I wanted to let this go, I probably should have let this go ... but I can't let this go. Evan on Wednesday:
Rangers manager Ron Washington seems to say this at least once a year, but his theory on using the sacrifice bunt, is not to play for only one run in an inning, but to try and ensure himself of at least one run in the inning.
The annual disclaimer came Wednesday when Washington discussed a bunt attempt that went awry in Tuesday's 6-5 loss to Detroit. In that game, Elvis Andrus popped up a bunt on a 2-and-0 pitch with two men on and no outs in the fifth. The Rangers ended up not scoring in the inning after the bunt attempt.
"The only we lose on that bunt is that Elvis popped it up," Washington said. "Usually he doesn't do that. He's a good bunter. We weren't playing for one run. We were hoping to get two guys into scoring position with [Josh] Hamilton coming up. A hit there gets you two runs."
I've already voiced my skepticism about just how far the sacrifice bunt goes in terms of "putting pressure" on the opposition as Washington believes, and so yes, as much as I have learned to like Washington, I do think he's misguided on this point ... but then, so are most big league managers on this matter. Still, nothing too unexpected here.
But Evan continues:
And the truth is, when the Rangers are successful at getting a sacrifice bunt down, they average more than a run in the inning. The Rangers have been successful on 31 of 47 sacrifice bunts this season and have scored 44 runs in the 29 innings in which they've laid down the bunts (they had one game with three sacrifice bunts in the same inning). When the Rangers do get the bunt down, they've averaged 1.5 runs per inning and have scored in 22 of the 29 innings with a successful bunt. In addition, the Rangers are 13-10 in games in which they have had a successful sacrifice bunt.
A couple of things here:
● Somebody out there can probably spin this into me not paying enough attention to every statistic known to man, but ... is anyone else a bit taken aback at the fact that the Rangers' success rate on the sacriice bunt is only 66 percent? That is to say, it results in an unsuccessful bunt attempt (read: force out on the leading runner) or a bunt strikeout one-third of the time? That makes the proposition seem even worse.
● A 1.5-run average in innings where the Rangers do drop a sacrifice bunt sounds about right, as you're never going to have a sacrifice bunt without having one, sometimes two runners on base. Here's the essential question, though -- what would that average be if the Rangers didn't drop any sacrifice bunts at all? It's great that the average is greater than one run, but how do I know if that's any good at all if there isn't a baseline to compare that against?
The sabermetric pillorying of the sacrifice bunt has never been about the bunt itself; if you absolutely have to score one run in a late-game situation, it can be the smartest possible play. No, the problem is that you increase your odds of a one- or two-run inning, but dramatically decrease your odds of scoring more than one or two runs, and the entire point is that you should be gunning to string together hits and walks throughout those early- to mid-game game states. Giving away outs is completely counterintuitive to that goal, and so again I ask the rhetorical question -- what would that average be if the Rangers didn't drop any sacrifice bunts at all?
● I'd like to put this delicately, but I can't put this delicately, so here goes: that bit about the Rangers' record in games where they dropped at least one sacrifice bunt is completely irrelevant. It would also be irrelevant if they had a lousy record in games where they dropped a sacrifice bunt. Where's the causal relationship between one play where you sacrifice your most precious commodity (the out) for a higher probability of scoring in an inning, and the outcome of the game?
If it appears as though I'm singling out Evan, I'm really not trying to. I like Evan. And maybe I should have let this go. But I also like learning opportunities, and I like venting my frustration, so, uh, there you are. Next up, let's go to the NFL Draft-