Results tagged ‘ small ball ’
It did not work in the fifth inning last night in a 5-2 loss to the Cardinals. The Phillies had runners on first and second with no outs in a tie game when Ryne Sandberg called for Ben Revere to bunt. Revere bunted the ball in front of the plate and Yadier Molina threw out the lead runner at third for the first out.
“Why do I like it?” Sandberg said about the decision to bunt there. “First and second and no outs with a bunter up there.”
It was the fourth time this month the Phillies have bunted with runners on first and second and had the lead runner thrown out at third. It happened three times with no outs and once with one out.
The Phillies lead Major League Baseball with 12 sacrifice bunts. But as I wrote earlier this month, the numbers show bunting is counterproductive to scoring. Teams averaged 1.4023 runs with runners on first and second and no outs last season. They averaged 1.2714 runs with runners on second and third and one out.
The Phillies had a 9.3 percent better chance to score with Revere swinging away in the fifth inning. It might not seem like much, but for a team last in baseball averaging 2.73 runs per game every percentage point counts. And why play for the small inning there with five innings to go? It would have made more sense bunting in that situation if it were the eighth or ninth inning.
Let’s look closer at the Phillies’ bunt attempts this month:
According to MLB’s play-by-play, Phillies pitchers have bunted a ball in play 10 times. (This does not account for striking out on bunt attempts, balls bunted foul, etc.) They have successfully sacrificed eight times. The Phillies have scored seven runs in four of the innings their pitchers have sacrificed. That seems pretty good to me, but then I have no problem with pitchers bunting. Pitchers are bad hitters so having them bunt is almost always the right play.
The Phillies have had their hitters bunt the ball in play 10 times with at least one runner on base. (They have bunted for hits three times without a runner on base. They are 0-for-3.) Twice it seems the hitter has bunted on his own, but the other eight times have been called from the dugout. Phillies hitters successfully sacrificed just four times. The Phillies scored just three runs in those innings, which is not a good ratio.
Does bunting avoid the chance of somebody hitting into a double play? Yes, but it also hurts the team’s chances of a big inning because they have one less out to work with.
Hitters bunting with at least one runner on base:
- Freddy Galvis (April 11): Runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs, 3rd inning. Force out at third base. 0 runs scored.
- Revere (April 11): Runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs, 5th inning. Force out at third base. 0 runs scored.
- Galvis (April 14): Runner on third, 1 out, 5th inning. Popped out on failed safety squeeze. 0 runs scored.
- Chase Utley (April 15): Runners on 1st and 2nd, 1 out, 5th inning. Grounds out (not a sac attempt). 0 runs scored.
- Cody Asche (April 24): Runners on 1st and 3rd, 1 out, 8th inning. Popped out. 0 runs scored.
- Cesar Hernandez (April 24): Runner on 1st, 0 outs. Sacrifice bunt. 1 run scored.
- Andres Blanco (April 26): Runner on 1st, 0 outs. Sacrifice bunt. 1 run scored.
- Galvis (April 27): Runner on 2nd, 0 outs. Sacrifice bunt. 0 runs scored.
- Odubel Herrera (April 28): Runners on 1st, 0 outs. Sacrifice bunt. 0 runs scored.
- Revere (April 29): Runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs. Force out at third base. 1 run scored.
He watched those efforts fail repeatedly last night in a 3-2 victory over the Nationals in 10 innings, but he remains as determined as ever to make it part of his team’s game.
The Phillies had runners on first and second with no outs in the third and fifth innings and twice tried to sacrifice bunt to advance their base runners. But Freddy Galvis bunted the ball back to the pitcher in the third and Ben Revere bunted the ball back to the pitcher in the fifth with the lead runner thrown out both times. (A batter earlier in the fifth, Cole Hamels reached base when he attempted to sacrifice a runner to second. He bunted the ball in front of the plate, but an errant throw to second allowed both runners to be safe.)
That’s 3-for-3 on bad bunts on a team that vowed bunting would be a big part of its game this season.
The Phillies also had a runner on second and no outs in the ninth, but Revere missed the sign to sacrifice bunt. He struck out swinging.
“We have to get the bunts down,” Sandberg said. “It’s a priority. We need to improve on that. We could have made it much easier on the offensive side of things with Cole out there on the mound and with the pitching we had.”
But the Phillies would have been better served swinging away in those situations … yes, even knowing the end result of Revere’s at-bat in the ninth. Baseball Prospectus’ Runs Expectations data from 2014 showed a team’s chances to score decreased when a team gave up an out to advance a runner.
Teams averaged 1.4023 runs with runners on first and second and no outs last season.
They averaged 1.2714 runs with runners on second and third and one out.
In other words, the Phillies had a 9.3 percent better chance to score with Galvis and Revere swinging away in the third and fifth innings. That might not seem like a lot, but every percentage point counts for a team that acknowledges it will struggle to score runs this season.
The Phillies bunted twice with runners in scoring position and no outs in today’s 3-2 victory over the Pirates at Bright House Field. It resulted in one run.
The Phillies have six sacrifice bunts this spring, which are four more than any other team.
“That’s something that I’m stressing this spring,” Sandberg said. “We’re working on it. We’re practicing it. If it’s not a bunt it could be a hit and run. Get a base runner, make something happen. Really to set the tone for the season.”
Sandberg explained that Cesar Hernandez’s sacrifice bunt in the first inning with Ben Revere on second and no outs, and Revere’s sacrifice bunt in the third with Tommy Joseph on second and Chase d’Arnaud on first with no outs were not sacrifice attempts.
“Early in the game sometimes that’s a bunt for a base hit,” Sandberg said. “If you’re out you’ve done a job advancing the runner. Early in the game that’s usually the case.”
Of course, analytics and critics argue that bunting makes less sense because outs are precious and the chances to score decrease dramatically with every out. But Sandberg cannot like what he has seen through nine Grapefruit League games. The Phillies finished the afternoon averaging 2.56 runs per game, which ranked 28th in baseball. Their .532 OPS ranked last.
“I look at our bats and our type of team and I think we’re going to have to be good at that game,” Sandberg said.
I’ve seen some truly awful Phillies starts over the past 10 years. The Phillies are 1-2. Yes, the offense has been dreadful. Yes, the bullpen has been more than suspect. But it’s just one series.
Relax … for now.
“It’s three games into the season,” Shane Victorino said. “There is no reason to sit here and … panic. Do we want to be 3-0? Absolutely. I don’t want to be 1-2, but we sit at 1-2 and that’s what it is.”
“Anytime you open the season, you always want to win the first series, you want to win the first game, you want to get hits, you want to make big pitches,” Jim Thome said. “I think the one things I’ve learned over the years is that it’s a long haul. And we have a very talented club, we have a very, very good club. … Any time you play the first series, everything is always magnified. That’s part of the game.”
That said, the offense certainly hasn’t looked capable of hitting anybody, which makes you wonder how they’re going to handle the Marlins (Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle) this week at Citizens Bank Park. But I thought Charlie Manuel made a very interesting comment following today’s 5-4 loss to the Pirates.
“I don’t want our guys to think we can’t score,” he said. “I think that sometimes when we bunt in situations, we send a message. I’m an offensive guy. I’m here because I’m an offensive guy. I’m a true believer that you get better because of confidence and the manager has to show that. We’ve got guys who have been good hitters in the past. We have to get where we want to be. I believe we’re going to score runs. It’s a matter of getting guys hot.”