Season in Review-Bunting


Today’s review piece will focus on the one thing I hate more than anything else in the game. You guessed it, this is a review on bunting. Nothing is more pointless in the game of Baseball today than bunting. Or at least that’s how I’ve always felt. Bunting is an archaic strategy that has no empirical evidence to suggest that it leads to more runs being scored. You have to ask yourself this. Does giving away an at-bat to move a runner over mean he is more likely to score? The answer to that is usually no.

The advanced metrics today tell us that giving away an out is bad, no matter what the situation is. It’s simple, until you make that third out, you keep hitting. So why any club would want to give away a precious out especially during the later innings is beyond me. Remember you only get 27 of those to give up.

Thank you EephusBlue

But how did the Dodgers do in 2014 at laying down a sacrifice bunt? I’m talking about the lost art of sacrificing. I’m not talking about bunting for a base hit here. Sacrifice bunts are much more commonly seen than bunting for hits in this modern era of Baseball.

The Dodgers are a club with a manager who loves to bunt. Don Mattingly has said many times before that in order to win you have to move runners over.

So how did the Dodgers fare at this during the 2014 season? According to the numbers, they were merely an average club at sacrificing, but made considerably less attempts than in previous seasons.

During the 2014 season the Dodgers made 82 sacrifice bunt attempts. They were successful in 47 of those. The Dodgers ranked thirteenth in the MLB in sacrifice attempts. The Dodgers being successful in 47 of those bunt attempts posted a sacrifice rate of .573. That ranked the Dodgers 26th in that category. The Dodgers only laid down 57% of the bunts they attempted.

It’s interesting to take a look at what clubs were the best and worst at sacrificing. If you look at the top ten MLB clubs at laying down bunts, only two of those clubs were playoff teams, (Cardinals, Nationals). Not surprisingly the advanced metric Billy Beane led Oakland A’s were last in sacrifices with just 19.

The interesting part is that Mattingly had the least amount of sacrifice attempts this season than in any other with him at the helm. For example in 2013, the Dodgers had 122 sacrifice attempts. That’s 40 more than they had this season.

However, the Dodgers have never been a good bunting team. They may attempt a lot of bunts, but are usually not successful at the majority of them. That means they lack proper execution. Take a look at the table below and check out the Dodger’s sacrifice bunt numbers from the last four seasons with Mattingly as manager.

2011 SF Attempts 101 Sacrifices 71 Sacrifice rate .802 MLB rank 9th

2012 SF attempts 122 Sacrifices 82 Sacrifice rate .730 MLB rank 1st

2013 SF attempts 113 Sacrifices 71 Sacrifice rate .752 MLB rank 3rd

2014 SF attempts 82 Sacrifices 47 Sacrifice rate .573 MLB rank 15th

We’re talking about a huge difference between last season and the years before. The Dodgers attempted nearly 40-50 less bunts than in the three seasons before. However in 2014 they ranked poorly in sacrifice conversions.

Sacrifice flies

2011 43 MLB rank T14th

2012 38 MLB rank 19th

2013 48 MLB rank T6th

2014 43 MLB rank 14

As you can see the Dodgers don’t fare well in generating the sacrifice fly either.

So it turns out the Dodgers were an average bunting club in 2014. Don Mattingly attempted about 30 less bunts than he did in 2013. The Dodgers laid down only 57% of their sacrifice attempts last year. This is an encouraging sign. It means Mattingly is running more, and bunting less. Of course the Dodgers were second in all of Baseball (Thanks to Dee Gordon’s 64) with 138 steals. This probably factored into Mattingly bunting less than in past seasons.

So did the Dodgers inabilities to move runners over mean less runs scored? No it did not. The Dodgers still scored 718 runs in 2014. That ranked them sixth in MLB. However, only 207 of those runs were scored after the seventh inning.

This just means more work for Mattingly and Maury Wills next spring.