With each of the Twins’ 53 sacrifice bunt attempts this season, second-most in the American League, Twitter’s court of public opinion would light up with its trusted hashtag of shrieking disapproval: #NeverBunt. While this is to some extent an oversimplication — bunting for a hit, for instance, is quite different than willingly giving up a precious out — manager Paul Molitor’s oft-professed affection for a well-placed bunt increasingly runs counter to the overall industry trend. Thanks to the run-expectancy matrix readily found online, which breaks down expected scoring outcomes for average teams under each of the 24 base-out states, it has become easier than ever for even casual baseball fans to recognize the limited or nonexistent value of moving runners with a so-called productive out. With baseballs flying over distant fences once more at record levels and runs more plentiful than at any time since the heart of the steroid era, teams continue to deemphasize sacrifice bunting. Molitor’s Twins, however, remain among the holdouts. “There’s a reason that the sacrifice bunt is used less than at any point in the history of the game,” ESPN baseball play-by-play broadcaster Jon “Boog” Sciambi said. “Teams have figured out with their front offices that mathematically it’s not a particularly good play.” AL teams combined for just 272 successful sacrifice bunts during the regular season, down 22.3 percent from the 2016 total of 350 and a 40-percent decline from the 453 successful sacrifices executed in 2015, Molitor’s first season as a manager at any level.
Don’t tell Paul Molitor’s Twins the sacrifice bunt is a dying art
St. Paul Pioneer Press | Oct 9