There so many times when we as fans see something a few times and make a giant generalization, thinking it is 100 percent true and then you look at the numbers and it’s not as good or as bad as we thought. Well, Cubs fans have been right about this one, this 2023 team has sucked in clutch situations so far this season and it is as bad as we all think it is.
The Cubs begin June at 24-31, ending May with a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, putting their 2023 one-run record at 4-11. The final two innings of Wednesday’s loss was a microcosm of the Cubs offensive failure this year, as they wasted a first and third with one out opportunity in the eighth inning and then left the bases loaded in the ninth inning, failing to get a hit in their last two at-bats, too.
Before we get into the stat, here’s a definition of the “clutch” metric on Fangraphs.
In the words of David Appelman, this calculation measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.” It also compares a player against himself, so a player who hits .300 in high leverage situations when he’s an overall .300 hitter is not considered clutch.
Basically, a player is measured against his normal performance. And this is only telling us what has happened. This isn’t a predictive stat for the rest of the year or a statement on these players for their entire careers.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of what a good and bad clutch number is for a player.
Forget about numbers with RISP because a team can rack up hits during blowouts one way or the other and that’s basically what the Cubs have done. So far this year the Cubs are hitting .257 with runners in scoring position, right about at league average. HOWEVER! In high leverage situations, like Wednesday’s eighth and ninth innings, the Cubs are only slashing .223/.308/.301. That leads us to the vomit-inducing stat.
OK, here it is. Get a bag, a bucket, something, because so far through 55 games, the Cubs as a team have a -6.25 clutch number, ranking dead last in MLB and it’s last by a lot.
Here are the bottom 5 clutch teams in MLB so far this season.
Pittsburgh Pirates: -1.66
San Francisco Giants: -1.95
Kansas City Royals: -2.36
Minnesota Twins: -2.64
Chicago Cubs: -6.25
The Cubs are more than two times worse than the next worst clutch hitting team. Pathetic. And it’s not just a few guys bringing down the group. Every single regular has a negative clutch number heading into June on the Cubs.
Patrick Wisdom, Seiya Suzuki and Cody Bellinger have been the worst out of everyone. Ian Happ is the closest to being neutral.
Patrick Wisdom: -0.86
Seiya Suzuki: -0.76
Cody Bellinger: -0.74
Christopher Morel: -0.71
Matt Mervis: -0.52
Yan Gomes: -0.47
Trey Mancini: -0.46
Dansby Swanson: -0.34
Nico Hoerner: -0.31
Tucker Barnhart: -0.20
Ian Happ: -0.01
Out of players with at least 70 plate plate appearances, only Nick Madrigal has a positive clutch number at 0.24.
Again, the Cubs have lost 11 games by one run. That included 6 of 7 losses between April 28 through May 7. The Cubs went 3-7 during that 10-game stretch. Just imagine a few hits against the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins.
I mean yeah, at best this Cubs team probably is just a .500 team up to this point, but these numbers in high leverage spots is also why I can’t fully get behind trashing David Ross all the time. The players have to come through more often in big spots and they just haven’t so far in 2023.