fundamentals.
Hopefully in the spring the Snakes will work on situational hitting like sac bunting with a runner on second and no outs, and high leverage situations, because that is what makes the difference between winning and losing.