Lieberthal and the Clutch
Mike Lieberthal has received a lot of attention for his performance this season. Critics point to his poor performance with runners in scoring position, and indeed, the numbers are quite poor (.133 (!) batting average with runners in scoring position). Additionally, his numbers for the season overall are down from seasons past. But a look at Lieberthal's overall numbers as the season has progressed display a very nice trend (batting-average/on-base-average/slugging pct):
April - .174/.230/.348
May - .264/.337/.425
June - .292/.346/.458
July - .277/.356/.492
Today's baseball statheads will argue that there is no such thing as "clutch hitting" and that for the most part success or failure in clutch situations is merely chance. More traditional baseball thinkers will argue that there is a definite skill involved in hitting in the clutch. I tend to think that in Lieberthal's case, the truth is somewhere in the middle. In the opening stretches of the season, Lieberthal was probably the victim of poor chance, but as the season has worn on and Larry "Tom Smykowski" Bowa has gotten in his ear, he has begun to press and force great at-bats with runners in scoring position, when all he needs is a quality at-bat, something his past performances have shown he is more than capable of doing.
The Fine Print: Mike Lieberthal is the starting catcher on the Shocquohocan Sluggers, my fantasy baseball squad, which is in a tight race for first place and needs RBI's badly.