Monday, April 14, 2014

Have the Cardinals lost their hitting with RISP magic?

There's no secret to the Cardinals success last year--clutch hitting. 

Their .330 average with runners in scoring position (RISP) led the majors.  Not only that, but their .330 mark was nearly 50 points higher than the next closest team, the Detroit Tigers, who hit .282 with RISP and they shattered the record for hitting with RISP, previously held by the 2007 Tigers, who hit .311.

It was this ability to hit in the clutch that allowed them to lead the NL in runs scored despite finishing last in stolen bases and 13th in homers. 

The Cardinals chalked up their success to their approach at the plate--how they stayed disciplined and didn't try to do too much.  This was backed up by the fact that the Cardinals had the second lowest strikeout total in the NL as well as the highest OBP in the league.

However, this year, the Cardinals have not fared as well. Through Sunday, the Cards are hitting just .213 with RISP, 13th in the NL. 

Some might say that this is just the law of averages coming back to bite the Cardinals in the butt.  There have been several studies done on the myth of clutch hitting, including a groundbreaking article by Baseball Prospectus from about 10 years ago.

But, could this also just be a case of bad luck for the Redbirds?

As a team, the Cardinals are hitting just .236 on the season, yet they have the fewest strikeouts in the NL with just 78.  As a result, their batting average on  balls in play (BABIP) is just .276 compared to the league average of .300 (the Cardinals had a .311 BABIP in 2013).

With RISP, the team's BABIP is even worse at .258.  Raise that up to a more normal .300 BABIP, and the Cards would have nearly 4 more hits with RISP, raising their average to .250.

Yes, its still a far cry from the .330 average from a year ago, but that was boosted by a .377 BABIP. 

So, while I do not see the Cardinals approaching .330 with RISP again this year (or ever), I don't see them hitting .213 either.  They should raise that average as the season progresses and I can see them finishing with a mark around .270 or so.

Combine that with their ability to get on base and limit their strikeouts and the Cardinals should have another successful offensive season.

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