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Sunday, February 23, 2014

LeBreton: Ron Washington squares up to defend his bunting

Or as David Ben Ogilvy once said…“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of baseball immortals.”

Baseball’s new analytics — and a Greek chorus of bunt-loathing fans and media — will tell you that the sacrifice bunt is the most self-defeating tradition in baseball.

In fact, a member of the spring training media tried to tell Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington just that Sunday morning. Washington wasn’t angered by the question. But as often is the case with Wash, a topic that’s passionate to him unleashed a passionate and colorful response.

“I think if they try to do that, they’re going to be telling me how to [bleep] manage,” Washington said. “That’s the way I answer that [bleep] question. They can take the analytics on that and shove it up their [bleep][bleep].”

Washington has heard all the moans and complaints about his bunting.

“Mike Scioscia dropped 56 sacrifice bunts on his club, the most in the league, and he’s a genius,” Washington continued. “But Ron Washington dropped 53 and he’s bunting too much? You can take that analytics and shove it.

“I do it when I feel it’s necessary, not when the analytics feel it’s necessary, not when you guys feel it’s necessary, and not when somebody else feels it’s necessary. It’s when Ron Washington feels it’s necessary. Bottom line.”

...Until others in the lineup — Washington named Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus and Geovany Soto — show that they can execute properly in a situation, the manager asserted Sunday that he will continue to call for his “safer” choice.

“The percentages for me in that situation go up by them squaring and bunting it rather than me allowing them to swing,” Washington said.

Repoz Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:36 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rangers, sabermetrics

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   1. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4661267)
Actually Ron - Scioscia is bunting too much as are you.

As an Angel fan, the luster has been off of Scioscia for - I don't know - 5 years. He's no genius. In fact, he's closer to "dumber than 10 dogs" territory for me.....
   2. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:33 AM (#4661268)
Wow ... I've got nothing against a sac bunt in the right spot but ...

Soto is a guy with power and walks and no speed. Bunting with him has to be about the most unproductive thing you could do.

Andrus, fine -- no power, low-ish OBP, speed and appears to be a very good bunter (36 for 80 plus 78 sacs and 4 RoEs). Martin even moreso (11 for 19 plus 13 SH). Profar I'd probably just let him swing away cuz he needs to learn how to hit but I can see having him bunt in a crucial situation.

“I do it when I feel it’s necessary, not when the analytics feel it’s necessary, not when you guys feel it’s necessary, and not when somebody else feels it’s necessary. It’s when Ron Washington feels it’s necessary. Bottom line.”

And I love answers like this. Yes, we assumed you do it when you feel it's the right move. The question is whether you are correct or the analysis is correct.

"Honey, I sleep with other women when it's what I want to do not when some psychologist tells me it's what I should do or when my friends tell me it's what I should do. It's when I want to do it."
   3. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4661271)
In fact, a member of the spring training media tried to tell Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington just that Sunday morning.


This is not the media's job. Could you dummies at least pretend to be journalists?
   4. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:07 AM (#4661282)
It’s when Ron Washington feels it’s necessary. Bottom line.”

going third person is the first sign of.... of...something
   5. JE (Jason) Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:08 AM (#4661283)
“Mike Scioscia dropped 56 sacrifice bunts on his club, the most in the league, and he’s a genius,” Washington continued. “But Ron Washington dropped 53 and he’s bunting too much? You can take that analytics and shove it.

Racism.
   6. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:20 AM (#4661290)
This is not the media's job. Could you dummies at least pretend to be journalists bloggers?

FIXED!
   7. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2014 at 03:11 AM (#4661311)
This is not the media's job. Could you dummies at least pretend to be journalists?

Probably just poor wording on this writer's part -- note he writes that Washington wasn't angered by the "question."

"Sabermetric analysis shows that sacrifice bunts are rarely a good thing to do but your team had the 2nd most sacrifice bunts in the AL last year. Can you explain why?" seems a perfectly legit question. This is better than just "why do you bunt so much?" which just gets the response "because of the situations."

I'd imagine most of us wish the media would do more of this sort of thing. Politicians say things that fall somewhere between blatantly untrue and skirting around the facts. It would be nice if more journalists responded to this by confronting them with the facts and asking a follow-up question rather than just scribbling down and publishing whatever soundbite they just got fed.
   8. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: February 24, 2014 at 03:12 AM (#4661312)
Bunting just be the way how baseball do go.
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2014 at 03:21 AM (#4661314)
Doesn't someone have a "bunt" win/loss stat? Basically takes win expectency before and after every bunt attempt by a team? (mind you for it to be accurate the win expectency would have to be based upon the offensive numbers of the person at the plate)
   10. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 24, 2014 at 08:31 AM (#4661326)
going third person is the first sign of.... of...something


Cocaine psychosis?
   11. Justin T., Director of Somethin Posted: February 24, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4661353)
Perhaps if someone told him the percentages say not to bunt, instead of the analytics, he'd slow it down. He will do whatever helps the percentages.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4661635)
MGL and Tango basically did what you want in their book CFB. The end result being roughly "there are so many variables involved it's pretty much impossible to tell." But, yeah, they broke it down by bunt attempt strike, bunt attempt ball, bunt attempt hit, bunt attempt error, bunt attempt out, bunt attempt DP. Part of what had been missed previously is that there are rather a lot of RoEs on bunt attempts, often resulting in two bases.

But their analysis doesn't really help answer the question. They end up with criteria along the lines of bunter quality, bunter speed, IF quality (esp 3B) and IF positioning. I don't know that anybody has ever tried to measure bunter quality and everybody has a small sample size. We never know IF positioning other than shifts. We might know 3B quality but not if they're good charging. Of course if it's a sac situation, chances are very low that the 3B is playing in, etc. so that's one factor arguing against the sac bunt.

In essence, their conclusion is that the bunt attempt is often a perfectly good idea ... because of the good outcomes when it doesn't work the way it's supposed to. That is trading an out for a base is almost always a bad idea, but taking the chance of an out for the chance of a base and an error/hit and a missed bunt followed by a regular PA can be worth it. But I suspect that most bunting managers are making their decision based on trading an out for a base so in that sense, they're still wrong almost all of the time. If they are actually including errors, 3B quality, etc. in their decisions then they are at least considering the right factor.

You can get into game theory. Never sac bunt and eventually they won't come in and then it's a good time to bunt. Or, if you think your BABIP improves with them in, sac bunt occasionally to keep them honest even if it's sub-optimal for that particular situation.

What I think is probably true is that the manager decides to attempt a sac bunt when the manager thinks a base is worth the out. That is almost always incorrect and so, if that is their criterion, they're wrong. If they are bringing in all those other factors or at least thinking the base plus the chance of a hit/error is worth the chance of an out, then at least they're applying the correct logic.
   13. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 24, 2014 at 06:31 PM (#4661685)
Basically takes win expectency before and after every bunt attempt by a team?


Except that this is fundamentally wrong, since the preservation of the status quo ante is not a strategic option available to managers. Comparing the win expectancy before the PA to the win expectancy after a successful sacrifice ignores the rather significant fact that win expectancy will often decrease when you don't sacrifice. You have to compare a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of bunting to a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of not bunting, which is why MGL and Tango came up with "there are so many variables involved it's pretty much impossible to tell."
   14. madvillain Posted: February 24, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4661694)
Cocaine psychosis?


Did Washington ever own up to that anyways? Oh, just read some stuff on it and although he claims he did it once, that fails the, ahem, sniff test. Cocaine shows up in urine at most 72 hours after use, and if he was caught a week after using, well he must have been on quite the bender, talking about like an entire 3.5 grams gone up in one night, by himself, which is a freaking Tony Montana level of use.

He's probably is/way a recreational user that simply got a random test on the wrong morning after. I don't blame the guy for doing cocaine but it would have been nice if he just admitted to frequent use rather than a one off time.

Comparing the win expectancy before the PA to the win expectancy after a successful sacrifice ignores the rather significant fact that win expectancy will often decrease when you don't sacrifice. You have to compare a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of bunting to a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of not bunting, which is why MGL and Tango came up with "there are so many variables involved it's pretty much impossible to tell."


You don't have to shove your head up a bulls' ass to get a good view of the tbone, just take the butcher's word for it. It's almost always the case that using an out to move a runner is a bad use of an out, we don't have to get crazy accuracy on the particulars to know this.
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4661695)
Except that this is fundamentally wrong, since the preservation of the status quo ante is not a strategic option available to managers. Comparing the win expectancy before the PA to the win expectancy after a successful sacrifice ignores the rather significant fact that win expectancy will often decrease when you don't sacrifice. You have to compare a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of bunting to a weighted average of all of the possible outcomes of not bunting, which is why MGL and Tango came up with "there are so many variables involved it's pretty much impossible to tell."


Same could be said for every event in the game.
It would still be better than the "so-so led the league in sacrifice attempts, so he must be stupid" arguments you keep hearing around here.

Mind you Wpa is used for a lot of stupid stuff (like if anyone ever uses it in an MVP argument, they should be made to have sex with Roseanne and Gary Busey, while Fran Drescher and Gilbert Gotfried narrate the events) yet this is actually something that wpa could be useful for. Obviously using wpa relative to sacrifice attempts will almost always result in a negative number, so we would be able to look at who is hurting their team less with this methodology. (again, the only semi-proper way to do it would be to use run expectency table individualized for the individual at the plate.)

Again, I just think there should be something better out there to evaluate bunting other than looking at the raw numbers and saying "he with the most, is the stupidest."
   16. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 24, 2014 at 07:06 PM (#4661708)
Same could be said for every event in the game.


Yes. It just seems that if we're going to be the "thinking fans" we ought to look at these things the right way. "One out runner on second WE is less than no out runner on first WE" isn't any better an argument than "so-so led the league in sacrifice attempts, so he must be stupid."
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: February 24, 2014 at 07:20 PM (#4661719)
It's a step towards more accuracy. We have screwed around with range factor, wpa and productive outs and other clear failures, but they lead to improvements in evaluation. Dips wasn't perfect when it came out, but it started a new wave of discussion. Catchers framing analysis is still in it's infancy and looks very promising but I'm sure there will be some type of radical discovery in it's methodology or something that someone hasn't thought about before. (and that is after we have said for years that pitch framing is not an ability or not an ability capable of being measured or more likely doesn't affect the game that much.---personally I'm fairly certain the new numbers are overrating it a bit, but it's still a good field of study)


Meanwhile we have been railing against the sacrifice bunt for years and mostly based upon win expectency to begin with, but yet no mainstream stat site has a team level ranking on how bunts matter other than the number attempted and number made. At least a "win expectency" or Wpa in bunt attempts will give us some numbers to go by.

I see people constantly bagging on a manager for too many bunt attempts and you look at the leaders and you have 80 or so for the highest in the NL (that is one every other game) and the leader in the al Texas with 45(or one every 4 games roughly) I'm not seeing guys who are hynotically over anxious with the bunt who does it every chance they get. I can understand why Washington might be bothered by a people focusing on a particular play he chooses to use once every 4 days.
   18. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: February 24, 2014 at 09:36 PM (#4661774)
Somebody up there must like him:

@MLB: The @Rangers and manager Ron Washington agree to a contract extension through 2015 season.

MOAR BUNTZ!!!11!!1
   19. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 24, 2014 at 09:42 PM (#4661775)
they should be made to have sex with Roseanne and Gary Busey, while Fran Drescher and Gilbert Gotfried narrate the events


Your ideas sound godawful, & you couldn't pay me enough to subscribe to your newsletter.
   20. Sunday silence Posted: February 24, 2014 at 10:46 PM (#4661808)
speaking of bunting did anyone figure out why they didnt bunt on Cabrera last year in the playoffs? or what the expected payoff from such a strategy should be?
   21. Walt Davis Posted: February 25, 2014 at 12:07 AM (#4661848)
Yes. It just seems that if we're going to be the "thinking fans" we ought to look at these things the right way. "One out runner on second WE is less than no out runner on first WE" isn't any better an argument than "so-so led the league in sacrifice attempts, so he must be stupid."

It's not that bad.

By definition, if the WE is worse with one out and a runner on second than with no outs and a runner on first, then the average of the alternative outcomes is higher than the WE you started with. Of course teams can't control which outcome they end up with but engaging in a behavior with the intent of ending up in a worse spot than you are currently in is a bad decision.

The conclusion of Tango and MGL is that the bunt attempt so often fails to achieve its intended outcome, but in a good way (hit/RoE), that a bunt attempt often increases the WE.

Now possibly managers all along have been playing the percentages even if intuitively -- i.e. believing there's a big enough chance of a hit/error that balances off the other negative outcomes of a bunt such that it makes as much or more sense than swinging away (with this particular batter), on-deck hitter, etc. They do of course like to talk about putting pressure on the defense. But then they don't usually talk about the sac bunt in terms of "it's a bad idea to trade an out for a base but I'm hoping for an error."

And guys who bunt for base hits tend to have excellent success rates but clearly a different technique is used when the sac bunt is called for, optimizing contact over placement and speed out of the box. The sac bunter doesn't seem to be trying to maximize hit/RoE, even squaring around before the pitch is delivered giving the 3B time to charge. And the 3B and 1B are almost always playing in in such a situation, removing one of the criteria when it makes more sense to bunt.

So the sac bunt (sometimes) is the right play (or an indifferent play) in spite of itself.

Of course it's correct to note that this differs by batter at the plate, etc. and so we shouldn't boldly proclaim people idiots based on a table of averages. But to the extent the basic, useless WE table reflects what managers are actually trying to achieve with the sac bunt -- and I think it's in the ballpark -- it does show them to be wrong most of the time.
   22. Dan Posted: February 25, 2014 at 07:02 AM (#4661905)
Somebody up there must like him:

@MLB: The @Rangers and manager Ron Washington agree to a contract extension through 2015 season.

MOAR BUNTZ!!!11!!1


A one year extension is more like a silent admission that Washington is on the hot seat. They extended his contract by the bare minimum required to prevent him from being a lame duck this year. If they liked him that much he'd be signing another 3 or 4 year contract.
   23. Dan Posted: February 25, 2014 at 07:08 AM (#4661907)
Now possibly managers all along have been playing the percentages even if intuitively -- i.e. believing there's a big enough chance of a hit/error that balances off the other negative outcomes of a bunt such that it makes as much or more sense than swinging away (with this particular batter), on-deck hitter, etc. They do of course like to talk about putting pressure on the defense. But then they don't usually talk about the sac bunt in terms of "it's a bad idea to trade an out for a base but I'm hoping for an error."


Bunting with guys like Geovany Soto seems to expose the fact that Washington at least isn't thinking this way.
   24. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 25, 2014 at 09:12 AM (#4661929)
Now possibly managers all along have been playing the percentages even if intuitively -- i.e. believing there's a big enough chance of a hit/error that balances off the other negative outcomes of a bunt such that it makes as much or more sense than swinging away...


I would imagine this is what they mean by "putting pressure on the defense."

you look at the leaders and you have 80 or so for the highest in the NL (that is one every other game)


I guess I'm a little surprised this isn't higher. Bunting the pitcher isn't such a terrible thing after all. Guess you'd really need to look at sac attempts per sac opportunities.
   25. BDC Posted: February 25, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4661954)
Agh, I dunno – I doubt that Ron Washington will start to direct PhD candidates in baseball tactics after he retires, but he's all right with me. Every other Texas Rangers manager who's won even one pennant is free to raise his hand.
   26. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 25, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4662088)
Every other Texas Rangers manager who's won even one pennant is free to raise his hand.


Or one playoff series. Hell, if the '96 club hadn't gotten to such a blazing start in the franchise's maiden trip to the postseason, you could make it "even one game."

   27. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 25, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4662174)
Texas managers who had Hamilton, Beltre, Napoli, Andrus, Kinsler, Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, and Yu Darvish please raise your hand.

Determining whether Wash is a good or bad manager by whether his super talented teams win games is a poor way to do it. A poor manager can still win games with a loaded roster, they just win fewer than a good manager would have.

But given Wash is still at the helm, it appears the Rangers believe he's pretty good.

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