Wednesday, June 25, 2008

To Bunt or Not to Bunt...

The myth that bunting is a sure way to advance a baserunner and that it should be used liberally is baffling to me.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who's a tad tired of hearing Dick Bremer ponder over whether the player after a leadoff single will be called to bunt.

Let's have a look at a table. From 1977 to 1992, this is how many runs a team could get on average, depending on the number of outs and the number of runners on base) (stolen with credit given to - It includes more information than I could hope to go over, including an argument for smart, situational based bunting - which increase the probability and help score runs. It's really quite interesting, and lengthy.)

TABLE 1 - Expected Run Table (1977-1992)

AL         0        1        2      NL        0        1        2
---     .498     .266     .099     ---     .455     .239     .090
x--     .877     .522     .224     x--     .820     .490     .210
-x-    1.147     .693     .330     -x-    1.054     .650     .314
xx-    1.504     .922     .446     xx-    1.402     .863     .407
--x    1.373     .967     .385     --x    1.285     .907     .358
x-x    1.758    1.187     .507     x-x    1.650    1.123     .466
-xx    2.009    1.410     .592     -xx    1.864    1.320     .566
xxx    2.345    1.568     .775     xxx    2.188    1.487     .715

(a dash '-' signifies an empty base, an 'x' signifies an occupied base. The numbers at the top indicate how many the number of outs there are, and everything in between indicates how many runs on average are scored per inning where the situations were met. Example, with one out and runners on first and second, an average of .922 runs were scored from that point on.)

You can see here that the 'tried and true' method of giving up an out to move the runner over to second base can often make it LESS likely than the team will score a run that inning. Bunting runners over from first and second to second and third is less painful, but it still gives away outs for positioning (except in certain situations), something that makes big innings less likely, and makes it more likely that even if runs do score, the damage will be minimal.

Last night, the Twins played the Padres, and the game was a pitcher's duel well into the late innings. With the score tied at 1, and runners on first and second (and no out, to boot) Jody Gerut was asked to bunt (Dick, of course, acted as if this was a smart play). Even with the bunt sign on, the first 2 pitches were off the plate, and Gerut got the count to 2-0. This is a hitter's count, there's really no earthly reason why a player who hasn't successfully sacrificed in 4 years (a streak that lives on, by the way) should be asked to bunt in such a situation. Even is he had been succesful, the statistics actually say that thier chances of scoring a run would have gone down anyway. Runners at second and third with one out historically has not been as advantageous as runners at first and second and one out. Besides which, Jody Gerut is hitting .288 this year, why not give him 3 chances to make something happen, as opposed to asking him to do something he doesn't historically have a talent for (4 sacrifices in 1284 career at bats, now)? At the very least, take the bunt sign off once he's up 2-0 and in a position to do some real damage.

I know I'm not saying anything that hasn't been parroted 10 thousand times before, and I'm not saying there's NEVER a good time to bunt (a lot of pitchers, for example). However, when it comes down to it, bunting is very often times a TERRIBLE way to score runs, and if a team is down (especially by more than one run), it represents a near pointless trading of an out for a small advantage on the basepaths (one that often goes for naught, anyway).

Luckily enough, major league managers are impervious to statistics, this is why the 'speed guy' will forever be leading off, even is he has a .200 OBP, and why bunting will always be looked on as a scrappy way to play some small ball, even if Jody Gerut is at the plate and hasn't bunted a runner over in over 300 at bats.

1 comment:

  1. so Minn goes on an 11 game win streak, and nothing from Pete?

    Hey, how about them Rays?! Holy Tampa!!