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A warning: if you consider yourself aggressively “old school” and averse to having your preconceptions slapped down by some data, you’re going to just want to skip this post. Otherwise, you might wind up hating me, and I wouldn’t want that. I like to be liked.

valbuena bunting

We’ve got to talk about the bunting, man.

It’s early, and it’s cold, and the Cubs are facing good pitching, and on and on. I know the justifications for the frequent sacrifice bunt attempts by the Cubs this year, but we can’t ignore the numbers.

Consider this: in 2013, with a runner on first base and nobody out, a team is expected to score about 0.83 runs in that inning. And, with that guy on first, the team considers bunting so that the runner can get into “scoring position.” Here’s the problem: even if the sac bunt is successful, and the runner is on second with one out, the team’s run expectancy goes down to about 0.64. That’s right: by succeeding in that situation with a sacrifice bunt, the team is now statistically likely to score fewer runs than if they’d not tried the bunt at all (and it’s not a small drop, either: it’s nearly 25%!). We can debate whether this is different with a pitcher at the plate, but, with regular position players (or modestly decent hitting pitchers), there is no debate at all.

Let’s look at yesterday’s attempted sacrifice bunts.

In the first inning, Ryan Kalish attempted to bunt Emilio Bonifacio over from second to third with nobody out. To be clear up front, Kalish was clearly trying to get a hit, so it’s unclear whether the bunt was called from the dugout, or was entirely on Kalish. I have nothing against trying to bunt for a hit. But, since we’ve seen plenty of bunting already this year in situations like that, and because we’re just trying to have a discussion here, we’ll proceed as though it was an attempted sacrifice bunt (even though, on the balance, I think it was a, “I’m going to try and get a hit, but if it winds up a sacrifice, that’s OK, too” kind of thing).

Is that a good situation to sacrifice? Well, unless it’s the 9th inning and you need only one run to win, the answer is no. A team’s run expectancy with a runner on second base and nobody out is about 1.05 runs. On third with one out? That number drops to about 0.89. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. In virtually every situation, it’s a terrible idea to trade an out – a precious, precious out – for a single base. And when it’s the top of the order, and the first inning? You can pretty much read all of this as me saying it extra loudly.

In the ninth inning, Luis Valbuena was asked to sacrifice bunt with men on first and second and nobody out. Good idea? Nope. The run expectancy with men on first and second and nobody out is about 1.41 runs (enough to tie and then maybe win the game, with the Cubs down one). With one out and men on second and third? It drops to 1.28.

I think it’s fair to debate, in that very specific situation, whether it was OK to sac bunt in an effort to get that lead runner to third base – i.e., playing for the tie. To me, I’d rather take my chances with Valbuena and the bat in his hand (if only for the chance to see an epic flip on a walk-off homer – can you imagine how high that thing would get? I bet the bat would clear the grandstand).

Once again, the point here is less about poo-pooing the specific events of yesterday, and more about poo-poo the entire idea of leaning on sacrifice bunts as a better way to create offense than just not giving away outs. Everyone loves phrases like “small ball” and “moving runners over.” They sound great in theory, but the numbers clearly do not back up the theory. Don’t make outs. That’s a theory I can get behind.

Which brings me to the giant problem with sacrifice bunts that almost never gets discussed: sac bunts aren’t always successful!

These calculations are all predicated on a successful sac bunt. As we saw yesterday with both Kalish and Valbuena, those at bats don’t always end in success. Each player took a strike, bunted foul, and then struck out. That’s not an uncommon outcome for a sacrifice bunt attempt.

Indeed, over the past two decades, the success rate for sacrifice bunt attempts has vacillated right around 70%. Think about that. When a guy tries to lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner, he fails nearly 1/3 of the time.

Even if a guy has a mere .300 OBP, that means he’s got a 30% chance of doing something really awesome in that situation (advancing the runner (or more) without recording an out), and a 70% chance of doing something bad. If you ask him to bunt, he’s now got a 30% chance of doing something bad, and a 70% chance of doing something that doesn’t really help you. Why in the world would you ask that guy to bunt?

To put it more plainly, when you ask a guy to sacrifice bunt in the vast majority of situations, you are doing two things:

(1.) Actively trying to reduce the number of runs you score in that inning; and

(2.) Putting your batter at a 30% chance of recording an out (or worse) for nothing.

That’s what your average sacrifice bunt attempt accomplishes. Even in an era of deflating offense, giving away outs in exchange for a base advancement is not good baseball. Trying – and often failing – to give away outs in exchange for a base advancement is even worse. And that’s what a sacrifice bunt attempt is.

Are we still friends?

  • TWC

    I’ll set the over/under at 150 comments. It’d be higher, but 1) it’s a Friday, and 2) it’s an evening game, with a game thread soon to follow.

    Takers?

    • Soda Popinski

      I’ll go under. Also- anxiously awaiting Doc’s take on this. I’m sure he’s got something to add from his laboratory of baseball goodness.

    • mjhurdle

      what do I get if i take the over?

      *stretches fingers in preparation of making another 147 posts on the thread*

      • TWC

        “what do I get if i take the over?”

        Banhammer.

        • mjhurdle

          Im trying to find a way to combine Ricketts being cheap, Tony Campana, and Sac bunts in one post.

          That will get us to 150 easy.

          • miggy80

            I’ll take the over

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Under for the reasons you said.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Over.

      Challenging small ball is tantamount to a declaration of war in some circles.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Success!

    • Patrick W.

      I can confidently take the over. I win.

    • TWC

      Hey, it’s Friday — EVERYBODY WINS!

      • ssckelley

        I blame the guy who set the over under at 150!

        What were you thinking?????

        • TWC

          Folks picked up the gauntlet and threw it back over the hedge.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Wow doubled your over

  • Soda Popinski

    Your data is flawed. A team can’t score .83 runs an inning. :D
    *Very interesting article. I had heard the new-schoolers talking about never sac-bunting, but I had never seen the data. Vewwwwy intewesting, indeed.

  • DarthHater

    “you might wind up hating me, and I wouldn’t want that. I like to be liked.”

    [img]https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7385/9322737514_6eca3ff54b_o.gif[/img]

  • King Jeff

    There was always a reason that defensively, a team was willing to sacrifice a run for the out. I have a hard time understanding why managers will concede a run because it will prevent a big inning, but will still turn around and give outs away when their team is batting.

    • Spencer

      JEFF! Where you have been dude?

      • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

        Yeah I was just thinking about where is the King… its kinda like we’re having a reunion on BN today.

  • JasonP

    I agree that RE tells us that sac bunts are never a good idea.

    I’d like to know what the expectancy on the single run is though?

    Essentially, with no outs the chance for a crooked number is much better; i.e. the value 1.41 for runner on first with no outs is the mean of the possible number of runs that end up on the board – I’m guessing (fairly confidently) that the variance is much higher on that 1.41 than it is on the 1.28 RE.

    If we’re thinking about the application of a sacrifice as a tactic isn’t win probability the more appropriate measure?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The thrust of your question is why it’s OK to bunt with a man on second and no outs in the 9th inning (or later) of a tied game (or a one-run deficit, arguably).

      That’s about the only time, though, because in every other situation, you want more than one run.

      • JasonP

        1 run is always better than 0; and I’d disagree that in every other situation the value of a more “guaranteed” run surpasses the value of betting on catching the big number. I agree, in general giving away outs is rarely a good idea, but I think there must be more than a couple of situations in which it is a good idea.

        I’ll store the win prob. analysis away for myself to do after I wrap up my thesis this month (if only I can avoid obsessing about the Cubs on BN and actually wrap up the thesis)

        • JasonP

          Well, I take part of that back, most of the time 1 run is better than 0.

      • JasonP

        Well, it seems that it’s still a bad idea with a runner on second, no outs, down by one in the 9th.

        The win expectancy goes from 0.423 to 0.404 if the bunt is successful.

        If it fails it goes to 0.278. If we assume 70% success on the sac attempt, by choosing to bunt, you are choosing to drop your WE to 0.366, i.e. give up 5.7% chance of winning.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          Hmmm very interesting, but I’m more concerned with “tie expectancy” (Yes I know that’s not a real thing) in this specific situation

          • JasonP

            Win Expectancy encompasses that. I pulled the WE from a website using data for all games played in MLB from 1957-2013 (excluding ’99), that gives the record for teams in the given home/away, outs, runners, score setting across that timeframe. This would include games where the game was extended into extra innings. It’s worth noting that sending the game into extras at home leaves the home team with a 52.3%, which is a much more modest home field advantage than I was expecting.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          That is not the result I was expecting.

          Thought I’d seen elsewhere that the run probability goes up if you succeed on the bunt on that situation (i.e., the probability of scoring one – and only one – run).

          Of course, once you factor in the fail rate, maybe it’s just flat out always a bad idea.

          • JasonP

            I was surprised too. I used Gregg Stoll’s web page for Win Expectancy. It pulls game results from outs-runners-score-inning situations for ’57-’13, so there is some question about the validity of that as the game has evolved with K-rates etc. I’d say the change is pretty small, so it’s almost a neutral decision to bunt. It would be interesting to see with win expectancy values for something like the last decade.

      • TSB

        But say you have the lead off man on in the 9th, and you need one run. What’s the worst the next batter can do? Hit into a double play, so now you have 2 outs and no one on base, with one out to tie the game. But if you bunt him to second, and the next batter is intentionally walked, what’s the worst that can happen? The batter hits into a double play and the game is over.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Double plays happen, on average not quite 4% of the time. (I want to say last year’s leader was 6% but most players were under 5%)

          I would assume that double plays on sac bunts are less than that, maybe 2%.

          So you are trading a sure fire out for the 2% of scenarios.

          • MightyBear

            Is that 2% for the average team or the Cubs? I swear that number has to be higher for the Cubs and not just the last few years.

  • Unlucky 13

    We talked about this in the game thread yesterday, and I think that I was the lone supporter, but I’m a big proponent of the sac bunt in the right situation. Specifically, if you have a man on second and no outs, with your 2-3-4 hitters coming up. You may give away a precious out, but with a man on 3rd and one out, with your to best hitters coming up, you’ve got a great chance to score an even more precious run.

    I love seeing a team manufacture runs. Otherwise you just get a lot of strike outs, double plays, and it looks a lot like American League ball, which bores me to tears,

    • TWC

      “… your to best hitters coming up, you’ve got a great chance to score an even more precious run.”

      But by giving away an out, you make it less likely that your “big hitters” will score more runs! And the 30% of the time the sac fails, you’ve given the heart of your order jack to work with.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Did you read the article? This idea of manufacturing runs through sacrifice bunting actually results in DE-manufacturing runs. Its as plain as simple addition. I’m guessing no amount of numbers will ever convince you that your old school gut feeling is wrong… but it is.

      • Unlucky 13

        I can agree that people can have different opinions. To blindly say I’m wrong is a bit offensive, just because you feel a different way.

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          Look at the numbers… you are wrong. You just won’t admit it.

        • Spencer

          This kind of a “my way or the highway” post. If you dissent, it’s probably better just to remain silent.

          • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

            Because the numbers so clearly answer the question?

          • Unlucky 13

            It would seem that way. I love the info i get from the site….but half the time i it chime in on something someone basically tells me that my opinion is wrong. It makes me want to never speak up *sigh*.

            • ssckelley

              Nah, don’t let the ones who believe they know everything scare you off. Express you’re opinion, it is different opinions that help keep the comment section interesting.

              • ssckelley

                dammit Dave don’t even start with me!

                I meant to say “your”.

                • DarthHater

                  No need to correct it. Just say it’s your opinion that “you’re” is correct.

                  • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                    +1 forget facts, forget science, just have opinions and everything is fine.

                  • ssckelley

                    No, I can’t help but correct it. If I don’t then Funn Dave will attack me and then I will feel all crappy.

                    I said “chick” yesterday, I was ashamed. :(

              • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                And I just won’t say anything else because we have to make sure everyone has warm and fuzzy feeling even when the opinions are not opinions because we have facts to say they are wrong.

                If I stood up and said the sun revolves around us and I don’t care what the facts say its just my opinion. I am still wrong.

                But carry on Clark will be around shortly to give everyone a hug. And I’ll try real hard not to make anybody else cry.

                Knew it was a mistake to comment again.

                • Jon

                  “Knew it was a mistake to comment again.”

                  Considering you lose your shit every time someone has an viewpoint different from you? Yeah, probably was.

            • DarthHater

              Some topics are inherently subjective. Go ahead and have all the opinions you want on those.

              Other topics are subject to objective empirical verification or refutation. If you make an assertion on such a topic, it might get refuted. If it does, you don’t get to hide behind, “Well, it’s my opinion.”

              • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                Nope Darth we can’t hurt anyone’s feeling… so nothing can ever be challenged again especially when the facts and evidence are right infront of use say. HEY THERE IS NO DEBATE HERE THE ANSWER IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.

                • DarthHater

                  Hmmm. I think whoever gave the goat his spring shearing cut too close and left him a little thin skinned. ;-)

                  • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                    Nope just tired of people ignoring the simple truth in front of them.

                    • E

                      Shit man, relax. We’re not talking about the existence of god or anything. ;)

                    • DarthHater

                      “We’re not talking about the existence of god or anything.”

                      No way to objectively prove or refute that, so everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

                      But sacrifice bunting is a much more serious matter… :-P

                    • E

                      “No way to objectively prove or refute that, so everybody is entitled to their own opinion.”

                      1. Default position is atheism, as in you are born atheist until indoctrination occurs.
                      2. Those making the claim, (there is a God) hold the burden of proof.
                      3. God cannot be proven just like the Tooth Fairy cannot be proven.
                      4. That which cannot be proven true, is not true.

                      But I agree, sac bunting is a much more serious matter this time of year! ;)

                    • FFP

                      1. We are all born God’s children.
                      2. Look for a pitch you can drive.
                      4. Keep the line moving.

                    • FFP

                      There was a #3 but it failed trying to lay down a bunt.

            • Kyle

              The solution is to be less wrong.

              • E

                [img]http://blogs.houstonpress.com/eating/lebowski-opinion.jpg[/img]

                • E

                  booooo! It’s too big!

            • E

              You have to understand that this is the internet. Cunningham’s Law follows you everywhere you go, even if they aren’t sure they’re right either. ;)

              • Kyle

                Yep, that must be it. Everyone’s opinion is equally valid and nobody knows more than anyone else on any subject.

                • E

                  Except that isn’t what I said. I’ll tell you the same thing I told Goat, calm the fuck down. The constant baiting for argument is tiresome.

                  • Edwin

                    It sure is.

          • E

            I have noticed a “tone” lately, both with the writers and commentators. It could be just me so I’ll shrug it off for now.

            • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

              Yes a tone of getting really tired of comments that are just devoid of actually looking at the facts before them.

    • Edwin

      Actually, last season the NL and AL struck out a similar % and pretty much the exact same GDP % rate as well.

      And the AL had 121 more sac flies than the NL last season. So there is still plenty of “run manufacturing” going on.

      Plus, is it really that more fun to you to watch a sac fly RBI than a base hit RBI?

  • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

    Well spelled out Brett, good job giving the numbers, although for the most part the people in favor of bunts don’t really care about numbers. Here is where I am in favor of Valbuena bunting in the 9th though. While you obviously want to get the 2 runs in that situation to win the game, you NEED to get the 1 run to tie the game, so to me, any run expectancy in excess of 1 is redundant in that situation. I’m not sure if there is a scoring percentage out there for a man on 3rd with 1 out vs. man on 2nd with 0 outs, but I would guess it is slightly higher?? I very well could be wrong, but that’s just my guess. So if someone has the numbers for that, I think it would be very useful to assess specific situations like this one.

  • TWC

    “[With a position player,] by succeeding in that situation with a sacrifice bunt, [a] team is now statistically likely to score fewer runs than if they’d not tried the bunt at all…”

    And that’s just it. That phrase alone should be the end of the “debate”.

    • Unlucky 13

      The problem with the data is that it doesn’t take into account how good or poor the hitters due up are. I’m not saying “always sac bunt!”, but there’s definately a time and place. I love seeing a 1 on the board instead of the usual 0 in the first.

      • Medicos

        UNLUCKY13: I agree with u 110%. Whether or not to BUNT definitely depends on the hitting abilities of the next hitters following any bunter. . I’m somewhat old school in my thinking about how a ball game should be managed and used small ball tactics to successfully win 3 city championships in the 18- years I coached baseball.

        I still remember the when the Dodgers moved out to LA and used the exceptional pitching of Drysdale, Koufax, along the Vulture in the bullpen plus the speed of Davis and Wills to win the 1959 WS against our White Sox.

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          So heres my response to this
          [img]http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-NlosNj1rQi8/UnZvSRhzZXI/AAAAAAAAOng/tXl4QNsnZWA/s1600/Rowdy-Roddy-Piper.gif[/img]

          • mjhurdle

            ha! you nailed it with this

            • DarthHater

              [img]http://media.giphy.com/media/4FvmJftU7yreg/giphy.gif[/img]

        • Kyle

          Nobody, and I mean nobody, has ever loved sac bunting more than every HS baseball coach in history loves sac bunting.

          • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

            I don’t know, my college coach loved bunting more than anyone I’ve ever seen. We literally spent 30 minutes to an hour of every single practice working on bunting/bunt defense.

          • E

            ^ Can confirm.

            Source: I went to high school

      • Kyle

        Studies that include measuring strength of hitter have been done. The results are about the same.

        MLB hitters aren’t *that* different from one another.

        • DarthHater

          “Studies that include measuring strength of hitter have been done.”

          Well, that’s just your opinion, Kyle.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Could you spare me some googling and link me to one of those? I’d like to see how different the numbers are.

          • Kyle

            Nope. Lazy.

            The problem with this whole thing is that I don’t think it really matters.

            You can decide to adjust for hitter strength. And you can decide whether or not to adjust for pitcher strength. And whether or not to adjust for the change in counts and the expected change in result on fouled or missed bunts. And you can decide whether or not to count the times that the lead runner is out, or the times when the defense gets no outs at all and everybody is safe.

            There’s a thousand different combinations you could study, and they all come out to the same conclusion: It’s pretty close to a neutral play, a few thousandths of a run either way. It might be slightly worse, it might be slightly better, but there’s not really any way to say for sure and it’s certainly not enough to be worth the millions of Pixel cattle that are slaughtered every year to harvest what is necessary to write about it.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        If you have bad hitters coming up, then an SH attempt makes your chances of scoring go from bad to worse. If you have good hitters coming up, then a SH attempt makes your chances of scoring go from good to worse-than-good.

        • candyland07

          Its a situational process , it means depending the score of the game , the hitters one have on the bench to pinch hit , or a pitcher that can bunt but can not hit . A team can increase the odds of scoring 1 to 2 runs in an inning not necessarily in any given inning that is call ; A manager doing his Job under the right circumstance but the player needs to do the sacrifice and today’s’ players seems frustrated when they are ask to lay down a bunt – its all about the stats. only Don Kissinger could teach the cubs to be selfless at times.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Managers are supposed to be tacticians. *Attempting* to bunt with men on 1st & 2nd with no outs reduces your chances of scoring. A good tactician does not assume that his player will “get it done”: after all, the other team is filled with guys being paid to “get it done,” too. Thus, he needs to assume the failure rate of 30% (and, again, that is going to be higher with a force at 3rd because a lot of bunts that would advance a guy to 2nd still let the fielders force a guy at 3rd).

            As for the players getting frustrated, well, they should be frustrated: they are being asked to do something detrimental to the team effort because of ignorance by the manager.

          • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

            Is that you die hard?

          • DarthHater

            I’ve never been able to forgive Don Kissinger for ordering the secret sacrifice bunting of Cambodia.

        • Kyle

          I think the biggest thing to remember is that almost all sac bunting analysis focus on the wrong thing: The results after a sac bunt vs. no bunt attempted misses the much more important points of how often is the bunt successful and how often the defense fails to convert any outs at all.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            You also need to take into account how frequently the fielders turn double plays on bunts and how frequently guys get picked off of second because a bunt is on.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Oh but it won’t it just won’t just wait soon there will be hundreds of TWTW, “play game right way,” “numbers aren’t going to stop my beliefs.”

  • Jon

    I’m guessing this discussion was left out of the RR interview, otherwise I have no idea how the hell he got hired.

    • KHRSS

      He answered in Spanish so Theo didn’t understand.

      • DarthHater

        heh

  • E

    Real data with real, verifiable results. This is a discussion worth having.

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      But there is very little to discuss the numbers are quite clear. Why this is even debatable is the only thing worth questioning.

      • E

        If nothing else, it’s a good way to introduce it to people who don’t necessarily know that it exists.

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          Exactly and then watch as they fight to ignore the simple reality.

  • mjhurdle

    How do sac bunts correlate to pitcher’s W/L records? :)

    • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

      Well if its a squeeze bunt then it helps with RBI totals ;)

    • E

      Pitcher’s W/L = Pitch framing in that one is rejected for variables that can’t be controlled while the other is accepted.

      • Kyle

        “can’t be controlled for” meaning you haven’t spent 10 minutes looking at the studies or the data behind it and assumed they haven’t controlled for them.

        • E

          No, it means exactly what I said it means. Thank you for your response.

  • lnfihDeL

    If only Renteria had twitter.

    @cubs

  • https://twitter.com/LouHemp beerhelps

    I want to like RR, I really do, but so far, I just don’t know…..

  • Jon

    Harold Reynolds enlightens us on why sliding into first is faster
    http://deadspin.com/harold-reynolds-announces-revolutionary-findings-in-phy-1562244942

  • KHRSS

    “with a runner on first base and nobody out, a team is expected to score about 0.83 runs in that inning.” That means a regular baseball team not the Cubs who suck so bad w/RISP.

    I didn’t get trying to get Valbuena to bunt when he is a guy who can win the game with a HR and not someone who I would consider a good bunter. But if Barney would of been up there I would not mind the bunt.

    I think it depends largely on the players and the situation, with the cubs being so bad at putting balls in play when they need to I get why Renteria wants to bunt. Is there any Cubs player who you could trust to make contact to move a runner from 2nd to 3rd?

  • NorthSideIrish

    “Are we still friends?” Yeah…this is kind of awkward, but I just want to be Twitter followers.

  • bhs

    Absolutely love the site but have never commented until now.
    I agree that RR seems, at least at the onset, to have skipped over this portion of “The Cubs Way” however I would offer a defense of the Act and the managers that make it.

    Data cannot be the only way to coach a game! The human element, and all it’s flaws, are a major reason that we love (and sometimes hate) the sports we watch. Perhaps the Data says we should let a pitcher throw to a certain batter, in a certain manner. But the all important “gut instinct” says … the batter is too hot, the pitcher is tired etc. . . for that manager in that spot there are other factors besides data.
    While the data trends are the way to go most of the time, sometimes the greatest memories we have of sports was when a coach or player did the “opposite” and it came off.
    I am hopeful that RR will lessen the bunting push as the year wears on but I am willing to trust a man with his instinct as well.

  • The Nefi Perez Plan

    I agree that sac bunts are not a good strategic idea when trying to win ballgames but what I think risks getting lost in this pro/antibunt argument is that the Cubs are not trying to win. They are trying to prepare the team for the future and setting the skill set of being able to bunt in the few situations that can benefit from it is easier if you have game experience doing it.

    I see this in some ways like the platoon situation. Sure it might help the Cubs win a few games but the ultimate goal is to put guys in a place to succeed so they will be more confident going forward or so they will benefit future Cubs teams as trade bait. This bunting issue is not as black and white as winning games now. Rick should be judged on the success or failure of the young guys and how he manages games in a year or two when the Cubs are ready to win.

    • TWC

      “the Cubs are not trying to win”

      If Renteria is not trying to win games her should be fired immediately.

      “They are trying to prepare the team for the future and setting the skill set of being able to bunt in the few situations that can benefit from it is easier if you have game experience doing it.”

      That’s absurd. If they want to teach bunting, do it in practice. All Renteria is doing now is preparing the offense to give away outs.

      • The Nefi Perez Plan

        I just think that the front office has a plan and based on the current roster that plan does not involve winning this year. Therefore I believe that they would rather have themselves in a better place to win next year or two years and win 70 games rather than making a run at .500 and not be as set up in the future. That has been shown the past two years by trading away players and basically punting the 2nd half of the seasons. Sveum I believe was fired due to the backsliding of Castro and Rizzo.

        Maybe this has something to do with the bunting and maybe it doesn’t but I think to say that the Cubs main goal is to win more games this season would be incorrect.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Completely false that the team is not trying to win games. Sure, you might be able to argue that the front office is trying to prepare for the future, but the job of the manager and the 25 men on the roster is to win baseball games, plain and simple.

  • Lou Brown

    That was a really interesting article. I would be interested to see those numbers from the standpoint of probability of scoring a single run in those situations (follow up article Brett?). So in those situations when you are tied or down a run, does a sacrifice reduce your overall RE (not going to score 2 or more runs), but possibly increases the probability of getting a single run across?

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    First of all I am not a big fan of sacrificing a runner to second unless it is the pitcher batting.But, anytime you have a runner on first you risk the double play. But in the case of runners on first and second with no outs and behind by a run I think the sacrifice puts you in a god position to not only tie, but to win. But to show bunt and swing at the next pitch, only to bunt again is just plain stupid IMO. And if that was RR’s call then shame on him. I would always do a straight sacrife until two strikes and then swing the bat. I don’t like to see a guy bunting with two strikes unless it’s for a hit.

    • VegasCubsFan

      I wonder if there has been an analysis of success regarding bunting with a guy on 1st and not bunting with a guy on first and winding up with a doubleplay. What was the ultimate result of runs scored in an inning between those two situations?

    • auggie

      The fact RR had Valbuena switching back and forth between showing bunt and swinging away is really what pissed me off. Once Valbuena got 2 strikes, I knew he was going to strike out.

      Brett this was an excellent article and it has turned the old schooler in me to one that never wants to see the Cubs bunting again. Another part of this is that while the league average in not getting bunts down might be 30%, I have to think that the Cubs are closer to 60% in not being able to sacrifice runners over.

  • https://www.facebook.com/AnotherSpaceSong Bret Epic

    Nice article. I am not someone who is necessarily opposed to bunting as a hit, but as far as a sac bunt goes, I’m generally against it. A lot of times, a well placed ground ball or a sacrifice fly with runners on base will still move the runners along…AND a ground ball or fly ball have a greater likelihood to end up a hit. I would rather take my chances, unless maybe a pitcher that is a terrible hitter is batting.

  • Cizzle

    ” The run expectancy with men on first and second and nobody out is about 1.41 runs (enough to tie and then maybe win the game, with the Cubs down one). With one out and men on second and third? It drops to 1.28.”
    The only flaw in that is that in the 9th inning yesterday, the #1 goal pivoted from wanting to score *as many* runs as possible (as it would be in any inning but the 9th) to scoring one run (not lose the game).
    I would be interested to see the likelihood of scoring a run in both of those situations, and not drag average runs into the discussion.

    • DrReiCow

      I agree that this is valuable data. What percentage of the time does one score at least 1 run with a runner on first, no one out? Runner on second, 1 out? Etc.

      Moo.

      • JasonP

        See my comments above, while win expectancy doesn’t quite satisfy the likelihood of getting 1 run, it does tell us pretty much everything we need to know about whether or not it’s a good tactic to bunt in a given situation.

        If the bunt had succeeded the WE falls 1.9%, and expecting a 70% success rate on bunts the WE would fall by 5.7% just by asking Valbuena to bunt.

        • DrReiCow

          I was asking more generally, not the specific Valbuena situation (or necessarily the ninth inning). Just what are the probabilities of gaining at least one run in the situational combinations. Know of a site that has those, or easy access to bunting & situational data?

          Moo.

          • JasonP

            There’s a few approaches to, and data sets used to generate run expectancy values, but I don’t know off hand if any of them have what you’re asking for. Short of saying “google it” I’m not much help beyond that.

          • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

            http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html

            This gives data for 3 separate time periods.

            (Note, when I say #%* in the next bit, I am actually talking about percentage points, so going from 1% to 2% would read as a 1% change, not a 100% change)

            Giving up out number 1 for an advanced baserunner, increases your odds by anywhere from 1.3%* to 4.7%*. Giving up out #2, only increases your odds if it is 1st to 2nd (4.5%*). Otherwise it’s a 14%* hit.

            Example, going from 1st and 2nd no outs, you go from a 64.3%* chance of scoring A run to a 69.8%* chance of scoring a run, 70% of the time.

            Maybe 5% of the time, the fielder will make an error and you score the run.
            With Luis Valbuena:
            10% of the time, he will walk and load the bases. With no outs, you have an 87.7% chance of scoring 1 run
            ~20% of the time he will drive in a run.
            ~7% of the time, he will win the game (XBH)

            This assumes a context neutral scenario. Your odds are going to change, by a fair amount, I am guessing, when it’s the 9th inning and the defense is prepared for the sac.

            Now, this assumes you only care about scoring that one-run. You are slightly more likely to score that 1 run 70% of the time. However, with a Cubs offense that has proved fairly impotent, you also have to factor in that you want multiple runs when you can get them. As Brett laid out, when you sac bunt, your likelihood of scoring more than 1 run ALWAYS goes down.

            • DrReiCow

              Dear Hansman,

              Thank you very much for the reply. These are some helpful stats, and I would like to show more runner situations, as most of them result in reduced probabilities for runs. (You misread the numbers on 1B to 2B with 1->2 outs.)

              It appears that giving up an out to advance one runner one base never increases the odds of a run scoring (except in the case of 2B, 0 outs to 3B 1 out). Here are the numbers:

              Chance to score a run:
              1993-2010 1969-1992 1950-1968
              1B, 0 out 0.441 0.426 0.410
              successful bunt ->
              2B, 1 out 0.418 0.411 0.410

              1B, 1 out 0.284 0.269 0.264
              successful bunt ->
              2B, 2 out 0.230 0.224 0.227

              As can be seen, the chance to score a run goes down in both of these scenarios.

              For 2B:
              1993-2010 1969-1992 1950-1968
              2B, 0 out 0.637 0.623 0.615
              successful bunt ->
              3B, 1 out 0.674 0.664 0.650

              2B, 1 out 0.418 0.411 0.410
              successful bunt ->
              3B, 2 out 0.270 0.274 0.278

              So, the only scenario here where your chances increase is bunting a man from 2B to 3B, with 0 outs.

              Additionally, I’ll paste the 1B,2B numbers.

              1993-2010 1969-1992 1950-1968
              1B & 2B, 0 out 0.643 0.632 0.623
              successful bunt ->
              2B & 3B, 1 out 0.698 0.678 0.664
              or fielder’s choice at 2B ->
              1B & 3B, 1 out 0.652 0.647 0.648

              1B & 2B, 1 out 0.429 0.421 0.425
              successful bunt ->
              2B & 3B, 2 out 0.280 0.275 0.285
              or fielder’s choice at 2B ->
              1B & 3B, 2 out 0.288 0.280 0.287

              Unsurprisingly, bunting with 2 on (1B & 2B), 1 out reduces the probability of scoring a run. However, as you said, Hansman, bunting with runners on 1B & 2B with no outs, does increase the scoring probability. It even does so on a (1 out) fielder’s choice, so long as the lead runner gets to third.

              Very interesting results, particularly the fielder’s choice probabilities.

              The takeaway is that it is probabilistically advantageous (assuming a successful bunt attempt or fielder’s choice at 2B) to bunt ONLY when you have a man on 2B (1B occupied or not) and no outs.*

              Moo!

              * – This is statistically speaking, not the situation where you have the best bunter ever vs the worst defense ever in a rainstorm. Also, the success rates for the bunt, batted into fielder’s choice rate, and errors must be taken into effect, which basically nullify this one probabilistic advantage and make it so that it is never probabilistically advantageous to bunt.

  • TSB

    I came to the same conclusion using a more old school method. while recovering from the flu. I went through a week’s worth of game summaries, and discovered that when a player scored after being bunted to second, in the vast majority of cases, he would have scored from first anyway, as the subsequent batters got enough hits to drive him in. Also, in many cases, after the sacifice bunt, the player that batted him in was left on base, a situation where having an out not wasted on the bunt could lead to another hit and potential run.

  • DrReiCow

    Good article. My one real gripe with RR thus far has been the bunting. it has been driving me nuts. Hopefully he stops.

    Moo.

  • OCCubFan

    Brett, excellent article.
    Many of the “grasping at straws” comments about how the issue is the probability of scoring one run, sacrificing in the 9th, how strategy should vary depending on the ability of the hitters due up, sacrificing with runners on 1st and 2nd with 0 or 1 outs in the 9th, etc., are answered in “The Book” by Tom Tango, et al.

    The Cubs have been giving up far too many outs this year. With a poor offense, it is even more important not to give away outs.

  • blars82

    I’m only okay with a sac bunt if it’s the pitcher. That outcome is likely to be 70% successful sac bunt and then some combination of FC/DP/K. Any idea what percentage of sac bunts turn into double plays? My brain is always thinking percentages and logic. I don’t think that bunting in certain situations “because that’s how we always did it in the past” is a great defense. If the math/logic says that they don’t work, then change your mindset. Brett, do you also happen to have double play percentages with a guy on first or guys on first and second or with the bases loaded? Also, how often does a guy score from second on a single. I know that a single guarantees to knock the guy in from 3rd, but the percentage is still pretty good from second. Great post and conversation!

  • VegasCubsFan

    Just read this posting. THANK YOU for breaking it down. Please send your analysis to Ricky. Sac bunting is almost as stupid as sliding into first base (Right Mr. Hamilton?).

    • Jon

      A sac bunt coupled with the head first slide is like the grindiest thing you can do on a baseball diamond.

  • Spoda17

    Couldn’t agree more… bunts=bad

    over and out

  • 70′s Cub

    When the Manager calls for a bunt especially when your a utility role player type you better not f up 30% of the time. My point is hold this current crop of Cubs accountable get the bunt down, most of this line up has not demonstrated the ability at a minimum to make productive outs.

    • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

      Well, history tells us that f’in up 30% of the time is average.

  • OlderStyle

    One week into the season and RR is already losing me.
    [img]http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&docid=y0ie4nMlROdjaM&tbnid=sysvUnb5R0asxM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Frussellbrownworth.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F01%2Fintentional-faith-development.html&ei=CEpIU57fFcnlyAHY6IDQAw&bvm=bv.64542518,d.aWc&psig=AFQjCNFGFQ2IvvDL3PYh6mpX37GIFTXA5w&ust=1397332836877428[/img]

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