Game 45- The Clutch Needs Replacement
Star of the Game –Francisco Liriano – .427 (WPA)
by Holden Clark
If the Cubs were a Car they would be a well worn Jeep Wrangler. They would look awesome to be in and around. Unfortunately when you get in you find that the clutch is simply gone. As we all know, the only way to go when the clutch is gone is downhill. Have no fear, every once in a while you can get the transmission to jam in gear but you are likely to be left on the side of the road wondering how much worse it could get.
Well, it got worse. After blowing a gem of a start by Matt Garza last night, the Cubs left their bats at the hotel today. We saw a great chance in the fourth for the Cubs to really put some runs on the board when they loaded up the bases with no outs. It was like they were cruising down Main Street with the wind in their collective, unkempt hair. Then we saw and heard the terrible grind and whining halt of the clutch going out. If the Dodgers strategy is sign all the players, the Cubs is to leave them all on base. The Cubs promptly went down in succession leaving the bases juiced.
Did I mention that it was the top of the order that broke down when the runs were ripe for the taking? On top of that, the heart of the order went out of their way to go a combined 0-12 with 7 Ks. That’s okay, right? There is other ways to get aboard other than hitting. Well, Barney took advantage of that and got the one Cubs walk of the game, bringing the grand total for the entire season to a crisp 100.
The big issue for the Cubs is bringing men around. They lead the Majors in two baggers. That means they can hit the ball and drive it. Yet they are ranked twenty fourth in RBIs. Absent the runs scored by errors, the Cubs are leaving too many men in scoring position. So what is their rate this season? They are leaving 3.56 runners in scoring position per game so far this season, again in the bottom five of the league.
Here is why. The Cubs DO NOT take pitches. They have 100 walks on the season; dead last in all of Major League Baseball. This may not make any sense, but try to follow this. When a man is standing on third and ninety feet from home you need a base hit (even a base hit will score most from second). The Cubs are ranked twenty eighth in the Majors in getting just a base hit. For a team they have a laughable .303 OBP, good for 26th in the league.
So while the league and generally most statistical analysis downplay the statistical value of leaving runners in scoring position, the Cubs could use a bump. Leading the league in putting runners in scoring position would mean they would see a huge benefit from scoring those runs. Sounds simple right?
One last stat for the Cubs at game 45, they rank 27th in the Majors in the appropriately name “Clutch” stat. This measures “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” –Fangraphs. The Cubs have a clutch of -1.51. Fangraphs list between -1.0 and -2.0 as Poor and Awful, respectively. Dioner Navarro leads the Cubs and Barney brings up the caboose. That about describes the Cubs so far when it comes to using the clutch this year. Just like a teenager trying to learn how to drive his first straight drive, they’ll get it every once in a while but you can expect the stench of shame most of the time till something changes.