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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?

  • OlderStyle

    [img]http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_vxSnycOpLcA/TTRg1O7ig1I/AAAAAAAAALQ/oRMyakf78KU/s1600/2.JPG[/img]

  • candyland07

    Playing the percentages depending on the batter Vs a certain type of pitcher depending on Who is running on the bases is when a manager decision to bunt to move and advance runners depending on who hits next all comes into play. wow- kinda like BlackJack depending on the cards that played the odds of that games payout structure -one can at times hedge the pct towards the house under the right circumstances. DO i stand on 15 if the dealer shows a 5 and vice -verse if its a ten.

    I agree, to bunt just to attempt to move a player is dumb. but under the right circumstance sometimes it should be easier to advance runner with a weak hitter / and runner ./ strong pitcher . That is why its is up to the manager that aspect of the game. Either way it is better just to swing away. but if some one like Barny is batting and its the 7 inning and the pitcher is next up and I have someone on the bench that can hit or regular that happen to be able to pinch hit – Its a managers decisions to try for Sacrifice hit/out.

    But to bunt just to bunt will hurt you most of the time and give the other team an easy out.

  • CubFan Paul

    “In virtually every situation, it’s a terrible idea to trade an out – a precious, precious out – for a single base…giving away outs in exchange for a base advancement is not good baseball”

    So because the math is there, we’re smarter than the managers who orders the bunts and the players who play the game?

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

      In terms of objectively reviewing a situation and removing a bias for something that hurts the team?

      Apparently so.

    • BT

      Normally I’d argue we are not smarter than the manager, but if said manager IGNORES the math, then yes, we are.

    • 5412

      Hi,

      To answer your question with a question…..what would Billy Beane say? He would say don’t bunt. Didn’t he fire a manager for ignoring him?

      On the other side of the issue however is to look at the lineup and matchups on the horizon. I can’t imagine LaRussa calling for many sacrifice bunts when a Fat Albert was on deck.

      At the same time if you have two heavy hitters following the bunter it is a different story. In the NL you force the opposition to use up some bullpen for match ups a lot of the time.

      First inning yesterday? I agree with Brett, play for the big inning.

      Regards,
      5412

    • Funn Dave

      Nobody’s claiming to be smarter than RR. It’s just that in this particular situation, he has made decisions that I would not consider wise.

      • CubFan Paul

        “Nobody’s claiming to be smarter than RR.”

        I think Brett is.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          You are mistaken.

          Offering a compelling counterargument to specific moves doesn’t mean anything of the sort.

          • DarthHater

            Sorry, Brett, didn’t you get the memo? This is the internet. Every disagreement is equivalent to a total repudiation of even the tiniest shred of intellectual or moral worth in those with whom you disagree.

            • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

              Is that your opinion Darth?

              • DarthHater

                No, at this point, that’s pretty much a self-evident fact, I fear.

  • blars82

    Brett – do those run expectancies go up at all in the 9th inning and later or is it pretty similar in all situations? I didn’t know if there was anything to back up added pressure late in a game.

    Insert fart joke here.

  • TommyK

    What is the liklihood of scoring at least one run with a runner on first and 0 outs versus a runner on second with 1 out?

    • Funn Dave

      “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.”

      It’s right there in the article.

      • Drew7

        “Chance of scoring 1 run” is different than “run expectancy.”

        • Funn Dave

          He didn’t say one run; he said *at least* one run.

      • Brocktoon

        No, it’s not. He’s asking the likelihood of scoring at least one run, not the total number of runs scored on average.

        Tommy, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I believe your odds drop slightly.

        • Funn Dave

          If your run expectancy decreases from .83 to .64, your chances of scoring at least one run have decreased.

          • Funn Dave

            But yeah, I guess that doesn’t give you an exact statistic, per say.

          • Brocktoon

            I’m almost certain the odds drop, but it’s not because the run expectancy moves from .83-.64 A run expectancy drop does not equal a drop in potential to score one run.

  • blars82

    They’ve done studies on sac bunting you know. 60% of the time, it works every time!

  • Funn Dave

    To me, what it comes down to is overestimating the value of putting a runner in “scoring position.” If I remember correctly, last year, Rizzo had more home runs early on than he did singles. So if you’re batting in front of Rizzo in the early goings of last year, chances are he’s either going to hit a homer or get an out. If there’s already a runner on and you sac bunt him forward a base, that’s just a completely wasted out, because it won’t change the number of runs either way when Rizzo homers or strikes out. And if he did manage a walk–your sac bunt is still a wasted out, as the runner moves up anyway! This example is a bit extreme, but I think you can see where I’m going with it.

  • Steve Ontiveros’ Mustache

    Somewhere, Earl Weaver is smiling.

    • auggie

      As I was reading all the comments, Earl Weaver immediately came to mind.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Earl’s version of smiling was to swear positively.

  • Q-Ball

    Question: Does it matter if it’s a pitcher doing the sacrificing? Because I agree with the statistical premise that it’s a bad idea for regular hitters……but I am generally in favor of the PITCHER doing it with a runner on 1st with 0 or 1 outs, or on 2nd with nobody out. Is my gut right, or am I off base in those situations too?

    • Brocktoon

      No, you’re right, pitchers in general are such pathetic hitters, that they should often be bunting.

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

        However, in theory, they should be better at getting a bunt down since they have more in-game experience to hone their craft.

        • Brocktoon

          Do you mean additionally? I wasn’t being sarcastic.

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

            Sure. Damn you autocorrect (on a PC, after I misread your post)

      • Eternal Pessimist

        “No, you’re right, pitchers in general are such pathetic hitters, that they should often be bunting.”

        …though they are often even more pathetic at bunting. Some of those squibs they hit will move that runner to 2nd, or they just might get that hit, or the pitcher throws a passed ball, or the pitcher hits the batter, or the shortstop makes an error…etc….

  • FFP

    The fact that RR is creating this pattern intrigues me. Is he A) old school and un aware of the math B) egotistically tinker-happy c) establishing a faux-pattern to deek defenses in future games D) other ?

    What does seem clear is that RR is the manager of this team. The FO has not created these game plans re bunting, right? –Is the FO just repecting the men in game uniforms? What happens on the field is wholly up to them. –Are they giving RR rope to hang himself? –Are they counting how many days it takes for RR to open that red envelope they sent down marked ‘urgent’ on sac bunting?

    I like this topic because the Cubs in game decisions are a way for us to ping de facto management structure.

    • Jon

      [img]https://imgflip.com/i/838lr[/img]

    • Jon

      [img]https://i.imgflip.com/838lr.jpg[/img]

      • CubFan Paul

        Jon wins again.

      • Eternal Pessimist

        I hate myself for saying this…but nice one Jon!

    • E

      No evidence that says this FO is against sac bunting.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Um, yeah, there is: they were pretty upfront about it during the Boston years. It also came up two years ago when Sveum had Castro try to bunt in front of LaHair.

        At any rate, Jed & Theo are very well-versed in statistical analyses of what maximizes run scoring/prevention, and the negative effects of sac bunting have been known since (I think) the 1980’s.

        • DarthHater

          And Tom Tango is still a consultant for the Cubs, right?

        • E

          Actions speak louder than words. Boston never shied away from the sac bunt during Theo’s tenure there.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Boston almost never used sacrifice bunts while Theo was there. Here are the numbers:

            2003: 24 (4th last in MLB)
            2004: 12 (last in MLB)
            2005: 14 (2nd last in MLB)
            2006: 22 (3rd last in MLB)
            2007: 30 (2nd last in MLB)
            2008: 28 (3rd last in MLB)
            2009: 19 (2nd last in MLB)
            2010: 29 (2nd last in MLB)
            2011: 22 (last in MLB)

            In one of those years, they actually didn’t lay down their first bunt until June: and in an interleague with a pitcher batting!

            • E

              Theo isn’t against the sacrifice bunt…which is what I’ve been saying and you just proved it. Are you saying you now agree?

              • Patrick W.

                Wait, that’s what you get our of those numbers?

                • E

                  Yes. If Theo were against it, the number would obviously be zero. Unless…. are you or Doc saying there is a good time to use the sac bunt?

                  Also, I would like Doc to provide a source.

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    So, if one person does things less then half the times than average, he/she obviously likes it just as much as the average person? The fact that Tito’s teams were routinely sacrificed far fewer times than most other teams is strong evidence that he didn’t like to do it. (Tito’s dissing other managers like Mike Sciocia for bunting could be construed as additional evidence, too.)

                    The source are ESPN’s stats. Also, remember that those numbers don’t take into account attempted bunt hits that were called SH. For example, in 2005, 9 of the Sox’s 14 SH were by Johnny Damon. (1 of the remaining 5 was by a pitcher.) And nearly all of those were attempted base hits. They don’t’ keep track of attempted bunt hits that get called SH, but those almost certainly are a lot of the Sox SH by non-pitchers.

                    • E

                      The fact that sacrifice bunts were regularly attempted throughout the season is evidence that both manager and FO obviously weren’t completely on board with what the stats say.

                      For the record, I think the stats don’t lie. Bunts are worthless. But obviously the FO and their managers disagree.

                    • Drew7

                      Regularly used? I see 9 years of 1 bunt every, what, 8 games?

                    • Patrick W.

                      You couldn’t be more wrong. I just can’t fathom your reasoning.

                    • E

                      “You couldn’t be more wrong.”

                      Wow, how insightful. Thanks for backing that up with facts.

                      The bottom line: If this FO were against sac bunts, there wouldn’t be any sac bunts attempted. Period. End of discussion.

                    • DocPeterWimsey

                      As the numbers show, the Sox attempted to bunt far less regularly than did other teams. You asserted several times that Theo showed he was happy to bunt while he was with the Sox: but the numbers show that the Sox had among the fewest SH in MLB (even if you subtract out pitchers’ bunts) despite the fact that they were always at the top in total plate appearances (1st in three of those years, 2nd in three more of them, top 5 in all of them.)

                      Here is a simple analogy: the fact that some women are over 6 feet tall does not falsify the statement that we are a dimorphic species in which females are typically smaller than men. This is the same thing: teams that think bunting is a good idea bunt more frequently than do teams that think that bunting is a bad idea. But there will always be SH, if only because of pitchers batting and scorers calling attempted BH SH.

                    • Jason P

                      I don’t understand what is so difficult about interpreting the numbers Doc posted.

                      The Red Sox were in the bottom 5 in sac bunt attempts *9 years* in a row. Yet you *still* are trying to fit that into your misguided narrative that Theo and Jed don’t mind the bunt and hire bunt-happy managers (no pun intended).

          • E

            What I said was that the FO “never shied away from” the sac bunt, wasn’t against it. You provided statistics that proved that assertion to be true (I also provided helpful info in other spots in this thread).

            Here is a helpful analogy for you: if statistics show that if you post on a message forum, you get cancer and you believe it and say you are against it, but then let your children post on message forums….you weren’t really against it.

            The lengths some of you will go to have disagreements are astounding.

            • Patrick W.

              I see what’s going on here. You said there isn’t evidence suggesting this FO is against sacrifice bunts but left out the “in all situations at all times” which is what you meant and on that you are 100% correct. This FO is NOT against the sacrifice bunt. They are just against using as much as virtually every team ever.

              But I see your reasoning now and I agree with the supposition that there is no evidence to support the idea that this FO is against sacrifice bunts 100% of the time. I apologize for not recognizing the pedantry.

        • blublud

          And yet, they keep hiring managers who love to sac bunt.

          • DarthHater

            Right. Because their goal is to lose. Are you having trouble keeping up? ;-)

            • E

              I don’t know what the goal of the FO is, but blublud is correct. Francona seemingly had no qualms with using the sac bunt. I’m spitballin, but if Theo was against it, Francona (and now Renteria) never got that memo.

              • blublud

                Neither did Sveum.

                • E

                  Yup, tis true.

  • Picklenose

    Those numbers are pretty clear – sac bunts do reduce the probability of scoring, especially multiple runs in an inning. One factor that might be interesting to look at though, is does the possibility of a bunt change defensive positioning enough that it might make an occasional sac bunt worth trying? If you can draw first and third up, will that increase the probability of a ground ball going through?

    • Patrick W.

      Those situations would presumably be already in the numbers, right? I mean you can assume that defensive positioning doesn’t change just because the defense knows how stupid it is to sac bunt. They react to what is happening, not what they think should happen.

      • Picklenose

        Patrick, I am more asking if anyone has tried to isolate those plays/numbers. As an analogy – bases loaded, 0 or 1 out, managers move the infield in to make a play at the plate. However, when they move those fielders in, the fielders have less time to react and less ability to move laterally on a batted ball. So a sharply hit ball is more likely to get through the infield. You raise the probability of giving up a hit to increase the probability of preventing a run if the ball is hit at an infielder, since a ground out would allow the run anyway.
        To the bunt play. If a manager is expecting a bunt they are likely to move 1st and 3rd up a few steps and have 2nd and shortstop moving to cover 1st and 3rd, which might also make a grounder more likely get through for a hit. If the manager has no fear of a bunt, he is not likely to shift his defense up for it. So my question is more in line with, over the course of a season might it be worth it to bunt occasionally to draw in the infielders on the plays where you are not bunting. Although I guess a similar question might be, if you rarely bunt, might that actually give you an advantage as well, since you could lay down a bunt against an infield that is not set to defend against it.
        So the ultimate question would be, is the occasional bunt worth wasting a few outs to keep the opposing manager guessing as opposed to always playing the odds without fail?

        • Patrick W.

          “So the ultimate question would be, is the occasional bunt worth wasting a few outs to keep the opposing manager guessing as opposed to always playing the odds without fail?”

          Gotcha. I understand what you’re saying, and we saw that in the game yesterday when Castro got a hit through the drawn in infield. I think somebody else suggested maybe RR is using this strategy now to fake out defenses in the future. I find that improbable, but it’s an interesting thought. I just don’t know if the data is good enough to look backwards, but with the new defensive metrics and tracking that came out several weeks ago, I’m guessing it will be tracked closely by somebody.

          • Picklenose

            +1

  • sittingupmud

    Sorry if this has already been answered elsewhere. In the event of a successful bunt, what’s the likelihood of scoring at all? That is, instead of focusing on the number of runs a team is likely to score, what are that chances they score at least one run? What would be the chances of scoring at least one run without bunting?

    I’m really just curious. I guess it would mostly matter in late game situations.

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

      Based on run expectancy, over the course of a season’s worth of PA, you will score X more runs prior to the sac bunt.

      Based on percent of times you will score at least 1 run, you will score at least 1 run more often by sac bunting.

      What this tells us is that, over the course of a season, you are, probably, more likely to score fewer runs by sac bunting. Scoring fewer runs over the course of the season is ALWAYS a bad idea.

      • blublud

        The question is how many times does a run score with a runner on first and no outs. I willing to bet, with data, that its less than 25% of the time.

        How many times does a run score with a runner on 2nd and one out. Im willing to bet its more than 25% of the time.

        This data is manipulated. If a runner is one first and no outs, and that team goes on to score 8 runs in an inning, that effects the data of how many runs will score on “averag.” No one is suggesting sac busting in the first inning. Show me data of the likelihood of a(one) run scoring when the runner is on first with no outs and the likelyhood of a runner scoring on 2nd and one out, and I bet the latter will be higher. When you need one run, sacrifices is the way to go.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

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

          With a runner on 1st and 0 outs, a team scores a run 44.1% of the time

          With a runner on 2nd and 1 out, a team scores a run 41.8% of the time

          This also does not factor in the 70% success rate of sac bunts

          • blublud

            Cool. Now’s that good data. I have never seen these number, mostly because I never looked for them. If these number are true, maybe one day I’ll look through them, and will possibly be open to the idea of not sacrificing. But those numbers are closer then the run expectancy numbers.

            • TWC

              So you’re *almost* right then, huh?

            • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

              This is what been talked about this entire thread just turned into percentages. So now you see why giving up an out to move a player to 2nd is a bad idea?

        • Patrick W.

          44% in scenario 1, 41% in scenario two.

          [img]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Upyw125Pf8g/UV34YoxrC3I/AAAAAAAAAuM/E1WG1nhruV4/s640/Tango+2.jpg[/img]

          • Patrick W.

            Now, in the table above, as in inning 9 of yesterday’s game, the odds at 1st and 2nd and 0 outs were 64.3% and with 2nd and 3rd with 1 out would have been 69.8%. Sounds smart to sacrifice, right? Except you only have about a 30% chance of reaching that scenario, and 70% chance of not. Which means you have 70% chance of failing, and dropping your odds to score from 64.3% to 42.9%.

            • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

              Other way around Patrick, 70 success and 30 fail, but still definitely impacts the percentages

              • Patrick W.

                Yes, that’s right. Quick typing.

            • blublud

              I dont know how you came up with that. But this chart supports why you should sacrifice.

              • Patrick W.

                It supports why you should sacrifice SUCCESSFULLY. You have a 30% chance of hurting your odds of scoring. (I typed it backwards up there, sorry for the confusion)

              • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                Okay now you just doing the Blu-I-won’t-admit-I’m-Bud game in a few weeks you’ll say you were just fooling around like you did with Campana and your other crusades.

                • blublud

                  I only did that with Campana, but I stated above I could be swayed with the percentage data, but not the run expectancy data.

                  • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                    OMG facepalm smh – they both say the same thing

                    • blublud

                      The other was a link that I didnt click on, but I said maybe one day I will. In the chart posted, there are stats that support not sacrificing, and stats that support sacrificing. In know there is a fail rate, but the fact that no manager calls for a failed sacrifice, I’ll take sacrificing more times than not.

                  • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                    But I’ll give you this blu you never cry or complain when we challenge your “opinions” ;)

                    • blublud

                      Its a debate, why cry. If I was like everyone else, I wouldn’t be Blu.

  • Ron

    My problem when you take big numbers to make a point about specific events it does not always work. For instance when and who is doing the sac bunting? What is the pitcher profile what about L/R splits? I agree that sac bunting is not always the right call but if you need 1 run and are at the bottom of your order against a strike out pitcher in an unfavorable matchup? I don’t know if they have the data but lets look at First and Second noone out and the number 7 hitter is up. What are the run expectancies then? I think there may be to many variable that are not looked in those numbers. Because first and second nonone out with your 8 hitter up (with a weak bench) is different than first and second noone out and the number 3 hitter up.

    • Funn Dave

      Nobody ever said “never, ever sac bunt.” At least, I didn’t see anyone say as much. But Ricky has chosen to sac bunt in situations unlike the ones you’ve just described, and therein lies the problem.

      • Ron

        I get that and an not defending RR. But this is why I think the data is scewed. 1. Who is most likely conducting the sac bunt….Answer pitchers. Pitchers are the worst hitters on the team but they are undoubtably factored in as a hitter. What is the success rate of a sac bunt for pitcher and nonpitchers? If you through out pitchers I think it changes the success rate of the sac bunt. I am just saying sometimes numbers in aggregate do not tell the micro story of that situation. BTW I never inferred that someone did say never sac bunt.

        • Funn Dave

          Gotcha. It’s just that he’s not limiting sac bunts to pitchers; he’s also using them in situations in which a sac bunt is not warranted. BTW, you may want to look up the difference between “infer” and “imply” :P

          -BN Grammar Douche

          • Ron

            Imply: stongly suggest the truth or the existance of (something not expressly stated). “the salesman use jargon to imply his superior knowledge”…..interesting

        • DocPeterWimsey

          The fact that this does not explicitly take pitchers out of the numbers is even more damning for bunting with position players: and bunting with position players is the issue here. Remember, the expected runs scored and probability of scoring 1+ runs is summed over all batters. Basically, E[Runs | Pitcher Batting] < E[Runs | Only Batters Batting] and P[1+ Runs | Pitcher Batting] < P[1+ Runs | Only Batters Batting].

          So, the numbers presented at places like http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html present a harsher case against bunting with position players than is first apparent.

  • MightyBear

    I don’t have time to argue but I’ll just say my piece (peace) ?. The bunt in the first inning if it wasn’t for a hit was ill advised. If it was for a hit, no problem.

    The bunt by Valbuena in the 9th was the correct move. However, I think teams try to get too cute. He was there to sacrifice, not walk. Square around, bunt the ball and get the runners over. Hey and when they walk Barney to load the bases, have Bonifacio squeeze him home by bunting. Game’s tied, Cubs win in the 10th. I don’t care what the statistics are, that was the correct strategy especially against Grilli.

    • E

      “I don’t care what the statistics are, that was the correct strategy”

      [img]http://www.umnet.com/pic/diy/screensaver/1/INCOMING–12299.jpg[/img]

      • E

        [img]http://allthingsd.com/files/2012/05/incoming-1-380×285.jpg[/img]

      • E

        [img]http://imgur.com/sghU7lD[/img]

        • Patrick W.

          Nailed it.

          • E

            Yeah, I tried to post that image 2 too many times. Forget it.

      • mjhurdle

        [img]http://s28.postimg.org/ias5msnul/sgh_U7l_D.jpg[/img]

        • E

          Thank you!

    • Brocktoon

      A squeeze play with the bases loaded is almost always a terrible idea.

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

      “Hey and when they walk Barney to load the bases, have Bonifacio squeeze him home by bunting.”

      Oh…well thank God that the defense is just allowing this to happen.

  • cubs2003

    I’m curious if anyone has numbers that are more player specific. For instance, if a player has an avg of 100 obp 120, barely slugs at all, but has a 90% success rate on bunts, those numbers must change. To lump in a pitcher with the best hitters in the league doesn’t seem to make sense to me. You do know who the hitter is and the pitcher he’s facing. Maybe I’m missing something. Overall it makes sense, obviously. Someone must have done the analysis based on player stats.

  • Kycubs

    I will pistol whip the next guy who sacrifice bunts. I just got done ranting about this very issue to my dad this morning. Now math backs up my argument. Yay math again!

  • DPG313

    In the 9th inning the Cubs needed one run to tie the game…

    The numbers provided are for multiple runs.

    However, see: http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html

    Chart # 2(the chance that a run will score):
    1st and 2nd, zero out = 0.643
    2nd and 3rd, one out = 0.698

    Bunt them over.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      This was discussed in the piece.

    • Drew7

      Did you factor in the 70% success rate? If not, *don’t* bunt em over.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        That’s the part I am trying to emphasize (I even did the one line bold thing).

        • Brocktoon

          I don’t know if the numbers are readily available, but you didn’t factor in error/FC or hit rate on the bunts(I’m sure hit rates on true sac bunt attempts are absurdly low, no idea on error or failed FC rates)

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Believe those are included in both the run expectancy data and the success rate data.

            • DPG313

              Valbuena gets only gets a hit 23% of the time.

              Has a 9% chance of GIDP

              Is going to strikeout 20% of the time, now the chance of 1 run scoring is down to 0.429.

              I’ll take the sac bunt’s 70% chance of success in that situation yesterday.

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

                “Has a 9% chance of GIDP”

                Where are you getting this from? His career GIDP rate is 1.5%

                • DPG313
                  • Patrick W.

                    Well he walks 10% of the time so the GIDP is washed out by that, no?

                    • DPG313

                      I think it would be best to think like this:

                      Chances of increasing 1 run expectany or scoring a run: 23% hit + 10% walk = 33% success but 70% of lowering run expectancy. And possibly significantly with a 9% GIDP…

                      Or 70% chance of increasing 1 run expectany with a sac bunt, and only 30% chance of decreasing.

                      I’ll take the sac bunt.

                    • Drew7

                      What about when, while swinging-away, Valbuena creates an out that happens to advance the runner(s)?

                    • Patrick W.

                      “Or 70% chance of increasing 1 run expectany with a sac bunt, and only 30% chance of decreasing.”

                      I don’t know, it’s tough call. You have a 70% chance of increasing your odds by 5.5 percentage points or decreasing it by 21.4, and a 30% (Valbuena’s OBP) chance of increasing it by 33.4 percentage points.

              • Pat

                Where are you getting the 9% chance of GIDP? That would be 54 double plays per 600 PA. I don’t think anyone has ever come close to that ratio

                • Pat

                  Nevermind, wasn’t considering that most PA are bases empty

            • Brocktoon

              If that’s the case, why wouldn’t failed bunts be included, or does failed bunts only include bunt attempts that never go into play(i.e. K or putting yourself in a 2 strike hole?)

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, the success rate with a force at third are going to be lower than 30%. Remember, the success rate for SH is most heavily influence by sacrificing guys to 2nd. It is much, much easier to force a runner at 3rd on a bunt than it is to force a runner at 2nd on a bunt.

        It is also much easier to get a double play on a bunt attempt with a force on third.

        • Brocktoon

          You continue to say this with no evidence whatsoever. Success rate of getting a bunt down less than 30%? Laughable.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            70%, not 30%.

            • Brocktoon

              Well that makes a lot more sense.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                It’s one of those classic mental typos: success rate is X, failure rate is 1-X. I wrote “success” last time, so I’ll write “failure” this time (I write a lot and I hate being repetitive even when it’s necessary to repeat myself): but, whoops, I used the complement!

                I’ve been trying to find the failure rate when runners are on 1st and 2nd. However, all I can find are a few requests for that information, not actual numbers!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Here is how the math actually works. Runners at 1st and 2nd, nobody out. If we let the batter swing away, then the probability of scoring is 0.643.

      We are considering bunting. Let’s be optimists and assume that failure here will not result in a double play; let’s also assume that the failure rate of 30% applies to this situation despite the much easier force at 3rd.

      If we opt to bunt, then the probability of scoring is:

      (P[2nd & 3rd after bunt] x P[scoring with guys on 2nd & 3rd given 1 out]) + (P[1st & 2nd after bunt] x P[scoring with guys on 1st & 2nd given 1 out])

      That is (0.7 x 0.698) + (0.3 x 0.429)
      = 0.489 + 0.129
      = 0.617.

      So, opting to bunt decreases the probability of scoring.

      • candyland07

        “”Basically, the sacrifice you’re making is increasing your probability of scoring 1-2 runs at the expense of scoring 3 or more.””By SamYam @samyamshon on Aug 7 2013, 8:00a

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Even that is not entirely correct, though: you have a 70% chance of increasing your chances of scoring 1-2 runs, and a 30% chance of severely decreasing your chances of scoring 1-2 runs.

          (And, again, that doesn’t take into account the fact that failure rates on bunting with a force at third are almost certainly higher than overall failure rates simply because it’s easier to get a force at 3rd than at 2nd on a bunt.)

      • Alan Griffin

        Thank you, Doc. That equation is great. I have always been a small ball advocate. It’s probably due to the fact that I’m a Cubs fan and have seen it my entire life. Over my last few months on here, though, I’m gaining a new appreciation for advanced stats and am nauseous trying to reconcile the two worlds.

        I guess I can take comfort in the fact that there are still circumstances where it is prudent to “manufacture” a run by sac bunting and that bunting for a hit is still acceptable. I would love to find some numbers on situations other than “pitcher AB, no out, runner on 1st” and see if *any* are viable candidates for a sac bunt. Likely not, but I can hope.

        Small ball just *feels* right to me, but I also believe that stats never lie. Until I find some that support sac bunts, I guess I’m just gonna have to die a little inside each day.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          “stats never lie”

          They don’t, because one thing that often is misunderstood is that stats are simply summaries of the data. However, data (and thus stats) sometimes can reflect multiple processes other than the one of interest, and thus be misleading. My favorite one in baseball is that there is actually a weak negative correlation between winning and hitting more singles than the other team. Does that mean that hitting singles is bad?

          No, it doesn’t What it means is that if two teams get the same number of hits and walks, then then the one that gets the most extra-base hits usually wins: and that means that the one that gets the most singles loses. However, if two teams get the same number of extra-base hits and walks, then the team that hits the most singles wins. Adding singles to slugging and walks is great; but replacing doubles & HR with singles is bad.

          However, this is a case where the patterns are pretty straightforward: *attempting* to bunt lowers the probability of scoring. We just have to remember that “*attempting* to bunt” is not the same as “*successfully* bunting”: that 30% failure rate is important.

  • blublud

    The funny thing is all the FO’s in MOB have these numbers, and they don’t believe you. Neither do I.

    • blublud

      MLB not MOB

      • Drew7

        Do FO’s give bunt signs now?

        • Jon

          [img]http://theoriginalwinger.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/gladiator-thumbsdown.jpg[/img]

          • DarthHater

            [img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3760/13271952754_a369ced880_n.jpg[/img]

        • blublud

          No, but FO’s inform their managers of whats smart and dumb and supply them with data. If Managers had or believed in the data, we would never see sacrifices. This FO loves metrics. Im sure if they agreed, they would inform him to slow down on the sacrifices.

          • Jon

            Managers go rogue from time to time as well.

            • blublud

              I guess every manager in baseball is rogue then.

              • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                Yes many managers believe in their guy and what they were taught 20 years ago, and yes they are wrong.

                • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

                  Gut

              • DocPeterWimsey

                Joe Maddon and Tito Francona both have been pretty vocal about not bunting. Tito once used a sacrifice to kill a rally in a blowout!

    • Jon

      I’m taking the over now……

    • Funn Dave

      The FO doesn’t decide when to bunt. RR does. What is it that you don’t believe, exactly? The validity of the statistics, or the conclusions Brett has drawn from them? Because I don’t see how those numbers could support a different conclusion….

      • blublud

        The fact that I’m an Industrial Engineer, and that metrics and numbers are the number one factor in my jobs, though I haven’t worked as an engineer since last August. I also know that when I have an agenda, like a lot Engineers and a lot of statheads, I can take hard numbers and make them say what I want them to say without what I’m saying being a lie. This is why I dont trust a whole lot of statistic. Because most of it is agenda driven, manipulated bullhorn. Ask any politician.

        • mjhurdle

          “I can take hard numbers and make them say what I want them to say without what I’m saying being a lie.”

          I would love to see you do this and make the numbers indicate that sac bunts are somehow a good thing. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

          Or is this simply “If I agree with it, it is valid research, if not it is agenda-driven manipulations”?

          • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

            Yes I’d love to see this as well if numbers are so easily manipulated then do it.

          • blublud

            When you want data to say what you want, you just exclude a certain segment, or you rearrange the outcome. So instead of showing the likelyhood of a (one) run scoring, they show data for amount of runs scoring. Well, most sacrifices are called when a team needs one run, so how many runs will score, by chance, is irrelevant. I want to to know the likelyhood of scoring one run, because thats all I need..

        • Patrick W.

          “I can take hard numbers and make them say what I want them to say without what I’m saying being a lie.”

          I hate this kind of statement with a burning passion.

          So what? If you’re telling the truth, so what? If you are susceptible to being manipulated by statistic, go ahead don’t trust most of them. But I’m not. I’m a person with critical thinking skills and decide pretty well for myself if the statistic is giving me enough information to come to a conclusion. In this instance. YES.

        • TWC

          “I can take hard numbers and make them say what I want them to say…”

          I can, too. See:

          When BluBlud posts, there’s a 78.62% chance that he’s just being a stubborn dolt.

          • blublud

            And when TWO post, there is a chance he’s being an ignorant blasted. Add something positive to the conversation sometimes.

            • TWC

              I’m 84.62% sure you’re a bit of a lunatic, pal.

              • blublud

                False data, but I’m about 100% sure your a stupid ass. You are about the only one here I really dont like. You never add anything to the Convo but name calling. In fact, how many times have you discussed baseball here. I dont even know why you come here.

                • TWC

                  “I’m about 100% sure your a stupid ass. ”

                  Oh, irony, how I enjoy thee.

                  About two hours ago I said my peace on this topic. I’d explain to you how to scroll up and see it, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t be convinced by that data.

                • Drew7

                  I’m no Fun Dave, but…

                  When calling another person a stupid ass, shouldn’t one at least use correct grammar?

                  • blublud

                    I said stupid ass, not dumb ass.

                    • Drew7

                      Wow…

                      “Your a stupid ass”

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Sorry Blu, but as someone who does probability and stats all the time, that simply is untrue. You have to fake the data to do that.

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

      “The funny thing is all the FO’s in MOB have these numbers, and they don’t believe you. Neither do I.”

      Then why don’t we sac bunt more often? If sac bunts were soooooooo awesome, you’d expect loads of 7-8-9 hitters to be sac bunting left and right.

  • mjhurdle

    new over/under……225

    • ssckelley

      Blowing by that number. With Blu involved now this one might get to 300.

  • E

    In 2010, Darnell McDonald led the Boston Redsox (under Francona and Theo) with 12 sac bunts, good for 10th most in baseball.

  • E
  • ChrisFChi

    Aside from the occasional squeeze play, the bunt has no value in today’s game

  • ssckelley

    I gotta feeling that a fight is going to break out on here every time a bunt gets laid down now regardless if it is successful or not.

    • ChrisFChi

      Yeah, things seem like their getting ugly already.

  • E

    Here is an older, but interesting article regarding the sac bunt debate.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130509&content_id=47102766&c_id=mlb

    • Edwin

      It’s interesting, but it doesn’t offer much evidence in support of sac bunting.

      • E

        Yeah, when you have more references to “gut” and “feelings” then I think the debate is over.

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

    Chicks dig long balls but random dudes on a Cubs blog love run expectancy discussions.

    How do any of us have women.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      Good question, the “Why are you dating me?” question is one that I try not to ask my girlfriend.

      • DarthHater

        [img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_d2Tku88FSjQ/TP0iPgE2nDI/AAAAAAAAAO4/8XTd0Ovt-hY/s1600/2.gif[/img]

        • DarthHater

          Argh

          [img]https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3740/13786737215_9e2056e22e.jpg[/img]

    • Patrick W.

      I’m charming, smart, an excellent cook and she settled.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        I think the key part of that, as with any of us, is she settled

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          Nah I just just give her money to go shopping so I can piss my time away with everyone on here.

          • blublud

            I just showed her how I was only 5’9″ but wore a size 12 shoe. Hook, Line and sinker.

            • DarthHater

              Wait, you’re related to Bob McAdoo and are only 5’9″?

              • blublud

                Yes, my grandmother, a McAdoo, is 6 ft tall. My Mother, a McAdoo, is 5 ft 10. My dad is 5 ft 9, and I’m built exactly like him, from shape, to height, size, walk, talk and everything. He cursed me.

              • blublud

                But I did get the big feet and big hands.

            • Patrick W.

              What, is she a shoe/mitten salesperson?

              • DarthHater

                heh

    • ssckelley

      Dave, get him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • E

      I chalk it up to the fact that my wife is almost legally blind.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      “How do any of us have women.”

      My wife is an ecologist: statistics are the only part of baseball that she thinks are remotely interesting!

  • candyland07

    The ghost of Jesse “Crab” Burnett is laughing ,

  • Rebuilding

    Thanks for this post, Brett. It presents the case perfectly, and is therefore catnip to Hawk Harrelson, Joe Morgan and a dwindling contingent of baseball fans. I’ve been trying to tell my more casual fan friends for years that a successful sac bunt is actually worse than if you wouldn’t have tried it at all

  • hootie mcboob

    Brett,

    nice article. It’s amazing that anyone calls for sac bunts.

    But, you forgot the most important problem:

    They are boring.

  • E

    In other news, it sure looks like it will be Blackhawks vs. Blues in the first round of the playoffs…

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