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Bunting for the First Out of the Game

Posted by Raphy on August 16, 2011

Last night, with a runner on first and no outs in the top of the first inning, Derek Jeter came to the plate and promptly lay down a sacrifice bunt.  Now,  I can imagine that in certain environments such a play might be warranted. If Jeter was on a horrible offensive team, facing Sandy Koufax in his prime, with an equally impressive hurler going for Jeter's team and this could have been the one opportunity of the game for a run,  then  maybe, this play would have made sense .  However, with one of baseball's most prolific line-ups  facing a kid pitcher,  and a starter who hadn't won in over a month going for his own team, you have to wonder what he was thinking. What's even more amazing is that Jeter is not nearly alone.

The second hitter of the game has come to the plate with a runner of first 333 times this season.  In 32 of those plate appearances the  batter has bunted, resulting in 9 singles,  6 pop outs,  3 force outs, and 14 sacrifices.  Here are the bunts:

 

Yr# Gm# Date Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) RBI WPA RE24 LI Play Description
1 1 2011-04-03 Freddy Sanchez SFG @LAD Hiroki Kuroda tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.51 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (P's Left); Torres to 2B
2 1 2011-04-08 Derek Jeter NYY @BOS John Lackey tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.03 -0.37 1.43 Bunt Popfly: C (Front of Home)
3 1 2011-04-19 Matt Tolbert MIN @BAL Jake Arrieta tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.20 1.45 Bunt Groundout: C-1B (Front of Home); Span to 2B
4 1 2011-04-19 Angel Sanchez HOU @NYM Jonathon Niese tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.49 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Front of Home); Bourn to 2B
5 1 2011-04-26 Corey Patterson TOR @TEX Matt Harrison tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.05 0.62 1.41 Single to P (Bunt to Weak 1B); Escobar to 2B
6 1 2011-04-29 Freddy Sanchez SFG @WSN Jason Marquis tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.49 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Front of Home); Rowand to 2B
7 1 2011-04-30 Matt Tolbert MIN @KCR Sean O'Sullivan tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.09 0.97 1.47 Single to C (Bunt to Front of Home); Span to 3B/Adv on E2 (throw)
8 1 2011-05-01 Ramon Santiago DET @CLE Justin Masterson tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.19 1.47 Bunt Groundout: 1B unassisted (Weak 2B-1B); Rhymes to 2B
9 1 2011-05-02 Carlos Gomez MIL @ATL Jair Jurrjens tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.49 Bunt Groundout: C-1B (Front of Home); Weeks to 2B
10 1 2011-05-03 Xavier Paul PIT @SDP Mat Latos tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.06 0.59 1.53 Single to 3B (Bunt Popup to Short 3B Line); McCutchen to 2B
11 1 2011-05-04 Matt Tolbert MIN @CHW John Danks tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.21 1.43 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Short 3B Line); Span to 2B
12 1 2011-05-14 Corey Patterson TOR @MIN Nick Blackburn tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.20 1.46 Bunt Groundout: C-2B (Front of Home); Escobar to 2B
13 1 2011-05-19 Jonathan Herrera COL @PHI Kyle Kendrick tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (1-0) 0 -0.03 -0.35 1.47 Bunt Popfly: C (Front of Home)
14 1 2011-05-26 Alexei Ramirez CHW @TOR Brandon Morrow tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 3 (1-1) 0 -0.03 -0.36 1.43 Bunt Groundout: P-SS/Forceout at 2B (Front of Home)
15 1 2011-05-30 Erick Aybar LAA @KCR Luke Hochevar tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.02 -0.19 1.47 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Front of Home); Izturis to 2B
16 1 2011-06-14 Dustin Pedroia BOS @TBR James Shields tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.03 -0.34 1.49 Bunt Popfly: P
17 1 2011-06-19 Erick Aybar LAA @NYM Jonathon Niese tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.03 -0.34 1.49 Bunt Popfly: 3B
18 1 2011-06-20 Ben Zobrist TBR @MIL Chris Narveson tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.06 0.60 1.47 Single to P (Bunt to Short 3B Line); Damon to 2B
19 1 2011-07-16 Alexei Ramirez CHW @DET Max Scherzer tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.19 1.46 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Weak 2B-1B); Pierre to 2B
20 1 2011-07-30 Darwin Barney CHC @STL Kyle Lohse tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.51 Bunt Groundout: P unassisted (Short 1B Line); Castro to 2B
21 1 2011-08-01 Miguel Cairo CIN @HOU Bud Norris tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.51 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Front of Home); Stubbs to 2B
22 1 2011-08-03 Derek Jeter NYY @CHW Gavin Floyd tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.05 0.61 1.43 Single to 3B (Bunt to Short 3B Line); Gardner to 2B
23 1 2011-08-06 Nyjer Morgan MIL @HOU Brett Myers tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.06 0.60 1.51 Single to P (Bunt to Short 1B Line); Hart to 2B
24 1 2011-08-07 Felipe Lopez MIL @HOU Bud Norris tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 3 (2-0) 0 -0.02 -0.18 1.51 Bunt Groundout: 1B unassisted (Short 1B Line); Morgan to 2B
25 1 2011-08-07 Eric Sogard OAK @TBR David Price tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.03 -0.34 1.49 Bunt Groundout: 3B-SS/Forceout at 2B (Weak 3B)
26 1 2011-08-09 Jason Bartlett SDP @NYM Chris Capuano tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 2 (0-1) 0 -0.03 -0.34 1.49 Bunt Popfly: C-SS/Forceout at 2B (Front of Home)
27 1 2011-08-10 Nyjer Morgan MIL @STL Jake Westbrook tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.06 0.60 1.51 Single to 1B (Bunt to Short 1B Line); Hart to 2B
28 1 2011-08-11 Nyjer Morgan MIL @STL Chris Carpenter tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.03 -0.33 1.51 Foul Bunt Popfly: C (Behind Home)
29 1 2011-08-11 Melky Cabrera KCR @TBR Jeff Niemann tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.06 0.60 1.49 Single to C (Bunt to Front of Home); Gordon to 2B
30 1 2011-08-12 Melky Cabrera KCR @CHW Zach Stewart tied 0-0 1B t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 0.05 0.61 1.43 Single to C (Bunt to Short 3B Line); Gordon to 2B
31 1 2011-08-14 Andy Dirks DET @BAL Jo-Jo Reyes tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.03 -0.36 1.45 Bunt Groundout: P-SS/Forceout at 2B
32 1 2011-08-15 Derek Jeter NYY @KCR Felipe Paulino tied 0-0 Out t1 1-- 0 1 (0-0) 0 -0.02 -0.19 1.47 Bunt Groundout: P-1B (Weak 3B); Gardner to 2B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2011.

 
EDIT: The post above was found using all PA's and searching for bunt in the play description. A search for sacrfice bunts, reveals an additional play:

Yr# Gm# Date Batter Tm Opp Pitcher Score StSc InnSc BOP Pos Inn RoB Out Pit(cnt) RBI WPA RE24 LI Play Description
10 1 2011-06-05 Alexi Casilla MIN @KCR Jeff Francis tied 0-0 0 3 2 6 FC t1 1-- 0 4 (2-1) 0 0.10 1.10 1.47 Fielder's Choice 1B; Revere to 3B/Adv on E3 (throw); Casilla to 2B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2011.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 at 1:32 pm and is filed under Event Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

32 Responses to “Bunting for the First Out of the Game”

  1. That's an awful lot of bunts for hits...I wonder how many the bunts were intended to go as hits instead of sacrifices.

    What was the historical rate during the steroids era? Probably a lot closer to the 4% I guessed when you posed this question to me before posting.

  2. How about Felipe Lopez bunting on a 2-0 pitch from Bud Norris? He must have been going for a hit since it was a 3UA groundout, but why don't you swing away there?

  3. @Genis26: Because you're Felipe Lopez?

  4. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    What about bunting for the last out of a game?

    I know Otis Nixon did that in the WS, which was not just the last out of the game, but of the season as well.
    How would one run a search to check for bunting for the 27th out?
    I'm good with the PI finder for seasons and careers, but just cutting my teeth when it comes to Game searches.
    Any help there?

  5. Here in Metsville, we call this bunt "the Castillo." With a man on first or second, nobody out, first inning, Castillo sacrificed 17 times, including nine in 2009 alone. He once did it in three consecutive games (July 18-20).

    Ten of those times, the Mets got zero runs.

    I cannot tell you what kind of a relief it is to look at the above list and see not a single New York Met hitter upon it...

  6. @1 I don't have time for all of the steroid era. Here are the numbers back to 2005.

    PA bunts PA/bunts
    2010 494 37 0.074899
    2009 486 35 0.072016
    2008 507 45 0.088757
    2007 474 47 0.099156
    2006 478 35 0.073222
    2005 504 31 0.061508
  7. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    Jeter was trying to help Felipe Paulino record at least one out and keep Paulino off the "Worst Starting Pitcher Performances since xxxx" lists. Classy move by a classy veteran.

    (-;þ

  8. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Also, I remember a game, during the outrageously horrendous 91 or 92 Mets, when the # 3 hitter (I think it was Butch Huskey) sacrifice bunted in the first inning. (Is 'bunted' the correct past tense? Sounds funny).
    Well, I remember, even at a young age thinking how strange it was to not only see a #3 hitter sacrificing, but to see it in the first inning of a scoreless game.
    Does anyone recall this play, or one like it?
    And how infrequent, percentage wise, is a first inning no out, no score bunt?

  9. @4 The only way I could think of is to search for all game ending play appearances and then search each web page of results for the word "bunt". For 2011 we have these:

    Winners:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MIL/MIL201105280.shtml

    Losers:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ANA/ANA201105110.shtml

  10. @8 I am absolutely stunned.
    From just 2005-2011 there were 34 sac bunts by the #3 hitter in the first inning.
    http://bbref.com/pi/shareit/RRn0Y

  11. How can you be sure a bunt is a sacrifice bunt?
    If the guy tries for a sac bunt and get on base, will he turn down the hit and say "Oh I wasn't trying to do that"

  12. @11 Dave
    Can you please explain your question?
    I don't know what you're getting at.

  13. This happened in the Twins/Tigers game as well last night. Plouffe made the first out bunting Revere over to third.

  14. @ 13
    You are correct. My original post was going to include that game, but then I changed the topic slightly. I should have fixed the title.

  15. Joe Garrison Says:

    @10

    I am not sure which is more surprising... the fact that the Dodgers hit Julio Lugo third that game, or the fact that the line up hit three home runs that day, despite being a line up that features the likes of Julio Lugo in the three hole.

  16. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    From just 2005-2011 there were 34 sac bunts by the #3 hitter in the first inning.

    Three times by one player: Carlos Beltrán, Mets.

    [*boggle*]

  17. KT - here I am still in therapy about Castillo's sac hits... and you bring up Beltrán's!

    This is like that gif of Tobey McGuire dancing from Spider-Man 3, only if he were Shane Victorino, and throwing out a bunting Met.

  18. I didn't see the exact bunt last night, so i can't make an educated guess of the apparent intention...

    But watching Jeter over the years, he has many times tried to bunt for a hit with a man on first (early in the game) hoping for, at worst, a sac bunt. Kind of like hedging his bet. I believe there is a rule that states the scorer could give the batter an out (instead of sac bunt) if the intention for a hit is obvious. That is another one of those scoring rules that is usually ignored.

    Just last week Gardener and Jeter both got bunt hits as the first 2 hitters of the game (08/03/2011 game shown above).

    Jeter doesn't usually "give himself up" with a straight sacrifice until later in the games (when more appropriate).

  19. Crazy at it sounds, don't many managers construct their lineups specifically for this purpose? The leadoff guy is usually a speed guy, hopefully with high-OBP, but not always. The #3 guy is the best overall hitter and the #4 guy is the best raw-power guy.

    But very often, the #2 hitter is just a waste. Its often some middle-infielder with bat control whose sole purpose is to "move the runner over" for the big bats. Not every team does this but half the teams are getting .315 OBP or less from the #2 slot.

    Personally, I don't agree with this, this scrappy hitter would be better off batting 8th or 9th with everyone else moving up one, but the effect of that fix isn't "huge" and many still like to play by the old book.

  20. @11, If someone lays down an obvious sacrifice bunt, he can still be given a hit. It doesn't really matter what he intended to do.

  21. Milwaukee batters have done this five times so far this year--four times in a five day stretch between August 7 and 11, three times by Nyjer Morgan. They won three of those four games. SSS. Also, given the Phillies' rotation who would have guessed that the only time this has been done against them was with Kyle Kendrick on the mound.

  22. Phil Haberkorn in Indiana Says:

    23 of 32 times the strategy succeeded: bunter got a hit or advanced the runner. Derek Jeter is a team player. Get the team started early on knocking this kid pitcher out.

    Hey, Dave & Raphy, Re: posts 11 & 12 and "how do you know the batter was trying to sacrifice instead of getting a hit?" That's what official scorers are for. Highly empathic individuals are hired for those jobs, in order to make use of their ESP talents and read the batter's minds. On bad days, they check the rule book where it says "the batter shall be awarded a sacrifice, unless the play results in his reaching first base, in which case he shall be awarded a hit."
    Or words to that effect. My ESP is a little off these days, I still don't understand why the Cubs didn't trade Zambrano long ago.

  23. John Autin Says:

    @22, Phil -- That's one view of "success" in that situation. Another view is, 72% of those plays resulted in an out.

    As for the value of trading an out for a base in the first inning, you can look up Tangotiger's "Run Expectancy By Run Environment" table. Let's give the sacrifice the fairest shake possible by assuming a fairly low offensive context of 3.5 R/G -- facing a tough pitcher, say, or playing in Petco:

    -- The average runs scored following a situation of man on 1st with 0 outs is 0.731 runs.
    -- The average runs scored following a situation of man on 2nd with 1 out is 0.578.

    The "successful" sacrifice reduces the total run expectancy by 0.153 runs, roughly 1/6 of a run. It substantially reduces the chance of a crooked number.

    And for what gain? It does increase the chance of scoring exactly 1 run, but only from 0.176 to 0.225, or roughly 5 percentage points. That's not enough to make me want to play for 1 run in the 1st inning.

    BTW, the scoring average this year is 4.15 R/G in the NL, 4.37 in the AL, 4.25 combined.

    The table:
    https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pkimQBCeCjbjIgxJ9vKvJSQ

  24. M. Scott Eiland Says:

    Hmmm. The 2002 version of the Runs Created formula rates this particular sample at 5.62 RC/game--making it look effective. However, the bunt single rate seems rather high in this sample, and the sample only seems to include bunt attempts that go into play, which doesn't reflect the effects of unsuccessful bunts on the rest of the plate appearances (with the more likely than not 0-1 count following said unsuccessful bunt attempts tending to drag BA, OBP, and SA down for said plate appearances).

  25. Johnny Twisto Says:

    In Jeter's slight defense, Paulino is a hard-throwing righty, the type of pitcher he's had little success against over the past two seasons.

    Of course, he subsequently went on to get a couple hits against him.

    ***

    If someone lays down an obvious sacrifice bunt, he can still be given a hit. It doesn't really matter what he intended to do.

    I think the issue is about the converse (inverse? obverse?): If the batter is "obviously" bunting for a hit, but gets thrown out, can he be given a sacrifice? I've heard that he should not be, but I don't know if that's actually the rule.

  26. I am old enough to remember Vince Coleman trying to bunt his way on for the first out of what seemed to be every game!

  27. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    I am old enough to remember Vince Coleman trying to bunt his way on for the first out of what seemed to be every game!

    James, if you're a Mets fan, and if the box-score accounts are correct, you remember these five games:

    5/17/91; 6/4/92; 6/14/92; 4/22/93; and 7/24/93

    (I'm old enough to associate pure fan disgruntlement with Vince Coleman's time in New York. (-;þ )

  28. I think for most players the purpose of the strategy is to try to reach first base by either hit or error, with the compromise of a sacrifice as the most likely alternative outcome, and very little chance of a double play. It may sound ridiculous to have had Carlos Beltran give himself up as the #3 hitter with two men on, but he had good speed, and it does put a lot of pressure on the defense to make a play. I think a lot of teams feel players put more pressure on themselves when they're playing from behind - hence the advantage of getting on board in the first inning. Certainly, there's a psychological disadvantage to letting a rally start in the first inning by throwing a bunt attempt into the outfield grass.

  29. Now we're talking about Vince Coleman?

    This whole thread just won't stop stabbing me in my soul.

  30. #19 is correct. Many managers do this; I remember Adam Everett bunting Biggio every time he got on in the first inning. I think Bill James once noted that the biggest divergence in performance from team to team was in the second spot in the lineup.

  31. To be fair to Jeter usually when he does something like bunt early in the game he is expecting to catch the defense sleeping. I don't think anyone has ever accused him of hedging his bets so that he either gets a hit or no lump on his stats for the sacrifice out.

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