Are the Giants just unlucky?

Posted By on August 6, 2011 9:59 pm

First of all, it sure seems like they are lucky, in the larger sense, that they have the record they have, despite the runs they’ve scored and allowed. We all know about the unfortunately named Pythagorean Wins Theorem. (It’s unfortunate it has such a stat-geeky name, when it’s really based on the most basic thing of all: the more runs you score, and the fewer you allow, the better you’ll be.)

But are the Giants unlucky that they have scored so few runs?

I started to think about this when I realized today that their average with two outs and runners in scoring position was — wait for it — .169 with a .553 OPS. That’s just absolutely horrendous. It’s so awful that it’s unsustainable. No team can be that bad. Maybe the Giants were just unlucky that they weren’t getting hits at the right time.

Personally, I don’t buy the whole “clutch” thing. I think a hitter is trying to get a hit every time up, and the pitcher is trying to get him out every time. A hitter’s success, over the long haul, shouldn’t vary based on the day of the week or the inning or the score or … whether there are runners in scoring position. (Ballparks are a different matter, for obvious reasons.) Saying someone is a “good clutch hitter” is like saying someone is a “good Tuesday hitter,” in my opinion. If you have a sample size large enough of specific splits, like RISP, the numbers will be similar to the overall numbers. (In fact, the ML average is .254, and the average with RISP is … .254.)

Let’s just forget the whole 2-outs w/RISP thing, because that’s a much smaller sample size. The Giants will take RBI hits wherever they can get ‘em, no matter how many outs there are. Let’s just look at their overall average of .240, and their average with RISP, of .223.

According to my theory, the Giants average with RISP ought to go up, even if they don’t become a better hitting team. By mere chance, they ought to start getting some of those hits at better times, and converting them into runs, right? If they’re a .240 hitting team, they ought to be about a .240 hitting team with RISP, which means they are due for some more “clutch” hits, even if their offense doesn’t improve.


So here’s what I did. I decided to look at every team in MLB and see how its average compared with its average w/RISP, just to see what a typical differential is. (There is some rounding involved, so that’s why the numbers may seem to be off by one point.)

  overall RISP Diff
STL .270 .296 .026
ATL .243 .267 .024
CLE .247 .264 .017
OAK .245 .260 .015
MIN .251 .263 .012
NYY .265 .275 .010
PHI .253 .262 .009
DET .267 .276 .008
PIT .245 .251 .006
MIL .261 .267 .006
CIN .259 .264 .005
NYM .265 .268 .003
ARI .249 .251 .002
TEX .277 .277 .001
HOU .259 .257 -.002
SDP .234 .231 -.003
KCR .269 .265 -.003
BAL .255 .251 -.005
COL .256 .251 -.005
TOR .255 .249 -.007
SEA .228 .221 -.007
BOS .279 .272 -.007
FLA .249 .240 -.009
TBR .245 .236 -.009
LAA .251 .242 -.009
WSN .240 .229 -.010
CHW .251 .239 -.012
SFG .240 .223 -.018
CHC .261 .243 -.018
LAD .252 .230 -.021

So that shows you that 23 out of 30 teams are within 12 points of their overall BA with their BA w/RISP. The Giants are way at the bottom.

I think that means the Giants are due to see their BA w/RISP go up, even if their overall BA doesn’t, just because of the law of averages. This says nothing of the fact that they have Carlos Beltran now.

Bottom line, I think the Giants will start scoring more runs and they will hang on to win the division, even though they seem to be sputtering right now.


2 Responses to “Are the Giants just unlucky?”

  1. Alan says:

    Funny that you say you don’t believe in things like a “clutch” hitter or “Tuesday” hitters, from the man who just Tweeted stats based on the temperature of games. But I digress… ;)

    Out of curiosity, how do you feel about the role of closers? Do you think that closers are just another arm in the bullpen, trying to get outs? People often agree that the last three outs are the hardest to get, more pressure, etc… does any of that apply to RISP?

    Always thought provoking, thanks and keep up the good work.

  2. Jeff fletcher says:

    Alan, the temperature thing was just me playing around with a new toy :)

    I do believe that certain guys can handle the ninth better, but it’s probably because they can handle failure. Anyone who is good can get 3 outs. It’s the times you don’t get it done that you need a certain mindset to be confident the next time.

    It is nebulous though.

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