I have to preface this by saying that I have totally and fully jumped onto the Sabermetric bandwagon. I know I’m late with it, but I am hooked.

There is still a lot I have to learn in the intricacies of the endless list of stats that didn’t exist 15 years ago (for instance the difference between WPA-win probability added and VORP-Value over a replacement player, they seem like they are measuring the same thing).

Anyway, I had to preface with that because I have become fascinated with one stat in particular, clutch.

That is it, it is as simple as that. A single stat that can tell you whether a player is at a higher level in high-pressure situations than he normally is.

While watching the Reds play Tuesday night and saw them come back from yet another deficit (only to lose it in the bottom of the ninth unfortunately), I couldn’t help but notice how much better their hitter seemed to be in high pressure situations.

This season it seems I have seen countless two-out RBI, eighth and ninth inning runs, and heroic walk-offs from the team with an incredible 10 last at-bat victories (out of 23 so far), and two handfuls of late-inning comebacks.

So, I made a B-line for my latest addiction (fangraphs.com) to check out their clutch stats.

I found that Joey Votto is the fourth most clutch player in the league so far this year, meaning that his game elevates the fourth most in pressure situations, not that he is the fourth best player in pressure situations.

He comes out with a “clutch” rating of 1.05, meaning that after you subtract the WPA/LI from the WPA/pLI of a player you get that number (much more thoroughly explained here ).

Looking even further, we see that Cincinnati is the second most clutch team in the Majors, behind Detroit. 

This all makes sense when you watch the Reds, who at times can come out lethargic in the first few innings. But as the heat is put on them, they respond in a big way, and come up with hits in big situations.

Now, that being said, I sat Wednesday afternoon discretely updating my phone in class, hoping for the game ending double-play that was sure to bail out the latest version of the Reds collapsing bullpen.

It never came. The ‘pen gave up a wonderful performance by Mike Leake and a sure win (Atlanta had a 0.5% chance of winning going into the ninth) with a seven run debacle.

I was distraught over how non-clutch our pitching staff has come to be. It seems the Reds are unable to close out a game without Coco Cordero or Nick Masset (more in April than May) making me yell at the TV.

It seems that the Reds rank eighth worst in the majors in clutch pitching. They are sitting at -0.90, worse than their average pitching in high-pressure situations.

For whatever reason, there is a feeling of pomp and swagger in the dugout when Cincy is down heading into the late innings. But in the bullpen there is a feeling of fear and ineptitude when they are playing in a close game in the later innings.

While the clutch hitting of the Reds is to be celebrated, the anti-clutch bullpen may be something to worry about in the Queen City.

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