Should Sluggers Ever Bunt?

It is officially February when baseball news is reduced to vague rumors about teams from which Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson may or may not be considering one-year offers. Well, that and that Mark Teixeira saying he might bunt to beat the shift this season. Hoo boy.

There is something of interest in the Teixeira report, though. Sure, we do not know whether he is actually going to do it or not. Remember, this is the time of year when players say things like “I’m going to steal 20 bags this year” even if they have never stolen more than 10 in any season. Still, it is not a crazy idea. While sabermetric writing on the internet went through a phase of arguing that bunts are counterproductive to scoring and winning, research has progressed to show that bunts are not as bad as all that. In certain situations, they can be a good idea in terms of getting the win in a close game or simply “keeping the fielders honest” (also known as “game theory,” a term I am pretty sure Bruce Bochy uses frequently).

But what about power hitter like Teixeira? Isn’t bunting always a bad idea for them? To answer this properly would require a great deal of complex thinking and programming. For now, let’s take a simple approach by looking at some data from 2011 to see whether Teixeira is simply blowing smoke or making sense.

One approach would be to look at different situations in which bunts might be advisable or not advisable for particular hitters, and that is obviously the way that the hitter and his team should approach it. However, I want to take a more general, introductory approach to looking at the productivity of bunts by sluggers in general. It is important to keep in mind that many the background assumptions regarding good bunting situations, as I will briefly mention again at the end.

I have posted seasonal reviews of bunting in the past, but those were primarily focused on the managerial-strategic value of particular bunts, so I used Win Probability Added in those cases. My intent here is different. I want to see how a particular subclass of hitters did when bunting in 2011. I will use RE24, or the average change in run expectancy on bunts. Without getting into a long-winded explanation of RE24, I will simply recommend this entry on linear weights) from the Sabermetric Library.

In short, based on the expected runs scored by the end of the inning for each of the 24 base/out states, RE24 measures the change in run expectancy for each plate appearance — that is, the base/outs state’s run expectancy at the beginning of the plate appearance, after the plate appearance, and including any runs scored. This is also the empirical basis for commonly used metrics such as offensive linear weights (the basis for wOBA). The average RE24 of an event is its “linear weight,” e.g., the average RE24 of a home run is usually around 1.4 runs in modern baseball. Like WPA, RE24 helps us getting a better perspective on particular bunts than by simply repeating “making outs is bad.”

Let’s check the database (with my iffy SQL skills in mind) to see what some different kinds of bunts were worth in 2011. (Ideally, yes, I would use multiple years of data and make other adjustments, but I am trying to keep this simple for the purposes of this post.)

The average run value of a bunt in 2011 was -.0571 runs, or less than one-tenth of a run worse than the average plate appearance. That includes all bunts, not just sacrifices, and also includes pitchers bunting. (The average value of a sacrifice bunt in 2011 was -0.1153.)

Let’s narrow things down to something closer to Teixeira’s actual population. For non-pitchers, the average bunt in 2011 was worth -.0083 runs. (The average sacrifice bunt by non-pitchers in 2011 was worth -.0890 runs.) You may have noticed (without me doing a separate query) that the average value of a pitcher bunt is lower than that of non-pitcher bunts. Does this mean that pitchers are bunted too often or in the wrong situations in 2011? Well, maybe, but not necessarily. While pitchers probably are bunting in situations that are less bunt-friendly compared to the average, keep in mind that the vast majority pitchers are far, far, worse than non-pitchers when hitting, so bunting is acceptable and even advisable for pitchers in a wider variety of situations than it is for non-pitchers.

That digression aside, what about power hitters bunting in 2011?

[In case I did not make is clear before, I am not doing this the “best” way. Ideally, I would have the probabilities (estimated from true talent in 2011) for each individual hitter’s potential events (strikeout, ground out, walk, single, home run, etc.) for each batter to compare those to the change that came from bunting in those situations. More simply, one might at least want a sub-Marcel true-talent wOBA estimation to compare the average expected change in run expectancy for each plate appearance compared to a bunt. Moreover, multiple years of data would be better, too. All of that is simply to acknowledge that what I am doing — using observed performance from one season of data — is obviously limited. However, I think it is interesting at the very least as a spur to further work in this area.]

What I did was simply to look at the average run-value of bunts for two groups of non-pitchers in 2011: those who had an isolated power of .200 or greater, and everyone else. I limited the query to hitters with at least 300 plate appearances in 2011. (Note that the earlier queries did not set plate appearance minimums, so these values are not going to add up to those given earlier).

The sluggers’ (those with an observed ISO of .200 or greater in 2011) average bunt was worth +.0376 runs. The sample was only 102 bunts, as one might expect.

(As an aside, I realize that .200 is an arbitrary figure. A .180 ISO is still good power and would have made the sample larger, but on the other hand .200 and better reflects Teixeira’s population of power hitters.)

How about the non-sluggers, those non-pitchers with 300 or more plate appearances in 2011 and an ISO under .200? They bunted 1476 times according to my query, with an average run value of -.0023.

Does this mean that the sluggers are better bunters? Should they be bunting more often? To the first question I would say that I do not know, but I seriously doubt it. As for whether they should be bunting more often, that would require a more work. This is where the previously-mentioned “background assumptions” come into play. Sample size aside, and without looking at individual plays, I think it is fair to assume that the typical “slugger bunt” comes as more of a surprise than the non-slugger bunts, and that teams were playing back or had a shift on for the power-hitter.

That is not to say that teams should not continue to shift or play back — after all, it was just 102 bunts, and while it might be frustrating to have a power hitter reach on a surprise bunt once or twice a season, it beats playing in and/or without a shift and giving up several more doubles.

Like many other fans, in the past I have wondered why more power hitters do not try to bunt to the opposite field more often to beat the shift. And, of course, like so many others, I needed to be reminded that if it was that easy, they probably would. I would imagine that Mark Teixeira is not the only one of his homer-heavy peers who has not bunted since high school. Moreover, they probably are not going to be able to do it often enough to get teams to play in or give up the shift.

However, while one might chuckle at the idea of Teixeira being a “$180 million bunter,” our little foray into recent data shows that whether or not having a slugger lay down a bunt now and then is good from a game-theoretical perspective, it can actually help teams score runs.




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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


81 Responses to “Should Sluggers Ever Bunt?”

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  1. McCmann_Aqua Hoss says:

    Do sluggers even bunt?

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  2. McCmann_AquaHoss says:

    man man man man…

    McCmann: Do sluggers even bunt?
    AquaHoss: Is the pope catholic?

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  3. C note says:

    I remember on year when in Griffey’s 1st AB of the season he laid a perfect bunt down for a single, it was so unexpected he could’ve walked all the way to first–so yes, to keep them on their toes.

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  4. ImKeithHernandez says:

    Carlos Delgado used to do this with the Mets. I definitely remember him getting at least a few cheap singles out of it.

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  5. Jason says:

    I think you are going about this the wrong way. The question is really with what frequency would Teixeira need to get a bunt hit in order to make bunting worthwhile for him? Teixeira’s purpose is to beat the shift that robs him of many hits while batting left handed. If he gets bunt singles 80% of the time he attempts it would it be worth it? He should bunt if his success rate results in wOBA greater than his wOBA hitting against the shift. This should be easy for you to calculate.

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    • Jason says:

      Note that your linear weights for the average bunt aren’t really meaningful in this context. Most bunts do not result in a hit. Teixiera’s thinking is that most of his bunts against the shift will result in a hit. He is not ever going to bunt batting right handed. He is suggestion is to strictly bunt against the shift in order to get a hit.

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      • JDanger says:

        I like the premise of this article a lot, but I feel like it should focus exclusively on power-hitting LHB in bases-empty situations– when the shift is most likely on. And I’d increase the sample size to beyond 2011. I may take a stab at it.

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      • swyck says:

        Your missing an additional point. It’s not that Tex would be bunting just to get some cheap hits, though that is a positive and expected benefit, it’s that he’s trying to punish the defense for playing the shift against him and convince them to not use it as often. So the benefit should also be weighed by any improvement when he’s not bunting – caused by the D not using the shift when they could, or because they may be watching for the bunt a bit more then they normally would.

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      • optimalben says:

        I’d be interested in seeing whether the frequency of bunts in recent games influences a “slugger”‘s production in the present game, i.e., does bunting have an “intertemporal externality” conferred on the player as defenses become less inclined to shift?

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Yes. This is the correct analysis. I don’t think Teixeira is suggesting he’d sacrifice bunt, and it would undoubtedly be stupid for him to do so, so I’m not sure why Klassen is including those in the numbers in his analysis.

      If Teixeira improves his bunting skills such that. Teixeira has a career .377 wOBA as a LHB. We can assume that its even worse than that when the shift is on (i.e., with no one in scoring position). The wOBA value of a base hit is about .890. A 42% bunt success rate would result in a .374 wOBA, which would be about break-even. If he can improve his bunting skills and choose his attempts carefully such that he can succeed more than 42% of the time, it’s smart.

      There’s a ton of flaws in this analysis, and the numbers are very rough, but its the right approach to this question.

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      • Jason says:

        Thanks for looking up the numbers. At a glance, 42% seems within the realm of possibility.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Don’t assume that a ~42% success rate is as easy as it sounds. The leagewide batting average on bunts the last 3 years has been: .392, .389, .375.

        Of course, your “average bunter” is very different than Teixeira. Who a) would be much slower, but b) would have a massive benefit in the fact that he’d only attempt bunts when the 3rd basemen wasn’t in a position to make a play on the ball.

        There’s obviously a ton of variables here. Another one is that the error rate on bunts is pretty high, so he doesn’t necessarily need to be credited with a hit to get on base.

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      • MikeS says:

        Also, if it makes other teams shift less then he improves his wOBA when not bunting. The question isn’t should he bunt, the question is how much and how well does he need to bunt to keep the defense honest and abandon the shift. This question has too many variables including the opposing manager and fluctuation throughout the season to be answerable.

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    • Thanks for the comment

      You are right about the :correct” way, which is why I put a paragraph in brackets roughly to this effect in the post. That is something I could do given more time and energy, but not in the space of a morning (at least not to my satisfaction).

      However, my post is not contrary to that, but simply gets its inspiration (at too great of a length) from the fact that, empirically, power hitters’ bunts actually were more “productive” from the standpoints of linear weights than other hitters, which supports a more general point about it being a decent strategy from time to time.

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      • Jason says:

        Cheers.

        I think my suggestion is actually much easier to calculate and directly addresses your question.

        For any individual hitter the question of whether to bunt or not is solely a function of how well that hitter produces when bunting versus how well that hitter produces when bunting. What the rest of the league does when hitting and bunting is irrelevant.

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      • bstar says:

        It wasn’t clear from your study whether these bunts from ‘nonsluggers’ included sacrifice bunt attempts or not. Obviously, power hitters are rarely called on to sac bunt. So the nonsluggers would have a higher percentage of sac bunt attempts, which would make their bunting look less valuable, wouldn’t it?

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  6. Waterloo says:

    Wouldn’t it be more useful to figure out what success rate at bunting Texeiria would require to make it a good decision based on the various possible game states? Armed with that information, we can then decide if he should add bunting to his repertoire, and if he does add it, what success rate he needs. As a rough guide,

    Instead, what you have done is run an amalgamation of a bunch of bunting stats that bear no resemblance to the question that was asked, should Texeira bunt to neuter the shift. I doubt that you have even 5 incidents of a lefty bunting against a pull shift in your sample, so I don’t think you really answered the question you posed.

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  7. designated quitter says:

    You lost me at ‘a great deal of complex thinking and programming.’ However, I think the answer is ‘yes, occasionally, if it turns out that they’re good at it.’ Or, put another way, ‘not never.’ It probably would statistically make sense when a baserunner is needed more than an RBI- bases empty, 2 run deficit. With men on base, teams tend to abandon shifts, diminshing the safe landing area for bunts.

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  8. Baseball Bob says:

    Of course, in general the issue is: how likely is he to get a single (Teixeira was not talking about sac bunts!)? If he can get his bunting skills to where he gets a single 75-80% of the time, there are probably situations (leading off an inning?) where he should do it every time they shift on him. Because they would HAVE to stop shifting, which would improve his overall BA and OBP, in that situation. But if it is going to be successful, say, 1/3 of the time, it probably is a mistake.

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    • This isn’t even correct. Unless by successful you mean by not making an out. Just because he bunts, it does not mean that the at bat is over. Laying a bunt foul, or even missing it entirely (though not obviously intentionally) may help achieve his desire of correcting the shift.

      With a spring training of practice, I am sure he could achieve a 50% OBP rate in bunting, if the opposing team did not come off the shift. In a lineup as power-filled as the Yankees, he should probably bunt to his heart’s content.

      Jim Edmonds is the guy I think of as an example of someone who used bunting to shift the infield defense back to a standard alignment.

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  9. West says:

    Why don’t runners steal third or even home more often with the shift? I remember being at a game with Jim Thome batting and Scott Podsednik had a lead half way between 3rd and home.

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  10. Jason says:

    I remember a really snarky FanGraphs article mocking Josh Hamilton for bunting during the ALDS last Fall. The issue that many of us are raising here (that the pertinent issue is his success rate bunting against the shift) was also pointed out then. Despite the snark, Hamilton may very well have been correct (as may Teixeira).

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  11. This Guy says:

    Alright, a nice article about run values!

    /Control F “count”
    /0 results (in article).

    K

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  12. dannux says:

    No offense…but this isn’t very thorough analysis. As some have noted, you aren’t taking into account that

    a. Teix is going to be MUCH more successful bunting than an average slugger, because he will be bunting to a non-existent third baseman.

    and

    b. Every player’s batting average on bunts basically doubles in non-sacrifice situations, a fact that you aren’t taking into account at all.

    John Dewan covers bunting stats all the time in his emails, and basically he argues that nearly everyone should bunt for hits more than they do. Last year overall, players batted .436 when they bunted in a non-sacrifice situations. If they got the bunt down the 3rd base line, they bat .720. But almost none of those players are bunting against a shift. Pretty much, if Teix managed to get the bunt down the 3rd base line when there is no one at 3rd, he would nearly bat 1.000. If half the time he failed and bunted back to the pitcher, that is still a tremendous rate of getting on base. If he bunted 10 times in April and reached 5 times, I bet half the teams would just stop using the pronounced shift. He’s not Barry Bonds. You can’t allow him to reach at a .500 clip. Or even a .450 clip.

    Now, this doesn’t count foul balls. If he hits the ball foul on some bunt attempts that could put him in some bad counts. But his stats with the bases empty as a lefty the past two years were horrendous. If he was just an average or even a slightly below average bunter his OPS in such situations would almost definitely go up .100 points when he bunted. He should bunt practically every time they shift on him. This is a no-brainer.

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    • Thanks for the comment. Just because I didn’t mention these things in detail, doesn’t mean they aren’t in there implicitly — the point that sluggers probably have more success (going off of the 2011 data) than others because fielders are shifted and playing back, for example, is precisely this point.

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      • dannux says:

        OK, that’s fair. But it is extremely important to note that the majority of bunts (by sluggers or non-sluggers) are sacrifice bunts, and the batter has no intention of reaching base at all. Even speedsters don’t reach base that often when they are sacrificing. This drastically drives down the run value of a bunt in that situation.

        If a player’s average doubles when they are trying to bunt for a hit, then that can’t just be implicit in the analysis. It is probably the most important fact to consider. The second most important fact to consider is that when the shift is on, a bunting player’s average should increase by MORE than double.

        Only after those two facts are considered should we start to discuss things like sluggers vs. non-sluggers. Don’t you think?

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      • Let me get this right: You’re saying that you realize Prince Fielder isn’t really a better bunter than Michael Bourn? ; )

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    • fothead says:

      Yes but I would think those numbers are misleading as most hitters who try to bunt for a hit have the speed to beat out a well fielded and thrown ball. Plus those players tend to work on their bunting skills to exploit their skill set.

      Now as a Yankee fan (and fantasy owner), watching the majority of Tex’s AB’s the last few years, I always wondered why he didn’t think like this sooner. Even if he can get 1 out of 3 down the 3B line, It’ll be enough to swing the shift over a bit. Never mind singles, he may get a few cheap doubles like that. The shift is so exaggerated that the 3B is playing where the SS would play for a lefty pull hitter. As a L in 2011 when pulling the ball he only has a .224 BABIP despite a 21% LD. He’s a .280-ish hitter if he can even vaguely learn to get that bunt down.

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      I agree with everything you said, but where’d you get the numbers? According to Fangraphs stats, the batting average on bunts was .392 last year. This doesn’t include sacrifices because those aren’t scored as AB’s.
      link

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      • Yirmiyahu does it include strikeouts/foul-outs on bunt attempts?

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      • dannux says:

        John Dewan has a stat of the week email and he posts the bunt stats every year. I think the difference from the Fangraphs numbers probably comes from when players bunt in sacrifice situations and fail to advance the runner. If they get the out at second or third then it counts as an AB and an out. The Dewan stats are for when people bunt without a runner on 1st or second.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        dannux, that could be. So the inclusion of failed sac bunts pushes the batting average down from .436 to .392. That seems reasonable. But, still, I think we may all be underestimating how easy it is to execute a decent bunt.

        The guys for whom bunting is part of their game have been practicing it for years. I get that Teixeira won’t have to leg it out if there’s no 3Bman, but he will still need to get the ball on the ground on the 3B side. There’s a lot of ways he could fail: missing the ball, bunting it foul, getting into a pitcher’s count, popping it up, striking out on a foul ball, bunting it to the pitcher, etc.

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      • dannux says:

        I don’t think that it would be easy for an average citizen to get down a bunt against a major league pitcher and I don’t think it is easy for a major leaguer to get down a very good bunt. But I did play college baseball and I can say that it isn’t that hard to get down an OK bunt against a peer, and that is all Teix needs to do to get a hit with the shift on. It isn’t automatic, but it is something that is perfectly doable at much higher than a 50% success rate. Most good bunters get the ball down in the general direction that they want to 80-90% of the time. Sometimes the defense makes an excellent play, but often they don’t, and that is why Brett Gardner bats .600 on non-sacrifice bunts even though there is a 3rd baseman out there trying to throw him out.

        At any other level of play, if you pull the 3rd baseman, the team would just bunt on you every single time until your 3rd baseman showed up. I once pitched a game with a tight hamstring that didn’t affect my pitching but as soon as the team realized that I was slow on bunts they just bunted three straight times until my coach had to pull me.

        It just isn’t hard to get a bunt down somewhere between the pitchers mound and the 3rd base line if you don’t have to worry about deadening the ball.

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      • I think you all need to realize the difference between BABIP and batting average. Batting average on bunts is really BABIP. You are only looking at outcomes where they put the balls into play. You have to take into account fouls and strikeouts, which currenty are filtered out.

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  13. Caleb W says:

    Also of note: the value of slugger bunts should be compared to the run expectancy value of slugger non-bunt PAs, NOT to the general population of PAs by all types of hitters. The opportunity cost of a slugger bunting is different from the opportunity cost of the general population. So, we would need to take a smaller slice of data. This would also make you pitcher bunts run expectancy actually make sense.

    I definitely like the idea of this research.

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    • More accurately a slugger’s bunts should be compared solely to the value of that slugger’s run expectancy. There’s no need to muddy the waters by jumbling the data together. It’s entirely possible and appropriate to come up with a lists that read “these sluggers should bunt: XXX and these sluggers should not: YYY.”

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  14. jam0152 says:

    Glad we settled this.

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  15. The Book says:

    Hey fangraphs authors — try reading me! This is the second (third, considering a followup article) this week where someone attempts (and fails) to take a look at a topic that was exhaustively assessed years ago. Get some new material!

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  16. George W Lucas says:

    Papi has done it.

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  17. Sam says:

    “To the first question I would say that while I do not know, but that I seriously doubt it. As for whether they should be bunting more often, that would require a more work. ”

    I know everyone harps about it but please. PROOF READ. This site has dropped from one of my favorite baseball sites to a quick check-in every couple of weeks in large part because of the poorly written articles. You guys don’t have very high word counts, and Fangraphs is not just some amateur blog, so it’s disappointing and sticks out like a sore thumb every time.

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    • Ronin says:

      Thumbs up x 100. I also hate that many Fangraph authors dismiss any and all criticism regarding poor grammar and incorrect word use. If you want to be a serious author and write consistantly for a major site please have some professional pride and respect proper grammar.

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    • bstar says:

      Agreed! Omitted words and sentence fragments? Wouldn’t one final proofread before you post the article take care of this? Even this is obviously not being done.

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      • No it wouldn’t. Some people (I know this, because I am one of them), just cannot proof-read their own work to very good effect. When you know what you are trying to say, it can be difficult to pick up that you haven’t actually said it.

        So you need a peer to proof-read, which none of the fangraphs authors probably much like doing.

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      • Sam says:

        That’s a weak excuse, Neal. First of all, everyone should have been taught at some point in a college-level english class to always read your own writing back to yourself aloud. Reading out loud and slowly helps to catch these kinds of obvious mistakes. And secondly, as I said before, Fangraphs is a reputable site who have writers who get paid to produce content. If you’re getting paid for this work, it should be good work. And secondly, if the writers really have that much trouble proof-reading, hire an editor! That’s what they’re FOR!

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  18. Dr_Caligari says:

    Carlos Pena did this a few times last season, and could have jogged to first base because of how long it took the 3rd baseman to get to the ball. Obviously, it only works when a strong shift is applied, but a power hitting first baseman can have good success (he only got an out one time doing this while I was watching games, and had multiple successful attempts) while bunting. But also, Pena is a bit quicker than other power hitters, so it may not work with some guys. I think that it is something that could be exploited by some guys, but there are certain hitters who I feel it just wouldn’t work with.

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  19. Erik P says:

    i understand the premise of the article, but seriously, why bunt? i would think a better approach would be to try and learn to hit to the opposite field better. maybe try and learn to harness his swing and be a “slap hitter” in those situations. heck, he might even get a few doubles out of it.

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    • dannux says:

      Because it is way harder to hit a ground ball than to bunt a ground ball. With bunting, timing becomes less of an issue, because the bat isn’t moving and the difference between an offspeed pitch and a fastball is almost irrelevant. If this weren’t the case, then players would almost never strike out.

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      • Old Style says:

        If you could do more of a harder/slap bunt though, it would probably be more affective against the shift for power lefties. I am talking more of a jab/firm rather than deadening the ball. This also gives you the possiblity of a double. Obviously it would take some practice, but so does bunting.

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      • Erik P says:

        have you ever tried to bunt an offspeed pitch? a curveball is almost impossible to bunt well, especially for a player who probably hasn’t seriously practiced bunting in 10+ years. im not going to get into a debate about this because everyone has a valid point, but please, it’s not that easy to bunt, or everyone would do it.

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  20. Marver says:

    How come there is no derivation of those sluggers typical positive runs contribution? If their typical positive contribution is >0.0376 runs per plate appearance, then the current proportion of time they bunt is higher than it should be. It could be entirely possible that the correct amount that sluggers should bunt is 0; ie. the Nash Equilibrium.

    Over 700 plate appearances, 0.0376 is roughly 26 runs (above average, not replacement). This is much higher than his batting contribution over the course of the season; I think this emphatically supports increasing the bunt frequency (with caveats regarding leverage).

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  21. Ben says:

    If a lefty slugger (David Ortiz, Ryan Howard…) can push a bunt past the pitcher towards third base every time they face a shift, I’m sure they could do that successfully more than 40% of the time. That’s better than their .400 OBP.

    Not only would that help defeat the shift, but it would get the hitter on base at a higher clip than they would hitting normally into the shift. Unfortunately, hitters are often stubborn and don’t want to lose the possibility of getting an extra base. But statistically speaking, not making an out is the best thing a player can do for his team.

    I’m not fan of bunting normally, but I would definitely advise sluggers facing shifts to bunt.

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    • Jason says:

      …statistically speaking, hitting a HR is the best thing a player can do for his team. There are lots of ways to not make an out, and they aren’t all the same. A bunt single is worse than most other non-out outcomes. Check the weightings.

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  22. GOB says:

    Brian McCann was very successful bunting against the shift this year. David Ross had a few bunt hits too without the shift being on, he just surprised the defense enough and also did a great job of placing them in the perfect spot.

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  23. algionfriddo says:

    Mickey Mantle was a very good bunter and used it often, especially from the left side. He was just a bit more than your typical slugger though. Mantle could really fly when he was not nursing an injury… or a hangover. I think the bunt is a great weapon, but not if over-used.

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  24. Keith says:

    If major league third basemen are like me, the report of Teixeiera’s passing comment on bunting dominated today’s reading. Accordingly, it will stick in their heads. And early this season, they’ll take an extra step in when he comes to bat. Good for a hit or two, perhaps.

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    • Jason says:

      Typically, third basemen stand a little to the right of second base when Teixeira is batting from the left side. A step or two in isn’t going to help them. Teixeira is not going to ever bunt if they aren’t shifting on him.

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  25. Justin Bailey says:

    Brian McCann does it once in a blue moon. I think he has around 5-6 career bunt singles .

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  26. moosh says:

    Bunting should only happen when just one run is needed. Bunting before that is like going for a 2 point conversion in the first quarter in football.

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    • wat says:

      In Teixeria’s case bunting before that is like going for a 2 point conversion in the first quarter in football when your kicker has two broken feet and a massive hangover. He is atrocious against the shift.

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  27. bstar says:

    Of all the sluggers I remember seeing, Mike Schmidt was the one I remember bunting for base hits the most(and it wasn’t against a shift)

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  28. Ender says:

    Fielder tried it a couple of times last year but I don’t think he got any of them down and in play. He is very slow too so his margin for error is pretty small.

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  29. smcfee says:

    Think this is less about numbers and more about psychology. Tex only has to lay down 2 or 3 successful bunts against the shift and word will get around, and then he won’t face the shift as much (which is the real goal, which is why he is publicizing this intent instead of just quietly doing it).

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  30. AA says:

    It works for RHB too, if they have a little bit of speed, and you don’t need a shift. Torii Hunter is .400 AVG/.400 OBP for his career on 32 bunts (30 non-sacrifices). They generally don’t shift much on Hunter, he’s right handed all the way and he’s hovered around a .200 ISO (.194 career). The key is that you generally see infielders play back on power hitters. If a batter is good enough at bunting to keep it away from the catcher’s quick grasp, they have a very good chance of getting a hit.

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  31. Bigmouth says:

    Interesting point re surprise. But if Texeira goes into the season announcing his intention to bunt against the shift — then does — doesn’t that negate the surprise element?

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  32. CDI says:

    All that analysis and talk, but one of your concluding statements holds the true key:

    “I would imagine that Mark Teixeira is not the only one of his homer-heavy peers who has not bunted since high school.”

    ^ correct.

    Tex making that statement was probably born of frustration, but unless he actually pulls it off, consistently, no one will listen or adjust. You don’t adjust to “promises”.

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  33. Southpawscott5 says:

    The goal is to win games When Tex comes up with the bases empty and the shift on, if his percentage to reach base on a bunt to almost 1/2 the field where there is no defense is higher than his OBP then he should bunt. Remember, he doesn’t have a team of pitchers and weak hitters in the lineup who are incapable of driving him in following him in the batting order. He should be bunting in those situations to make the defense adjust as well as help the club. he is paid to slug it out, but more importantly he and the team are ultimately judged on wins and losses and the only way to score runs is to get on base. BUNT!!!!!!!!

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  34. Don B. says:

    2008.
    Bases Empty: .313/.400/.581
    Men On: .303/.419/.524
    2009.
    Bases Empty: .305/.375/.646
    Men On: .280/.391/.485
    2010. (shift)
    Bases Empty: .234/.319/.434
    Men On: .281/.412/.534
    2011. (shift)
    Bases Empty: .215/.302/.408
    Men On: .289/.385/.601
    Now obviously, he is against the shift with the bases empty and not with men on base. And it is when he bats left handed. So I say it would be smart for him to at least try to bunt a few times while lefty and with bases empty.

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