August 28, 2005


Too Much of a Sacrifice?: While Old Guard Stands by Bunt, 'Moneyball' Crowd Says It Comes Up Short (Dave Sheinin, August 28, 2005, Washington Post)

The sacrifice bunt is evil, say the sabermetricians with their numbers and charts and spreadsheets. The cost of the out given up is greater than the value of the base gained, and they can prove it mathematically. Offer to elaborate about this to Washington Nationals Manager Frank Robinson, to show him the charts and spreadsheets, and a big hand emerges from below his desk and jabs -- palm out, fingers spread -- at the air in front of your face: Stop. Put your charts away, son.

"I don't live by the numbers," Robinson said firmly, "and I don't manage by the numbers. I put on the bunt when the situation calls for a bunt."

Home runs are cooler, and the triple is still the most exciting play in baseball, but inch-for-inch, no offensive play inspires as much passion as the lowly sacrifice bunt.

Its advocates, though dwindling in number, still get a thrill out of a perfectly executed one, and they still cringe at a botched one, which causes them, inevitably, to decry the state of modern baseball fundamentals. Critics of the sacrifice bunt, on the other hand, contend it is a losing play that, mathematically, reduces a team's scoring potential in most situations.

If the sacrifice bunt is indeed evil, then Robinson is the devil himself.

It will come as no surprise that his team has scored fewer runs than any other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 28, 2005 10:05 AM

Nice evolution v. intelligent design issue.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 28, 2005 10:57 AM

To be perfectly fair, it's not just about maximizing expected run production; late in a close game, a 50% chance of one run can be more valuable than a 30% chance of 3. And the credible threat of a bunt may have some value... but Robinson is still ignorant.

Posted by: Mike Earl at August 28, 2005 11:42 AM

Earl Weaver was saying this 25 years ago.

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 28, 2005 12:08 PM

I was sitting in front of this guy at RFK earlier this year who was (very loudly) telling his friend that nobody hits home runs at RFK about 10 seconds before Nick Johnson launched one over the right field fence off Barry Zito.

But that -- and the white painted seats in the upper deck marking where Frank Howard's moon shots landed -- to the contrary, RFK is more of a pitcher's ballpark than the post-Camden Yards bandboxes that have proliferated in the past decade. Add to that the lack of a DH in the NL and playing for single-run innings there, as opposed to waiting for a bunch of home runs to happen, makes more sense than if Robinson was managing in smaller parks like Philadelphia or San Francisco.

Posted by: John at August 28, 2005 1:31 PM

Couldn't find the record on sacrifice bunts, but

Did you know that in the entire history of baseball three Major League players are tied for most at-bats without a single sacrifice fly in a season? Each had six-hundred eighty (680) at-bats and zero (0) sacrifice flies. They are: Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds (1973), Frank Taveras of the Pittsburgh Pirates / New York Mets (1979) & Kirby Puckett of the Minnesota Twins (1986).

Posted by: h-man at August 28, 2005 4:29 PM

The suicide squeeze is the most exciting play in baseball.

Posted by: b at August 28, 2005 7:23 PM


Straight steal.

Posted by: oj at August 28, 2005 7:29 PM

Modern players can't bunt, period.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at August 28, 2005 9:10 PM

There was a great straight steal of home the other night, Fri I think, forgot who did it tho. Catcher didn't even bother to try and tag him.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 29, 2005 1:09 AM

Jim: Really? The last person I can remember stealing home was Vince Coleman, probably 20 years ago, but I confess I don't follow the results as completely as I once did...

Posted by: b at August 29, 2005 11:45 AM