clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

So...When DO You Bunt?

I hate the sacrifice bunt. If you've been around AN for any length of time, no doubt, you have heard this before. I think there is nothing worse than watching a major league player square to bunt, and give up an out to move a runner; very few things in baseball frustrate me more. An out is the most precious commodity in baseball; the whole game is controlled by a mere 27. This is especially true in the case of a team like the A's (read: bad offense), who can ill afford to waste any outs at the plate.

Monday's game had the perfect example of a traditional bunting situation. With the A's trailing by one run, Andy LaRoche led off the ninth inning with a double, and AN was instantly divided. Traditional baseball wisdom calls for an automatic bunt--regardless of the player at the plate--while everything we have been taught in the Moneyball generation says the opposite. It's a tough stand to take sometimes, especially since the batter (Coco Crisp) didn't advance the runner, and the inning should have ended with the A's still down a run (the A's tied the game on an error).

You are down one run on the road. You get a lead-off double. What do you do? And would you always make the same decision?

I thought Monday's no-bunt decision was the only call to make in that situation, and I was pleasantly surprised that Geren made it; he has proved to be a fan of the sacrifice bunt in the past. The A's were on the road; they had the bottom of the ninth inning to play, and one of their best hitters at the plate. Taking the bat out of Coco's hands, thus putting all of the pressure on Daric Barton to make fly-ball contact wasn't the right decision. As it was, Coco nearly doubled down the line, which would have tied the game and put the winning run on second base; only a great play prevented that outcome. Crisp, Barton, and Jackson all had a chance to single in the run in or hit the ball somewhere where a fielder could make an error. A sacrifice bunt is just that; it's handing an out to the other team, which they can record with little to no defensive effort involved.

It has been proven over and over again that while there is a slight advantage that the team will score that single run with a sacrifice bunt, overall, giving away outs actually decreases the overall runs that a team will score. Giving up the out with a sacrifice, you reduce the number of total runs scored by roughly a run every other time it's used.  Practical application? A team that tries to sacrifice a hundred times over the course of a season in an attempt to get those single runs across the plate has just cost itself about fifty runs overall.

We look at the overall W/L percentage, which is directly tied into how many overall runs your team scores. Isn't the goal of baseball to score runs? Many runs? Knowing that the more runs you score, the more games you will win? Knowing that although you may lose one game 1-0, you may win a future game 10-9 because your ultimate goal is to score as many runs as possible? And let's not forget; the sac bunt doesn't even always work. It costs us an out when it does work, but when it doesn't, it's literally a wasted at-bat.

That's not to say that the sacrifice bunt isn't alluring in a 1-0 game. Depending on the hitter at the plate; for example, if his batting average looks like a pitcher's, I probably would have bunted. I would have bunted Pennnington, or if we happened to have a very talented bunter who was also a fast runner,  I would roll the dice for a bunt base hit. But it would be far from an automatic call, and that one run would need to win the game.

The A's have bunted in far less justifiable situations in the past. But even if they had lost Monday's game, I stand by the decision to let Coco swing away. And I hope that trend continues this season; the A's will need each and every one of their precious outs.

What do you think?

Current Series

Tigers lead the series 1-0

Thu 04/14 WP: Phil Coke (1 - 2)
SV: Jose Valverde
LP: Tyson Ross (1 - 1)
0 - 3 loss

Detroit Tigers
@ Oakland Athletics

Friday, Apr 15, 2011, 7:05 PM PDT
Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

Rick Porcello vs Brandon McCarthy

Mostly cloudy. Winds blowing out to right field at 5-15 m.p.h. Game time temperature around 65.

Complete Coverage >

Sat 04/16 6:05 PM PDT
Sun 04/17 1:05 PM PDT