Monday, January 3, 2011

Bunting: Sacrifices versus Hits

I am often critical and dismissive of the bunt. I have the Earl Weaver quote on the front page of this blog for a reason. The bunt, by and large, is a give-up play and usually the payoff does not equal what it costs you.

I should clarify this stance though. And this article over at Beyond the Boxscore got me thinking about the one time I do like the bunt...when you're bunting for a hit.

As it turns out, the Orioles had two of the best players in the game when it came to bunting for hits: Adam Jones and Cesar Izturis.

Jones went 7 for 12 when bunting for hits (.583 hit percentage), leading all of baseball in bunt hit percentage and Izturis went 7 for 17 (.412 hit percentage), good for 10th. If you can drop bunts and get hits that often, you do it. Those guys can drop a bunt whenever they feel like it. (The article is really interesting, well worth reading all of it.)

However, Buck Showalter did show a tendency for using the bunt as a sacrifice play, more than I was comfortable with, to be honest. According to the 2011 Bill James Handbook, although the three Orioles managers were at the helm for about the same number of games, Showalter actually employed the sac bunt 13 times, more than Dave Trembley (10). But less than Juan Samuel (18).

These numbers are a bit higher from what Showalter has done in the past and perhaps with the additions of Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, Buck won't feel so inclined to try to manufacture runs. I'd like to think so.


Dan said...

The basics of baseball are often overlooked in this modern day and age. Bunting is unappreciated and such a massive emphasis has been placed on hitting home runs that the fundamentals are often overlooked. Flashy plays make the highlight reels but the little things are what actually win games. In fact, I think that one of my favorite Orioles wins last year was when Adam Jones hit a walk off bunt with two outs against Seattle. Walk off home runs are fun and all but something about the walk off bunt felt more spectacular to me.

DempseysArmy said...

That was the best walk-off moment of the season. I knew Jones was a good bunter I just didn't realize how good until I read that article.

Still not crazy about the sacrifice bunt in most instances but love a guy who can consistently bunt for a hit.

SeanP said...

If you read Tom Tango's The Book, you see how several seasons of data suggests that the sacrifice bunt is overused and bunting for a hit isn't utilized enough.

I think it's cool that Jones can bunt well, but I don't think it really has much value.

DempseysArmy said...

It has as much value as having a good arm in the outfield or being an efficient base stealer. It may not be the core of your game but it adds to your offensive weapons. And when you're on the Orioles, every bit of your talent will probably be needed to win.

I agree about the sac bunt.