FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. don’t you have to take into account the volatility surrounding that expected run outcome? if the batter is a good bunter and can almost certainly advance the runner while also possessing an ability to bunt for a hit, it seems to me that the risk-adjusted run expectancy would be favorable to bunting in many situations. of course, this assumes the hitter in question isn’t a good overall hitter, in which case bunting is seldom a “smart” decision. but you have to adjust for risk.

    Comment by hildebeast21 — April 22, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  2. How about travis hafner bunting to end the game in Toronto yesterday? Also defensible in my mind, even if it didn’t work out.

    Comment by Jason H — April 22, 2013 @ 3:21 pm

  3. I think it would be interesting to look at whether it’s better for Escobar to bunt than to hit behind the runner. What’s the range of outcomes for the latter? Does he get on base/drive in the run often enough hitting to the right side to balance out with the hits he gets on bunts?

    A big part of the typical traditional middle infield #2 hitter’s job is hitting to the right side when asked, so I’m a little surprised not to see it here.

    Comment by Tim — April 22, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

  4. Your defense of Escobar’s bunt includes the justification that Escobar is a good bunter and is often able to reach first successfully on a bunt. That occurs, of course, when the defense isn’t looking for a bunt. In this case, however, they surely were looking for the bunt — as you implied — by the fact that he was unsuccessful on the first pitch and then Napoli and the pitcher conferred about his likelihood to bunt.

    This surely reduced the likelihood that he would reach base successfully on a bunt as the defense was now looking for it and prepared to defend it. It’s unlikely, therefore, that his likelihood of reaching first successfully was a factor at all.

    Comment by chuckb — April 22, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

  5. Additionally, the question of whether or not Escobar should have been asked to bunt in that situation ignored the question of whether or not the 2-hole hitter should have been asked to bunt in that situation. If a team’s #2 hitter can’t be entrusted to hit, he shouldn’t be hitting #2. Maybe Escobar should have been asked to bunt, but the person hitting 2nd in any major league batting order should not have been.

    Comment by chuckb — April 22, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

  6. Isn’t it true that a successful sacrifice bunt always decreases the run expectancy of the inning (except for maybe a squeeze)? But remember, you’re not playing for runs in this case, you’re playing for a single run. So shouldn’t we be looking at the change in probability of scoring at least one run instead of the change in probability of scoring runs?

    Comment by David — April 22, 2013 @ 5:46 pm

  7. To decide weather the sac bunt is a good outcome, you can’t just look at the difference in WPA or RE24, before and after the bunt.
    you have to add in the probability that the bunt could have gone for a hit and
    any other possibilities.
    That total should determine the decision to sac bunt.

    Comment by rubeus — April 22, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

  8. Great article Matt!

    Too often people blindly apply a tool based on large aggregates (like run expectancy) to a specific outcome and don’t adjust accordingly – you detailed these variables out well.

    The other part of run expectancy which David commented on above is the specific individual outcomes. Suppose for example a bunt takes the overall run expectancy down, but increases the chances of scoring 1 run (but decreases the chance of multiple runs) – if it’s the 9th inning (or late in the game) that may be a tradeoff that you gladly take.

    I’m not familiar with how WPA and RE/24 are calculated so maybe they take into account the individual possible outcomes, but if they are just looking at the old and new run expectancies, then it could be misleading.

    Comment by Hank — April 22, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

  9. What is the chance of a sac bunt resulted in no outs- ie. sac bunt that ends up in a hit or the bunter reaching on an error? For sac bunts done by position players? Is it 5%, 20%, 40%?
    Is it a good play to ‘sac bunt for a hit’- to try and lay down a perfect bunt down the foul line. If you bunt it foul it’s just a foul(obviously don’t do it on a 2 strike count) and if you put in play but can’t get the hit you at least advance the runner.

    Comment by Maverick Squad — April 22, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

  10. “That occurs, of course, when the defense isn’t looking for a bunt.”

    This is not true. Good bunters with speed (as Escobar is) reach base even when the defense is paying attention to the bunt. It definitely reduces the likelihood, but all you have to do is watch the play in question to see that it’s possible to bunt for a hit even if the defense is ready for the bunt.

    This also doesn’t take into account the possibility of an error. Again, the play in question shows that, given Escobar’s specific skills, there is a non-zero chance that an error can occur, allowing multiple bases.

    Comment by Ben Hall — April 22, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

  11. Actually, though this is still the way most managers fill out their lineups, Tom Tango and MGL showed in The Book that the #2 hitter should be one of the team’s best three hitters. Though the resulting inefficiency is minor, there’s no question that having a relatively poor hitter hit second is less than ideal.

    Comment by Ben Hall — April 22, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

  12. No, I think that’s missing the point of the article. WPA and RE24 are based on league averages. Why base your decision on league averages when you know the relative quality of the pitcher on the mound and the hitter at the plate?

    Comment by Bill — April 23, 2013 @ 5:24 am

  13. It was only the 6th inning. Run expectancy, as opposed to expectancy of scoring just one run, was very relevant.
    I am still against both of the bunt decisions, but reading Matt’s analysis was both enjoyable and enlightening.

    Comment by Baltar — April 23, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

  14. I suppose it would be possible for the manager to have a palm pilot with an app to make these decisions, but I’m willing to bet neither manager thought it out that deeply.

    Comment by Baltar — April 23, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

  15. The likelihood of no out on the bunt (or in the PA after 2 strikes) is probably small compared to the likelihood of a double play, especially with the runner on 1st.

    Comment by Baltar — April 23, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

  16. Hey man, can I get my Palm Pilot back? You can have this iPad you clearly misplaced.

    Comment by 1998 — April 29, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

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