Tracking Clutch Pitching


#1

I was asked recently a question about clutch pitching and keeping a record of sorts for pitchers in that regard. This question was for pitchers in a 18U league.

In General
Clutch Pitching, or Pitching Clutch as it’s sometimes called, is primarily referring to relievers and closers as a way of determining their effectiveness under pressure situations.

My Opinion

Personally, I never really found the measurement, either in numbers or in a broad-brush swipe of opinions, to be very useful. Again, this is my personal take on the subject.

Why?

I consider the record of a pitcher overall, to be a result of a lot of homework and review, “prior” to his placement on a roster. Therefore, a starter is just that – a starter, as would be with other pitchers like relievers, setups, specialty, and closers. Each pitcher has a job to do and it would be no secret to anybody exactly what is expected of them, “all” the time.
On the other hand, with respect to our subject – clutch pitching, under certain conditions and even with certain clubs, a lot of analysis can be nothing more than kindling for a good campfire. In fact, I got to the point where I knew that everyone penciled in for a particular game was going to get their head handed to them – period.

Why?

Because of the scales of economy of our organization, who had what abilities going into every season and why.

Now let us fast-forward to the amateur ranks
Keeping records, stats, even running analysis can be useful to a point. The shear nature of the beast – amateur baseball, has so many intangibles to it that the role of any pitcher can be if-ee going into a season, and if that was not enough, can even change as the season progresses.

So, without beating this subject to death, I would suggest keeping things as simple as possible with amateurs. Those that seem to be the mainstays are so because of a reason(s). All the numbers and stats are really telling a coach something that he already knows. Besides, in the amateur ranks there is little in the way the dynamics of personnel usage, planning, and projection(s). You go with whom you brought to the dance, in most cases.
Under no circumstance am I suggesting to forego any kind of accumulation of stats and analysis, planning and projecting. My suggestion is to match said analysis, planning and projecting with the resources at one’s disposal.


#2

I would agree that clutch pitching stats would be more meaningful as the skill level of the game and competition increases because it removes a great majority of X-factors when comparing one pitcher with another.

A ground ball toward the hole that a pro SS handles with ease, is trouble for an amateur SS. Both pitchers did their jobs by inducing a ground ball. One is rewarded; the other is not. Is the pro pitcher more ‘clutch’? Nope.

I like to look at things like solid contact and line drives as a percentage of balls put into play or K/BB per inning. Are they throwing strikes? Are those strikes, on average, being hit squarely? Are they working ahead in the count?

Low BB, High K, High FPS, Low solid contact = pitcher to be used in clutch situations.


#3

Hard to track.
This sort of thing reminds me a QB throwing an interception that looks terrible, no WR within yards. When they show the QB on the sideline he is all over his WR…the WR stopped on his route, did not complete it, but the QB gets stratled with INT stat.
If a pitcher misses his spot and grooves a pitch belt high down the middle the hitter just misses it and pops up…not really clutch pitching, more lucky pitching. This is why one of the things I value is a pitcher that does not get hit hard. We have all seen pitchers have 4 pitch innings with no hits. All three batters hammered the ball but right to fielders. We have also pitchers who had a ball barely topped that the slow third baseman couldn’t get to, followed by a bunt the catcher mishandles, followed by a little flare that is just over a fielders glove…so he has the bases loaded with no outs and the ball has not left the infield. Baseball is a strange game. The result does not always reflect effectiveness.


#4

That’s why it’s also the best game.