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Monday, August 25, 2014

FG: Joe Maddon’s Bunting Identity Crisis

I also thought the graph of “league wide WPA on sac bunts” was extremely interesting.

Since he began leading the Rays in 2006, Joe Maddon has been known as one of the more progressive MLB managers… He’s even spoke out publicly against sac bunting in the past… [yet] The Tampa Bay Rays have attempted 58 non-pitcher sacrifice bunts this season, by far the highest mark in the major leagues. No other team has even 50… Just 35 of those 58 attempts have turned into “successful” sacrifice bunts… 35-of-58 yields a 60% success rate. That’s bad. The league average success rate for a sacrifice bunt is 71%. Only five teams have lower success rates on bunts than the Rays this year…

the Rays, despite having attempted more sac bunts than anyone, have not executed more sac bunts than anyone. Instead, that title goes to Terry Francona’s Indians, with a league-leading 38 successful sacrifice bunts. The Indians, like the Rays, are known as one of the most progressive organizations in baseball and Francona has a reputation as a progressive manager from his time with the Theo Epstein-led Red Sox who didn’t bunt at all…  both the Indians (104 wRC+) and Rays (102 wRC+) have top-1o offenses in baseball this season… The Indians have at least bunted well, which is more than the Rays can say, with an 82% success rate that is topped only by the Rangers’ 86%...

To be honest, I really can’t think of a good explanation as to why Maddon and Francona have fallen in love with the sacrifice bunt this year. Both have proven to be anti-bunt in the past and have strong lineups, yet rely on the bunt more than any other manager in baseball seemingly to a fault.

Just for fun, since we’re talking about the Rays and the Indians, what do the bunting habits of the Moneyball A’s look like? Fewest in the league, with just 12. Part of that is due in part to their league-worst 44% success rate, but they’ve also attempted just 24, the sixth-fewest in the MLB.

 

The District Attorney Posted: August 25, 2014 at 06:31 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, indians, joe maddon, rays, strategy, terry francona

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   1. Bhaakon Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4779008)
Smells like a lot of those are actually bunt for hit attempts, but I don't follow the team. It looks like 3 of the 5 leaders have at least a modicum of speed (especially Desmond, who laps the field in bunt attempts), and then there's Jose Molina, who is hitting enough like a pitcher that sacrificing may be warranted.
   2. DCA Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:14 PM (#4779010)
Just for fun, since we’re talking about the Rays and the Indians, what do the bunting habits of the Moneyball A’s look like? Fewest in the league, with just 12. Part of that is due in part to their league-worst 44% success rate, but they’ve also attempted just 24, the sixth-fewest in the MLB.

12/24 = 44%. Good to know.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:25 PM (#4779014)

all fair points.

in spite of the frenzy on this, seems obvious that the bunting ability of the batter, his offensive skills, the situation, and who's up next should rule the day. seems like blackjack - sometimes you have to take another card, sometimes you should not, and sometimes...
   4. 6 - 4 - 3 Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:30 PM (#4779015)
Exactly, it's very context dependent. Even average WPA is too crude a measure to distinguish the appropriateness of a sacrifice bunt attempt, IMHO.
   5. madvillain Posted: August 25, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4779026)
Exactly, it's very context dependent. Even average WPA is too crude a measure to distinguish the appropriateness of a sacrifice bunt attempt, IMHO.


For sure, everything from the cut of the infield grass to the pitcher's defensive ability factors in and in a few years I think managers will have much more granular level data to go on other than just WPA.
   6. theboyqueen Posted: August 25, 2014 at 09:12 PM (#4779032)
The A's have a bunch of guys who you would expect to be able to bunt but look completely hopeless actually trying to do it (Crisp, Callaspo, Gentry, Sogard). Gentry especially, has some sort of weird technique that seems to involve having the ball hit his top hand rather than the bat. It's about the most painful way to go about drawing a strike, yet he does it repeatedly.
   7. bobm Posted: August 25, 2014 at 09:53 PM (#4779045)
FTFA:
It seems that MLB managers are picking smarter times to use the sacrifice bunt. League-wide WPA on sac bunts is positive for first time in 10 years and probably longer, though I did not have the patience to continue my research, nor the wherewithal to devise a more efficient method than the one I was employing.


I wonder what methodology that was.

BB-REF PI Event Finder:

All of MLB: 1098 Sacrifice Bunts in 2014
  G   PA  R RBI   SH ROE GDP  WPA   LI RE24
821 1098 45  33 1098  41   1 -6.9 1.83 -122

ETA: Managers order "sacrifice bunt attempts", not "sacrifice bunts". All of MLB: 1718 Sacrifice Bunts Attempts (bunt with < 2 outs and runners on, includes bunted balls and SO while bunting) in 2014 with WPA = -15.7


   8. Danny Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:06 PM (#4779049)
Bob, you won't break the page if you take that bottom line out of the code/pre.

WPA is a poor way to determine whether sacrifice bunt attempts were well chosen by managers. WPA assumes an average batter at the plate, but the vast majority of sacrifice attempts are taken by below average hitters (many of them being pitchers). These guys are going to put up a negative WPA swinging away, too.
   9. bobm Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:15 PM (#4779053)
[7] More data from BB-REF PI Event Finder:

2013

All of MLB: 1383 Sacrifice Bunts in 2013
WPA = -10.2

All of MLB: 2114 Sacrifice Bunts Attempts (bunt with < 2 outs and runners on, includes bunted balls and SO while bunting) in 2013
WPA = -20.6

2012

All of MLB: 1479 Sacrifice Bunts in 2012
WPA = -9.7

All of MLB: 2303 Sacrifice Bunts Attempts (bunt with < 2 outs and runners on, includes bunted balls and SO while bunting) in 2012
WPA = -23.5

ETA: [8] Thanks. Sorry. Too late, but will remember for next time.
   10. Select Storage Device Posted: August 25, 2014 at 10:40 PM (#4779059)
Doesn't answer the question it asks but poses a better one by the end.

If sac bunts are league wide adding positive value by metrics not even designed to give them as much weight... why? There's no identity crisis. Based JMadd et al. as usual is trolling MLB again with some fundamental tweaks to game theory in context.
   11. Anonymous Observer Posted: August 26, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4779298)
sometimes you have to take another card, sometimes you should not, and sometimes...


It rains. Think about that for a while.
   12. Starlin of the Slipstream (TRHN) Posted: August 26, 2014 at 02:39 PM (#4779430)
Do those WPA numbers include pitchers? Wouldn't WPA be comparing pitchers to league average hitters?
   13. Ron J2 Posted: August 26, 2014 at 03:19 PM (#4779462)
Old ground for us. Base for an out with a position player is pretty much always a lousy trade (unless it's a successful squeeze)

But when you throw in the increased error rates plus the chance of the runner beating it out plus things recorded as fielder's choice
but without getting an out and balance it against DP, not getting a base, not getting the bunt down and having to hit away with two strikes ...

IOW BobM's numbers while valid undersell the bunt. I've been saying literally for decades as long as the guy can bunt and has any
kind of chance of reaching then the bunt's likely OK.

And I'm pleased to see that the Rays seem to agree.

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