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  1. From what I saw, I think the lack of defense does shift the balance in favor of bunting much more often. Bunt plays generally involve split-second timing, and although it’s generally a pretty easy play for a big leaguer, the arms and fielding abilities of college athletes on the whole make it much easier for something to get screwed up. The throw bounces or is a little bit off the bag, and the player has a single/reaches on an error. It seemed like the lesser defensive abilities didn’t show up as much on non-bunt plays, as with ground balls the player usually has some time to steady themselves and step toward first base and make a routine throw, and fly balls are pretty easy to get right assuming they’re hit somewhere around an outfielder. I guess what I’m saying is the difference between bunt BABIP (and the chances of reaching on an error) from college to the big leagues seems to be much bigger than the difference in overall BABIP.

    Comment by beat_la_25 — July 1, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

  2. Not only that, but there’s also a bigger disparity between quality of hitters in college. In MLB, even the worst hitters (more or less) are able to hit pretty decently. You’re better off not wasting an out and trying for a single. In college, an ace pitcher is more dominant than in the pro’s, and a bad hitter is much worse than a bad MLBer. So I would expect that there are more situations in college where the batter is damn near a guaranteed out.

    Comment by vivalajeter — July 2, 2011 @ 12:12 am

  3. From what I saw, the number pop ups and K’s with men on base were numerous.

    The pitching was so far ahead of the hitting that I nearly had tears of joy.

    When teams did swing awat, they were rarely successful. The story of the series was a lack of offense and poor BA with RISP. The pop ups and K’s with men on had to be record setting if they keep records for such things.

    How many times did teams bring in relievers that got out of “impossible jams”?

    Comment by CircleChange11 — July 2, 2011 @ 1:50 am

  4. Your analysis also helps to elucidate why bunting probably made sense during the dead-ball era, with the small gloves and (presumably) fielders not as good as those today.

    Comment by John DiFool — July 2, 2011 @ 9:57 am

  5. What everyone fails to recognize about sac bunts is that when the next batter is walked it makes the bunt a wasted AB (since runner can also advance from 1st to 2nd on a walk).

    Also if a runner scores off a single and the next batter hits a homer, double or even a single it makes the sac bunt a waste because the runner would have scored anyway.

    Granted I’m overlooking a possible downside to not bunting … a ground ball could easily become a double play. But generally I’d be willing to bet that you lose more base runners due to sac bunts, then double plays.

    Comment by Wasted At Bats — July 2, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  6. I love how you all have a hypothesis that “small ball” is wrong. The article starts with that premise that it’s wrong based on the results of two baseball games. That is laughable. We all know that bunting is based on the situation and makeup of a team. You get a leadoff double late in a tie game, unless, you have the heart of the order coming up, You bunt. Why? Because you can take the lead w/ an out and the infield will play in and that raises BA by 100 points. Other times you may do it, is if you have a great pitcher on the mound and expect a low scoring game. There is no one way to play baseball, The steroid era is over, so, speed and “small ball” are back in style. There is always a risk of wasting an out and no strategy is fool proof, but, in many situations it is the best way to win a ball game. Two Games does not prove anything…Did you analyze how bunting got them to this game? For some people these advanced stats are like ideology and its as if they never played baseball. They are useful,but, not omnipotent.

    Comment by Chris — July 2, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

  7. We really need to look at who is bunting. If it’s the 8 or 9 hitters and the pitcher wants to walk the next guy to face a better hitter in a force out situation, I think the offense will take that.

    There were very few extra base hits and even fewer homers, which means it’s going to take 2 hits to score that guy from first. So few teams were getting those hits especially from the bottom.

    So many of the hits were ground balls that just got through the IF.

    The Florida-Carolina game was a perfect example. Bases loaded no outs, and they couldn’t get the ball out of the IF.

    If the offences were driving the ball, it’d be completely different.

    I’m not sure I have the interest to compile the stats, but the BABIP and SLG for all teams had to be very low.

    Carolina essentially won a game on a ground ball that was 1 inch over Florida pitcher’s glove and then a throwing error. The series was completely void of batters driving the ball. It was stunning.

    I might check and see waht the overall BA with runners on was. My guess is that it is far lower than the ML average, which is what we’re using for reference. I’d also bet that the run values for walks and singles is lower than ML averages as well.

    I grew up in the Gorilla Ball era, and this CWS was like going from the steroid era to the dead ball/bat era.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — July 2, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  8. Here’s how the overall stats compare …

    STAT: ’11 CWS / ’08-’10 MLB Seasons (50% ’10, 25% ’09, 25% ’08)

    BA – .240/.260
    OBP – .307/.329
    SLG – .315/.410
    OPS – .622/.739
    BB – 6.5/6.6
    K – 15.9/13.9
    R – 7.2/9.0
    2B – 2.3/3.6
    3B – 0.5/0.4
    HR – 0.6/2.0

    Seriously, looking at the decreased doubles and home runs in the CWS, combined with the overall lower BA it’s pretty obvious that teams were playing with the mindset that they aren’t going to get 2-3 singles in an inning to plate a run … and they aren’t counting on doubles and homers (especially from the bottom of the order).

    The Runs per game isn’t all that bad considering. Much like MLB, that number is higher due to 8-3 type games. My guess is there aren’t many bunts in these type of games in the CWS either.

    For a comparison, Yuneisky Betancourt is batting .242 with a .352 SLG … both marks better than the CWS average. YB’s value with the bat is -11.7 runs.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — July 2, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  9. The only problem with these numbers are that the CWS numbers are depressed by all the bunting.

    Comment by Jeff — July 4, 2011 @ 5:06 am

  10. Bunts for singles are counted the same as singles, and ought to be: the defense has to play them in the same way and require athleticism and skill to execute, so including them in any statistical comparison is absolutely valid.

    Sacrifice bunts are not counted in any of the statistics CircleChange11 listed there, so no, there would be no depression of the stats by all the bunting.

    To me what’s of relevance is exactly the stats listed here: when, relative to ‘normal’ baseball conditions, offence can’t achieve, unorthodox, small ball strategies are more effective. While anecdotal observations of more pop-ups, K’s, and GIDPs are interesting, quantifying the benefits to these strategies can be achieved by looking at the probability of scoring in any situation (say, with a runner on first and nobody out), and comparing that probability with that of an advanced runner at the cost of an out (say if the runner from first is advanced on a SAC).

    If the historical data suggests that the probability of scoring from first with nobody out, combined with the combined probabilities of all the successive batters coming to the plate that inning is less than the probability of a runner scoring from second with one out, again combined with the total probabilities of all the successive batters coming to the plate that inning, then bunting makes sense. Otherwise it doesn’t. Of course, these probabilities at the CWS are going to be vastly different than at the MLB level for a variety of reasons, generally related to the broader talent spectrum at the College level: some pitchers are more dominant than others, some can field better, some batters are more dominant than others, some infields are more capable of turning the double play than others. This is contrast to the Show, where a more consistent skillset prevails.

    Interesting article, thanks.

    Comment by TP Baseball — July 4, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  11. I assume that most of the guys sac bunting are the weaker hitters. The data presented showed that nearly all of the sac bunts were successful in their intended purpose. So, the manager moved a runner with a batter that was pretty much assumed to be an out anyway, and avoided a possible rally killing double play.

    The overall batting average in the CWS was .240. I consider it a reasonable assumption that the batters sac bunting are at the lower end of that spectrum. So I don’t view it as being much different than having a pitcher bunt in MLB.

    It was eye opening to me just how poor some of the batters were at the bottom of some of these lineups were.

    I looked at the regular season trends in college baseball. The new bat rules resulted in the lowest BA and highest fielding pct since 1975 (lowest HR and run scoring too).

    We’ve played in some wood bat tournaments and the most glaring thing to me were the amount of plays 3B and SS were making to their left. The 2-hop rockets that normally go for singles were now 3-hop routine plays. You could also have your OF play 20 feet closer and dare a batter to drive it over their heads, while taking away bloop singles.

    Also, if you have a catcher that can take away the running game, you essentially force a team to get 3 singles to score a run. Those odds are significantly in the defense’s favor. Stolen bases, advancing on passed balls, wild pitches, or balls blocked in the dirt (and even sac bunts) are often huge defensive weapons. In that regard it’s not much different than youth travel baseball.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — July 4, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  12. Do you really want to be wasting outs when you are having a tough enough time hitting anyway?

    With the way the defense was shifting in, you would think maybe a batter would have tried a butcher boy play, but I don’t recall seeing a single one. It would certainly help keep the defense honest on their charging in.

    Also, there was more than one time throughout the tourney (regionals and supers included) when the managers bunted with 3, 4, or 5 hitters. It isn’t simply a bottom of the order phenomenon. Basically, if the leadoff man got aboard, they were bunting next regardless of where they were in the lineup.

    Comment by EDogg1438 — July 5, 2011 @ 11:23 pm

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