2016 MLB Season Thread - Page 273
Question for all the sabermetricians out there. Baseball conventional wisdom is that late in a tie game with no outs and a man on first base, you sacrifice the man over to second base. Both teams did this reflexively. I've read that conventional wisdom is wrong and that you are statistically better off not trading an out for a runner in scoring position. Is conventional wisdom wrong? Does it depend on who is at the plate?
The answer is complicated and there are many factors to consider. Bunting is almost never a good decision when you are trying to maximize expected runs. It really hurts the chances of a big inning. This is why managers are (rightly) criticized for bunting early in games. Ned Yost is notorious for this, see the #Yosted hashtag on Twitter. There was a series against Detroit sometime in the last month where KC had two early inning bunts against Scherzer resulting in zero runs. One could make the case that Yost's managing has cost KC several games this year. KC lost the division by only 1 game; they probably could have avoided the WC game with a better manager.
Bunting late in the game can make sense as a strategy to score 1 run, but not multiple runs. If your team has inferior hitters (like the Royals), bunting makes more sense. Of course, in this game Yost called for at least one ridiculous bunt. I can't remember the exact situation, but he had an incredibly fast runner at 1st and bunted him over to 2nd. This was with Norris catching, who can't throw out anyone. On the next batter, the runner stole 3rd. You're willing to let your baserunner steal 3rd, but had to bunt him to 2nd!? Makes absolutely zero sense.
And of course, you have to take into account the defensive alignment and the particular players involved. There is an equilibrium point where bunting makes less sense due to the defenders charging, but if you can entice them in, it makes it easier to get a hit. Game theory. Also, bunting with the potential for a hit is often a very good play. Some hitters are better at bunting than others. Etc.