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WARNE: The Twins Offense is too Good to Bunt -- Seriously.

Posted by Brandon Warne , 22 November 2017 · 776 views

minnesota twins
Read this story in full on Zone Coverage here.

It’s a play as old as the game itself, and maybe that’s because the DH didn’t always exist. It’s the bunt, a time-honored tradition that is being phased out of the game more and more every year.

Fangraphs has sacrifice bunt totals dating back to 1895, and according to their database, the 925 sacrifice bunts laid down by teams in 2017 was the second-lowest figure in MLB history. Only the 1900 season (806 bunts) featured fewer, and there were only eight teams back then.

So yeah, the bunt is dying a slow death.

At a glance, the Twins were in the middle of the pack as far as bunts were concerned, checking in 17th among 30 MLB teams with 26 sacrifices in 2017. That’s a deceptive number, though; flip the dial to only AL teams, and only two teams -- the White Sox and Rangers -- bunted more often than the Twins.

That’s more problematic. Subtracting NL teams -- yay, pitchers hitting! -- from that figure shows how much more the Twins were devoted to bunting than their junior circuit contemporaries.

To frame up how different the game is bunts-wise, consider this:

Twins bunts as a percentage of MLB on the whole: 2.8 percent (one team = 3.3 percent of MLB)
Twins bunts as a percentage of AL on the whole: 9.6 percent (one team = 6.7 percent of AL)

As you can see, bunting is severely shifted toward the NL, and the Twins are well above the average mark of their AL contemporaries.

The White Sox offense was absolutely dreadful in 2017, scoring 109 fewer runs than the Twins while the team lost more games than every team in the AL but the Detroit Tigers. The Rangers were in the thick of the race for much of the season despite Adrian Beltre missing time due to injury and a patchwork rotation, and scored just 16 fewer runs than the Twins while winning 78 games to Minnesota’s 85.

So maybe everything said in this space will also apply to the Rangers -- we’ll see.

Here’s one thing that stands out, and it is glaring: no team bunted more than the Twins did with their No. 3 hitters. In fact, according to Baseball Reference, the Twins bunted five times with their third hitter. The rest of the league combined bunted six times with their No. 3 guy -- and no team did so more than once.

And according to Parker Hageman of Twins Daily, none of those bunts led to runs. Blech.

So what’s the big deal? It’s just giving up an out to move up a base. Doesn’t it make it more likely the team scores a run? Doesn’t it lead to more scoring? Aren’t those basically asking the same question?

  • Oldgoat_MN, Danchat and nytwinsfan like this



I wish people would actually learn how to bunt properly. So many times when you get into the playoffs and you need to advance a runner teams can't lay down a simple bunt.

Has anyone ever seen how Rod Carew could handle a bat. A great lost art that sadly is being neglected.

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Brandon Warne
Nov 22 2017 09:25 PM

 

I wish people would actually learn how to bunt properly. So many times when you get into the playoffs and you need to advance a runner teams can't lay down a simple bunt.

Has anyone ever seen how Rod Carew could handle a bat. A great lost art that sadly is being neglected.

 

Bunting is almost always a negative play. It doesn't hurt to know how, but I don't want to see teams do it more.

    • Oldgoat_MN, Danchat, Wyorev and 1 other like this

So a player with the speed of Byron Buxton should never think about laying down a bunt? With a little work with his speed and ability to steal a base it's wonderful. I am not saying he should bunt every game but it's a way to open open holes in the defense as well.

    • tarheeltwinsfan and OldFartAtPlay like this
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Brandon Warne
Nov 23 2017 01:30 AM

 

So a player with the speed of Byron Buxton should never think about laying down a bunt? With a little work with his speed and ability to steal a base it's wonderful. I am not saying he should bunt every game but it's a way to open open holes in the defense as well.

 

I would have it in the toolbox, but not make it a focal point. 

    • nytwinsfan likes this
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theBOMisthebomb
Nov 23 2017 04:44 AM
Bunting is cool and always will be. The focus should be on the alarming amount of strikeouts in today's game.
    • darin617, tarheeltwinsfan, ToddlerHarmon and 1 other like this
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OldFartAtPlay
Nov 23 2017 11:17 AM

I think the bunt is still a viable tool for someone like Byron Buxton or Eddie Rosario to use (once in a while.) I remember seeing Kent Hrbek bunting for hits in his first year or two. I loved the surprise element. But I agree that the modern player doesn't get enough training in how to actually perform a good bunt. And with the state of free agency one would think it might benefit a player moving from one league to the other.

    • darin617 likes this

I think Brandon's point is that it is the sacrifice bunt that is a negative play. The statistics show that over and over again.

 

Bunting for a hit is an exciting play. I like those as much as anyone.

    • darin617, h2oface and Wyorev like this
actually stats show bunting is a negative play on a macro level. on a micro level, i guarentee there are times it makes sense to bunt.
I think the number of Twins bunts is indicative of the managers seeming disregard for the inning, his starting pitcher, the opponent and at times the name of the bunter. Molitor often used small ball early in games, while wielding a fairly power laden team, with a very very average pitching staff. I know if I am the opposition, and you want to bunt away crooked number innings early in the game, just show me where you want that pitch layed in there. I will gladly give up that one run in the third inning.

As much as I hated how Militor often chose to bunt, I like it a lot in the right spots. There is no excuse for a major league batter, every one of them, to not be able to lay down a bunt successfully 75 - 80% of the time. With the excessive shifts these days, a good bunt should be an automatic base, at utilized to break the shift. 

 

Do the stats used here include attempted bunts? Like bunts attempted and fouled off twice and then the batter proceeded to hit away to finish the at bat? The Twins had so many failed bunt attempts.........

    • bizaff and Broker like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Nov 24 2017 12:25 PM

To bunt or not to bunt, that is the question. 

 

I think Brandon's point is that it is the sacrifice bunt that is a negative play. The statistics show that over and over again.

 

Bunting for a hit is an exciting play. I like those as much as anyone.

 

I think this gets tricky.The average regular at-bat is a "negative play", depending on how you define negative play.

 

I've seen the charts that show you're worse off with 1 out -2- than 0 out 1-- and in general I agree with them.I just wonder if some of the advanced analytics (as in analytics that MLB teams pay for, not stuff we see) show that the bunt is the best possible play for a given batter against a given pitcher, given EV.I'm not sold they have it, but with all the statistics and being able to crunch big data, maybe they really do know more than we think they do.A sacrifice bunt is objectively better than a strikeout.I'm guessing a lot of these calls are much closer to even than we think they are.

 

I do agree that there are WAY too many botched bunts.

The sacrifice is a good move so very rarely, that I most always consider it a negative play.

This is not to bust on the manager. (Or maybe it is a little bit.) I sometimes fear that bunting makes the manager feel like he's doing something to impact the game.

Choosing to bunt seems more proactive than waiting for one of those guys to swing and hit the ball.

To those who seek to sacrifice bunt, I say; "God gave you that big stick. Whack the ball!"