This is a table of National League teams, ranked by on-base percentage heading into Monday's action (this holds true for all of these charts):
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
The Pittsburgh Pirates are terrible at getting on base. They are not particularly good at stealing bases, but they try them all the time anyway. The Pirates' on base percentage is more than 40 points below league average, yet they've tried four more sacrifice bunts than the average National League team. The ostensible reason that the Pirates do this is that their manager thinks that he must maximize the chance that every single base runner has to score by moving them along the base paths by any means necessary.
This is a list of National League teams, ranked by the percentage of base runners that score:
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
The Pirates are not generating more runs by bunting and stealing bases and running around like chickens' with their heads cut off. They're minimizing the few chances that they do have to score by giving the opponents even more outs than their pathetic offense already makes.
Here's reality: there's no reason to think that bunting a runner from first to second or second to third results in more runs scoring. In fact, there's real, documented evidence to the contrary. Teams with runners on first and no outs have a 0.941 run expectancy for that inning (link via @inclementewthr, who put this out there right as I was about to start Googling for it). Teams with runners on second and one out have a .721 run expectancy for the inning. There's a similar drop for bunting a runner from second to third. That's not me futzing with numbers. That's not new age statistical mumbo jumbo bullshit. That's cold, hard reality. Trading a base for an out does not make you more likely to score. It makes you less likely to score. There is no room for argument.
Whenever the Pirates play a game like they played on Monday night and I get on a rant about how dumb it is for the Pirates to waste outs, there are always people that get mad at me and say that bunting is part of baseball and that Clint Hurdle's managed more games than I ever have and that I'm crazy for thinking that ignoring more than a century of baseball bunting history is a way for the team to make their offense better. When baseball was invented, it was mostly played by uneducated roughneck borderline criminals that existed on the fringes of society. They thought that sacrificing an out for a base would make them more likely to score runs. No one had Retrosheet or Baseball Reference or SPSS back then, and without being able to crunch the numbers, that's a logical opinion to have.
It's 2012 now. We know what's happened to every single baserunner in modern baseball history. We have computers that can handle these reams of data. We can crunch the numbers. We can calculate the probabilities. Sacrifice bunting by position players is dumb in almost every single situation imaginable (if you have a runner on second and no outs in a tie game or down by one run, you can bunt because while your run expectancy for the inning will go down, the probability of that single runner scoring will go slightly up; this isone of the few cases where bunting is even mildly defensible). It's not actually an argument worth having; it's dumb and if you disagree, you're wrong. This is not a point for discussion.
I don't understand why, "It's old school!" is a valid argument. There's no other aspect of our modern lives in which it's OK to disregard the advancements made in favor of "It's old school!" Do you use an abacus when you don't have to? A rotary phone? An Apple IIe? Do you ride a horse to work? Do you burn gas lamps at night instead of using electricity because gas lamps are old school?
The Pirates' offense this year is really bad. It would be really bad if they never got caught stealing or wasted at bats with sacrifice bunting. But it's insane that they give away the outs that they do have left and right, that they bunt away with position players like mad and get caught stealing all over the bases with the few base runners that they do have. In Monday's game, the Pirates had three players touch a base safely after they took their one run lead (a hit, a walk, and a fielder's choice ON A BUNT, of course) and all three of those runners made outs in preventable fashion. That is beyond insane; it's negligent. The Pirates got away with it on Monday and they've generally gotten away with it to date in 2012, but it's going to catch up to them eventually.
the pirates dont have pure sluggers to not sacrifice bunt. they have not had them since the van slyke era. you dont bunt guys like pujols, because of his track record. ( and look what the game of baseball has done to pujols this year) but the pirates have no one even close to a pujols, so we must sacrifice to put different pressures on pitchers and defenses because our bats do not scare anyone.
of course the stats show we bunt more, because we DONT have any pure hitters. the pirates dont even have patience at the plate...why, because opposing pitchers are not afraid of our offense. they throw strike after strike to us. you act like the pirates bunt once an inning. we dont bunt that much more then anyother team..and we should bunt more then most teams.
no one will ever completly figure out the game of baseball...but when you can hit a mid ninties split finger then an inning later adjust to a low 80s changeup, at a .400 clip everyday that you play, then you can argue that the bunt is worthless.
most people have changed, no more horse rides to work, not more oil lamps, no more rotary phones..but what hasnt changed is the game of baseball. take out the steriods and baseball is basball...stronger hitters meet stronger pitchers. baseball is and will always be the greatest game ever because of its ability to humble everyone...and in the year 2078, every mlb team will still be practicing the bunt defense and its defensive shifts.
I think that your conclusion that “There is no room for argument. ……..It's not actually an argument worth having; it's dumb and if you disagree, you're wrong. This is not a point for discussion.” may be unwarranted. And, I'm not arguing baseball, I'm arguing metrics.
Unless I’m missing something, the data that you present as a basis for concluding that bunting a runner from first to second results in fewer runs being scored – i.e., teams with runners on first and no outs have a 0.941 run expectancy for that inning, and teams with runners on second and one out have a .721 run expectancy for the inning – does not allow us to draw this conclusion, and in fact, is biased (perhaps significantly) in favor of drawing that conclusion.
The bias results from the fact that the 0.941 expectancy includes, by definition, all runs that are scored (from second base with one out) as a result of a successful sacrifice and subsequent RBI hit. So, some portion of the 0.941 percentage is a direct result of the success of the sacrifice strategy, and it is therefore, in essence, an “inflated” metric for the purpose of making this specific comparison.
If we want to examine the use of a sacrificing strategy with a runner on first base with no outs, it seems to me that we should be comparing (a) the expectancy of scoring a runner from first base with no outs, absent both successful and failed sacrifice attempts, versus (b) the expectancy of scoring a runner from first base given any (whether successful or failed) sacrifice attempt.
With respect to (b), the metrics you cite indicate that if the sacrifice is successful there is a 0.721 expectancy of scoring a run (i.e., from second base with one out), and if it fails there is still a 0.562 expectancy of scoring a run (i.e., from first base with one out). Now, if we know the percentage of sacrifices that are successful vs. failed, we can compute a simple expected value for the sacrificing strategy. I’m guessing that this data may be readily available. Getting the relevant data for (a) may be more problematic, as we need to be able to remove the effects of both successful and failed sacrifice attempts from the 0.941 metric.
Great stuff here....All the more remarkable that the Buccos are currently only a game under .500; the pitching staff must secretly be cringing when they watch Hurdle's offense continue to scuffle.
Were their offensive stats similar to this in 2011? If so, Hurdle may really need some huge billboards out side his home to attempt to convince him that a change in offensive strategy is necessary.
Is it possible, just maybe, that Clint Hurdle bunted a ball into his face at some point in his early managerial career, and now believes it is actually 1912 instead of 2012?
The SB thing is really driving me insane as we seem to routinely run ourselves out of innings. The only thing that I'd say about the sac bunt thing is that it might not tell the whole story. Run expectancy doesn't take the hitters into consideration (at least to the best of my knowledge) meaning that having a runner on 1st with Walker, Cutch & Pedro due up would have the same run expectancy as having Barajas, Barmes and Bedard due up. In the grand scheme of things the stats normalize so the .9 expected runs comes from an average of the two. If, however, 22 of the Pirates sac bunt attempts came with the crappy part of the lineup at the plate, it's possible that their "true" run expectancy would be lower.
Also, I'm not sure that the last chart is necessarily demonstrative of the problems caused by sac bunts and caught stealing. It could also show that those teams are simply bad offensive clubs. A failure to get base hits (or to a lesser extent walks) will make it difficult for teams to score baserunners, too. All of the teams that are below average at scoring baserunners are also below average at getting on base. The Giants, Cubs, Marlins, Padres and Pirates all have an OBP at least 10 points below league average. So while I agree that the team should stop giving away so many outs, I'm not sure that the chart showing their ability to score baserunners (which at first glance might be the most damning) tells us anything that we didn't already know; that this team isn't very good at getting on base, even when they're trying to...
We need to buy billboard space in Pittsburgh around Clint Hurdle's neighborhood and plaster these statistics all over them
Pat, this is a magnum opus.
That last table about % of baserunners that score really bangs it home. Hadn't seen that statistic before.
Now if we could only send this on to the Pirates organization.....
Great, great post Pat! I am okay with bunting...when we have a pitcher batting other than Brad Lincoln. Other than that, it is like bamboo shoots under my fingernails. That is all.
"There's no other aspect of our modern lives in which it's OK to disregard the advancements made in favor of "It's old school!""You have clearly not met hipsters. XD
@lefttheburghlongago (a) is easy - it's in the OP. "Teams with runners on first and no outs have a 0.941 run expectancy for that inning."
You could run the entire simulation, with every possible outcome of a plate appearance, the likelihood of each occurring, and the resulting RE. But the crux of the matter is that by sending a batter to the plate to sacrifice, you are implementing a strategy where success results in lower RE for the inning.
Let me put that another way: assume you had a player, call him ROBOBUNTER, who could execute a successful sacrifice every single time he tried. When ROBOBUNTER steps up to the plate with a runner on first and no out, the team's RE that inning is .941. When RE sits down after having successfully executed his sacrifice, the team's RE has dropped to .721. Successfully executing the bunt has lowered the team's RE by .22 runs. Roughly speaking, he's on average decreased his team's chances of winning by 2.2%.
The only reason you would do that is if the weighted resulting RE of every possible outcome of the batter not bunting is lower than .721. Consider a simplified case: ROBOGROUNDBALLHITTER, who hits a ground ball every time he comes to the plate, never striking out, walking, or hitting the ball in the air. 30% of the time this ground ball finds its way through the infield or is misplayed by the infielders, giving the team runners on first and second and no out. Of the remaining 70% of his ground balls, half result in a double play, and half result in a "productive out", moving the runner to second.
If you run the numbers, when ROBOGROUNDBALLHITTER sits down after his AB, the weighted average RE for his team is .703. Because he never walks, never gets an extra-base hit, and frequently grounds into a double play, he lowers his team's RE by even more than ROBOBUNTER.
But if you even consider an abysmally bad batter - say, one who strikes out 40% of the time, has a BA of .200 and an OBP of .240, gets one double every 50 PAs and no other extra base hits ever, moves the runner from first to third on a single only one time in five, and grounds into a double play 25% of the time he comes to the plate with a runner on first and less than two out (which works out to an OPS of about .480 and an OPS+ of about 32, or Clint Barmes, who has the lowest OPS of any qualifying NL batter this season, but that's another issue) - and you run the numbers in the same way, you get a weighted average RE of .736. This abysmally bad batter is better off swinging away than if he was able to lay down a perfect sacrifice every single time he tried.
@kentuckypirate28 I included the last table because I simply wanted to show that the Pirates are still well below average (and last in the NL) in scoring runners. In short, that Hurdle's shenanigans aren't doing anything to improve the number of runners that are scoring.
@Savage_Beast This is what I don't understand... has nobody ever walked up to Hurdle and said... explain why you do this? There have to be bloggers with media creds that can handle this task...
@NateRose Actually, hipsters use technology to make themselves seem old school. "Check out how I use the 8 mp camera on my $500 smartphone to make my pictures look like shitty polaroids! I'm so ironic!"
Whatever, I hated sacrifice bunting before hating sacrifice bunting was cool.
@NateRose I would totally use oil lamps.
And I would ride a horse to work if [a] I had a horse [b] I had a job [c] weighed 50 pounds less (or the horse was a Clydesdale).
Neither of these would be done in an ironic fashion - I just think it'd be cool.
@NateRose (Disclaimer: I use Instagram occasionally and have been all about "I liked the Avengers before they were cool." So I'm pretty much a hipster at this point.)
@Eephus @whygavs @NateRose Too late – Bucs have the 6th most popular hat in MLB. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/10-best-selling-era-baseball-hats-170518262.html
We may well be the Dr. Martens of MLB.