Bunt to Win, August ’13 Edition #smrtbaseball #bunttowin

In July, there were a total of 153 non-pitcher, non-squeeze sacrifice bunts (~35/wk). This is the highest total of the year to date, and it makes us sad.

– 8 had a WPA/RE24 > 0 (6 were due to fielding errors, 2 were FC), 145 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0
That means that ~95% of those sacrifice bunts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win while giving up an out.
– 22 (14%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (37 in inn. 4-6). That's low, relatively speaking.
– 54 (35%) were by the batter in the 1st or 2nd spot in the batting order.
– 88 (58%) were 1– –/0 ; 5 were 1– –/1 (*)
– 28 (18%) came with the bunting team behind (7) or ahead (21) by 2 or more runs. Ahead by 2 or more runs. 21 times. STOP BUNTING.
– 4 (~3%) came via pinch-hitter. 1 was by a pitcher in the 13th inning, which I guess we can look past. But 3 times a manager said "You, get a bat, go give an out away." Amazing.

(*) – The 5 1- -/1 bunts were more likely bunt for hit attempts, but we and the Play Index aren’t perfect.

Notes:

– If your defense of a sac bunt includes the point “But the defense might make an error!”, you’re right. If a 3.9% chance is a big part of your defense of the decision, you’re probably in the wrong.
– The Pirates led the month with 11, the Tigers followed with 9. 
– 3 teams had just 2 sac bunt attempt all month (Tampa Bay, the Phillies, and the Rockies).
– #smrtbaseball #bunttowin favorites Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker called for 4 and 6 saccys, "respectfully".

SMRT-est bunt of the week: 8/9, Minnesota at White Sox. Alejandro de Aza, 2-3 (B10) | 1– –/0. -.22 RE24. There were 3 other sac bunts of -.22 RE24, but this wins out for being in the highest leverage situation. 

Bunt to Win, July ’13 Edition #smrtbaseball #bunttowin

In July, there were a total of 113 non-pitcher, non-squeeze sacrifice bunts (~25/wk).

– 8 had a WPA/RE24 > 0 (5 were due to fielding errors, 3 were FC), 95 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means that ~93% of those sacrifice bunts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win while giving up an out. - 28 (25%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (33 in inn. 4-6). - 54 (47%) were by the batter in the 1st or 2nd spot in the batting order. - 46 (41%) were 1-- --/0 ; 4 were 1-- --/1 (*) - 28 (25%) came with the bunting team behind (5) or ahead (23) by 2 or more runs. Ahead by 2 or more runs. 23 times. STOP BUNTING. - 10 (~9%) came via pinch-hitter. 3 were by pitchers in the 13th/14th innings, which I guess we can look past. But 7 times a manager said "You, get a bat, go give an out away." Amazing. (*) – The 4 1- -/1 bunts were more likely bunt for hit attempts, but we and the Play Index aren’t perfect. Notes: - If your defense of a sac bunt includes the point “But the defense might make an error!”, you’re right. If a 4.4% chance is a big part of your defense of the decision, you’re probably in the wrong. - The Yankees (of course) led the month (again!) with 8, the Rockies followed with 7 (as did the Royals). The Yanks taking the "too many homers" meme a bit too seriously, at this point. - 3 teams did not have a sac bunt attempt all month (Seattle, Atlanta, and the White Sox). Arizona, Oakland, and the Cubs all with just 1. Glimmers of hope, they. - #smrtbaseball #bunttowin favorites Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker called for 6 and 5 saccys, "respectfully". SMRT-est bunt of the week: 7/26, Rangers at Indians. Leyons Martin, 6-8 (T8) | 12--/1. -.29 RE24. I don't think Ron Washington is more than league average in terms of calling for the sac bunt, but it's starting to look like he has a knack for calling them at the worst possible times. Texas has had (or tied for) the more RE/24-negative sac bunts every month this year. And yet, Ron Washington makes over $1 million per year. That’s the way baseball go, indeed.

Kill The Win – H/T @MrBrianKenny #smrtbaseball #killthewin

Brian Kenny recently joined Twitter, and instantly became a loud and unbending voice for the statistical side of baseball commentary. Much like on MLB Now on the MLB Network, he brings an array of facts, statistics, and logic to bear on the traditional hive mind that is baseball commentary and then opens fire.

Kenny’s primary crusade on Twitter is the inanity of the pitcher win stat (#killthewin). He’s been posting previous-day summaries of strong pitching performances that result in a pitcher not getting that cherished tally in his W-L record. I wanted to take that one step further, so I bent the Baseball-Reference Play Index to my will and came up with this:

In 2013, there have been 44 games where the pitcher went 8 IP or more and allowed 2 R or less. I think we can agree that this is a “win-worthy” start. Combined, here’s that stat line:

Record: 0-14
IP: 354 1/3 (BF: 1282)
H: 96
R: 61 (55 ER, 1.40 ERA)
K: 292 (K%: 22.8%)
BB: 47 (BB%: 3.67%)

That’s almost 2 full seasons of pitching (if you expand to 3 R, you could end up w/ 2 full seasons)! Remove the 0-14, and split it in half you have a back-to-back Cy Young Award winning pitcher about to sign a $200m, 8-year contract. AND HE WAS 0-14!

Print this out and use it to clown anyone crowing about a pitcher’s W-L record.

P.S.: Watch the talking heads try to work the mental gymnastics needed to defend Chris Sale as a great pitcher as he goes 0-5 in the month of June, and then heap praise on Max Scherzer for being 13-0. How do they manage stay upright while keeping the opposing thoughts “Run support is a key factor in a pitcher’s W-L record they have no control over” and “W-L record is the way to tell if a pitcher is good” in their head at the same time?

Bunt to Win: June ’13 Edition #smrtbaseball #bunttowin

In June, there were a total of 134 non-pitcher, non-squeeze sacrifice bunts (~30/wk).

– 9 had a WPA/RE24 > 0 (all were due to fielding errors), 125 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means that not quite 95% of those sacrifice bunts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win while giving up an out. - 26 (19%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (19 in inn. 4-6). - 59 (44%) were by the batter in the 1st or 2nd spot in the batting order.\ - 67 (50%) were 1- -/0 ; 3 were 1- -/1 (*) - 7 (5.2%) came with the bunting team behind (1) or ahead (6) by 2 or more runs. This is a substantial 'improvement' over last month, at least. (*) – The 3 1- -/1 bunts were more likely bunt for hit attempts, but we and the Play Index aren’t perfect. Notes: - The Yankees (of course) led the month with 10, the Rockies followed with 9. The Yanks tired of being told they hit too many homers. - Every team had at least 2 sac bunts. Surprising to us, the Padres only had 2. Bud learning? - #smrtbaseball #bunttowin favorites Bruce Bochy and Dusty Baker called for 5 saccys each. - If your defense of a sac bunt includes the point "But the defense might make an error!", you're right. If a 6.7% chance is a big part of your defense, you're probably in the wrong. SMRT-est bunt of the week: 6/20, As at Rangers. Elvis Andrus, 1-2 (B6) | 1- -/0. -.22 RE24. The astonishing thing is that Andrus had the crown for April and May, too. In May, it was the 3rd inning, and in April it was bunting in the first inning. Ron Washington makes over $1 million per year. That’s the way baseball go, indeed. Okay, that's a smidge unfair. There were 9 saccys with a RE24 of -.22, we just chose Elvis's because he'd been the man in April and May. If we were being totally fair, we'd give it to Eric Young Jr. On consecutive days (6/8 and 6/9), he bunted as the 2nd man the Rockies sent to the plate. Two days. In a row. In the 1st inning. At home. In Coors Field. There is not enough *facepalm* in the world...

Tales of the IBB #smrtbaseball

So far this year, teams that issue 1 or more IBBs are 78-235 (this is a little shifty, as it counts games where both teams issue IBBs as a win and a loss, and counts multi-IBB games just once, but hey). Of the 364 IBBs, 193 (53%) came when the team pitching was behind, 134 when the game was tied, and 34 when ahead.

We’re not clever enough with B-R’s Play Index to figure out how many times the team issuing the IBB was behind and then went on to win the game (or even just get out of the inning w/o surrendering additional runs), but we’re guessing it’s not very often.

Random nuggets:

– 40 IBBs in the first 3 innings (3/18/19). Many of these (21) are of the NL “Walk the 8th hitter to face the pitcher” variety, but it’s still a -RE play.
– The Marlins lead the league with 28, and it’s a distant 2nd for Colorado and Seattle (19).
– On 4/21, Phil Coke IBBed Albert Pujols B12, 3-3 —/2. Yup. Bases empty walk to Pujols to get to Josh Hamilton. We realize there are platoon splits that favor Coke/Hamilton over Coke/Pujols, but still. While the Tigers didn’t lose the game in the 12th, they did lose it one inning later.

*sigh*

Bunt To Win, May ’13 Edition

In May, there were a total of 113 non-pitcher, non-squeeze sacrifice bunts (~22/wk).

– 6 had a WPA/RE24 > 0, 107 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means that almost 95% of those sacrifice bunts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win while giving up an out. - 26 (23%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (21 in inn. 4-6). - 42 (37.2%) were by the batter in the 1st or 2nd spot in the batting order (For the second month running, the 3rd spot is the only one w/ 0 bunts, so that’s something) - 56 (56.1%) were 1–/0 ; 2 were 1–/1 (*) - 16 (14.2%) came with the bunting team behind (3) or ahead (13) by 2 or more runs (*) – The 2 1–/1 bunts were more likely bunt for hit attempts, but we and the Play Index aren’t perfect. Notes: - The Astros led the month with 10, the Dodgers followed with 9 each. (Maybe this is why there's an east coast bias!). - Those 2 teams are a combined 24 games under .500 - There was exactly 1 team with no sacrifice bunts in May. Big points to whoever guesses which team. It wouldn't have been in our top 10 guesses. SMRT-est bunt of the week: 5/27, Rangers at Diamondbacks. Elvis Andrus, 1-2 (T3) | -2-/1. -.31 RE24. The astonishing thing is that Andrus had the crown for April, too. Last month it was bunting in the first inning, this month it was only the 3rd but that's cold comfort. Ron Washington makes over $1 million per year. That’s the way baseball go, indeed.

Bunt To Win: April ’13 Edition

In April, there were a total of 139 non-pitcher, non-squeeze sacrifice bunts (~35/wk).

– 11 had a WPA/RE24 > 0, 128 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means that over 90% of those sacrifice bunts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win while giving up an out. - 20 (14.4%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (31 in inn. 4-6). - 61 (43.9%) were by the batter in the 1st or 2nd spot in the batting order (3rd spot is the only one w/ 0 bunts, so that's something) - 78 (56.1%) were 1--/0 ; 3 were 1--/1 (*) - 37 (26.6%) came with the bunting team behind (6) or ahead (31) by 2 or more runs (**) (*) - The 3 1--/1 bunts were more likely bunt for hit attempts, but we and the Play Index aren't perfect. (**) - There was 1 bunt with the bunting team behind by 3 runs. The Mariners were the smrt team, and to drive the point home they did this in the bottom of the 6th inning. Outs? We don't need no stinking outs! Notes: - The Padres led the month with 10, the Angels and Mariners followed with 9 each. (AL West baseball: It's FAN-tastic!). - Those 3 teams are a combined 18 games under .500 - The White Sox have just 1 sac bunt on the month. A beacon in the darkness! SMRT-est bunt of the week: 4/9, Rangers at Rays. Elvis Andrus, 0-0 (B1) | 1--/0. -.23 RE24. Honestly, we feel that unless it is part of a hostage negotiation situation, if you have your 2nd batter of the game bunt you should be forced to forfeit the game. That's the way baseball go, indeed.

The curious case of Dusty Baker & the sacrifice bunt (4/1/13)

In Cincinnati’s opening day game vs. the Angels, tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning. Xavier Paul reaches on an error, and Shin-Soo Choo follows with a single to give us 12-/0. Brandon Phillips now at the plate with Joey Votto and Chris Heisey to follow. Dusty Baker calls for Phillips to bunt.

Look, if there’s anything we hate about baseball, it’s sacrifice bunts. And sliding head first into first base. That said, almost every rule has an exception (we say “almost” because only the Sith speak in absolutes). For the head first slide, it’s to avoid an incoming throw that’s high and to the plate side, making the swing/slap tag much harder to apply. For the sacrifice bunt, it’s:

8th/9th inning, in a tied or 1 run game (for the team behind), 12-/0.

In this situation, 1 run is critical. It either ties the game if the team is behind or puts a team ahead with <= 6 outs remaining. Now, there is a tradeoff involved, in that the bunt generally means giving up some of the probability of scoring multiple runs in the inning but INCREASING the probability of scoring 1 run. From the first group of columns of the first two tables here: http://www.tangotiger.net/re24.html 12-/0 results in 1.556 runs, on average. -23/1 results in 1.447 (giving up ~.11 runs). However... 12-/0 will score a run 64.3% of the time. -23/1 will result in a run scored 69.8% of the time (gaining ~5.5%). The primary argument against the bunt is that the Angels will automatically walk Votto to load the bases, taking the bat out of his hands. That gives us 123/1, which has a 67.9% chance of scoring a run. While down from the 69.8% chance with -23/1, it's still higher than the 64.3% we had at 12-/0. To go along with that, both B-R (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CIN/CIN201304010.shtml#wpa) and FanGraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/plays.aspx?date=2013-04-01&team=Reds&dh=0) indicate that the bunt added a little less than a 2% increase in win probability. Some additional info to note, which may or may not be significant enough to influence the decision: - The Angels still might have walked Votto if Phillip's at bat resulted in 12-/1 even without trying to sacrifice (*). - Phillips easily has the highest GIDP% (~3%) of the 3. - Heisey actually has a much higher career FB% (44.5%) than Votto (34.4%). Not knowing how to classify FBs that would let a runner tag and score is where I'm not sure this can be considered. All told, this sac bunt is easily defensible. Don't fret too much, though, Baker made a much worse decision in the 13th. Walking Kendrick (-2-/1) to get to a PH (in this case Hank Conger) with 12-/1 made it more likely that the Angels would score AND score more runs in the inning. There's your smrtbaseball.

The week in Sac Bunts: 6/25 – 7/1

Last week there were a total of 41 non-pitcher, non-squeeze bunts (continuing a rough weekly pace of 40-45/per).

– 13 had a WPA/RE > 0 ; 28 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means over 68% of attempts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win. - 5 (12.2%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (21 in inn. 4-6) - 21 (51.2%) came from the first 3 lineup spots - 17 (41.5%) were 1--/0 ; 4 were 1--/1 - 16 (39.0%) came with the bunting team behind (5) or ahead (11) by 2 or more runs. Gems: - 6/27, Nationals @ Rockies. Dexter Fowler (quickly becoming a SMRT All Str), 9-1(B5) | 1--/0. For emphasis: DOWN 8 runs, bottom of the 5th. Again, DOWN 8 RUNS. And he bunted the runner into a FC out at 2B. As bad as bunting when DOWN 8 RUNS is, if you do it you MUST advance the runner. Again: DOWN 8 RUNS.

– “Best” of the week(s): 6/27, Brewers @ Reds. Nyjer Morgan, 5-2(T5) | 12-/0. -.58 RE24, because when you sac bunt the runner on 2B into an out at 3B you’re just lighting outs on fire. Good jorb!

The Week (or two) in Sac Bunts: 6/11-6/24

Over the past 2 weeks, there were a total of 93 non-pitcher, non-squeeze bunts (continuing a rough weekly pace of 40-45/per).

– 22 had a WPA/RE > 0 ; 71 had a WPA/RE24 <= 0 That means over 76% of attempts HURT the team, or did nothing to help the team win. - 30 (32.3%) were in the first 3 innings of the game (19 in inn. 4-6) - 43 (46.2%) came from the first 3 lineup spots - 42 (45.1%) were 1--/0 ; 4 were 1--/1 - 26 (28.0%) came with the bunting team behind (10) or ahead (16) by 2 or more runs. Gems: - 6/16, Rockies @ Tigers. Dexter Fowler, 0-4(T8) | 1--/1. Fowler pops out to 3B. Long-form: Down *4* runs with a man on 1B but with only 5 outs left, Dexter Fowler decides to bunt. Even if you think he's bunting for a hit, you have to admit this is a particularly stupid decision. We'll go out on a limb and say that if you only have one more out than runs your team is behind, you should not be bunting. Period. - "Best" of the week(s): 6/22, Dodgers @ Angels. The Angels' Bobby Wilson, ahead 5-6(B6) | -2-/0. The cherry on top? He bunted Aybar into an out at 3B and then the Angels went on to score 2 runs anyway, on a Trout BB and Hunter 2-RBI single. A lovely -.58 RE in a relatively low-leverage (LI 1.05) situation? Good jorb!