Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sacrificing Frank

It seems to me that Frank loves the sac bunt. Knowing that the ERV matrix demonstrates that the sac bunt is rarely the smart move, steam has been coming out of my ears when he orders one, especially when there are no outs and it's #2 in the lineup at the plate. But I said, let's look at facts, and see whether the sac bunts have really cost us this year. So I put together this chart from my spreadsheet from scoring the whole season:

First, a couple of explanatory notes. The chart (which does not include Sunday's game) only lists succesful sacrifices, not botched ones. Also, "Bases" shows the runners AFTER the bunt, but ERV shows the expected runs on average BEFORE the bunt. RV is the run value for the bunt. "Actual" are the actual runs scored by the Nats for the remainder of the inning.

The Totals row is the interesting one. ERV says we should have score 14.89 runs in the innings where we successfully bunted, and in those inning we actually scored 11 runs. So we've given up about 3-4 runs so far this year by bunting. This is close to what the RV scoring estimates, as the sum of all the RVs is -2.16 runs. Our bats generally have been below average this year, which explains some of the difference between the two. Note also that most of Frank's sac bunts have been the most costly (none on, runner on first), which squander -0.21 RV each time.

Note that actual is a bit inflated, since the last entry is Jamey Carroll's bunt Saturday night, which Zambrano misplayed and threw to third. In other words, we didn't have to trade the out for base then, so the 4 runs we scored would probably have been less if Zambrano had played it right. So the Actual is a bit inflated. Also, the botched bunts, which there have been a few, mean we've squandered some more runs than reflected here too.

In sum, I'm right to have steam coming out of my ears. Frank bunts too much, and he is giving away runs with them. It's not a lot right now, but it adds up, and could be up to 20 or more runs by the end of the year, which equates to about 2 wins. That's the real sacrifice.


At 10:52 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

I agree, for the most part on the bunts. But, is it really fair to include the pitchers on that list? Yes, Livan is probably the best hitting pitcher not named Ortiz or Dontrelle, but I still probably want him bunting in most situations.

The other questions I have (and it's probably rhetorical) is regarding the timing of it. Especially earlier in the season, Frank was bunting early and often, but as the lineup has taken shape, it seems like he's only bunting in more traditional times.

At any rate, this goes to something we had talked about on a previous thread -- the bunt in comparison to the two point conversion.

There are certainly situations, late in the game, that it's worth sacrficing the potential to score multiple runs to get that one run in. (That we've typically failed to get even that one run in is more a product of bad luck, I think)

Just as with the 2 ptr in football, if used sparingly, in endgame situations, it can be the right play.

At 10:54 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

Looking at the chart, though, you can see the change in Frank's strategy. He's certainly using it less frequently now, since he's stumbled into the right lineup.

It's also a good sign that without Vidro's offense, he's not increasing its usage hoping to scratch out a few more runs to compensate.

I'm done rambling now!

At 11:22 PM, Blogger DM said...

You're right that the pitcher bunts were the right call by Frank. But it is still interesting to see if it worked out.

Your take on Frank's strategy is interesting. What annoyed me recently is the Carroll bunts, and Schneider's today. Those guys are good hitters, and I think Frank is making a mistake there.

Also, one could do a much more precise analysis by looking at the Win Value of the runner Frank sought to move over, which would account for the game situation, but I barely have enough time for this quick study.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

I'm not trying to nitpick here, but just trying to show that sometimes what may not look like a good bunt is probably decent strategy.

I think the Schneider bunt was defensible, coming against Clint Bartosh, who has a tricky delivery and has been eating lefties alive. (.091 against!?!?)

Odds are that if Schneider had been able to put it in play no runner would've advanced, or worst case, a GIDP. Bunting certainly isn't conventional, especially with Guzman and a PHer for the pitcher coming up, but given the context of what was going on, it makes more sense.

The one thing I'm finding as I follow a team much more closely than I have before is the difference between stats on the macro and micro level.

So many of the Baseball Prospectus type stats are macro, big-picture stats. Whereas sometimes, such as in this case, Frank probably made the right decision, as long as you're focusing on the micro.

I suspect that RV and even WV are somewhere at the nexus of those two levels.

And I'm certainly agreed with you on Caroll's bunts! What's the guy hitting? .330ish? Let him swing!

At 12:08 AM, Blogger DM said...

You're probably right on the Schneider bunt ... I was following the game in and out today so may have missed some things.

But Schneider's RV this year is minus 0.93, and his Win Value is plus 3.72, which says that he has been pretty clutch so far this year. I understand your fear about the DP, and the matchup may not have been the best, but I still think the margin says let him swing away.

As for stats, I think there is a contiuum of between "counting stats" on the one hand (totally context-independent, OPS, OBP, BA) and "context stats" on the other (context-laden, R, RBI, RV, WV). I think RV is toward the context stat side, and WV is even further to that side.

At 8:09 AM, Blogger Brian said...

DM ... one question about this. How are we to assume where the responsibility for the bunts come from? Wouldn't there be a difference between an actual Frank-called sacrifice and one where the hitter goes out on his own? Case in point, Guillen's sacrifice bunt. In my opinion, Guillen was bunting for a hit. It was recorded as a sacrifice but I believe that Guillen's intent was to try and get a hit. Shouldn't there be some weight given towards where the idea of the sacrifice came from (which is impossible to determine in many cases)?

At 10:03 AM, Blogger DM said...


Fair point, but I think the only one on the list that might not be Frank's call is the one you mention by Guillen. I think the Post's fawning over him (quoting Frank) over the two-strike groundout the night before went to his head, and he thought he was being clever with that bunt. Or may be he was just tired.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Chris Needham said...

What I'd like to see (and I'm certainly not asking you to do this, just throwing it out there) is the value of Guillen's arm. It seems like most teams are afraid to run on it, especially going from second to home.

Obviously the hard part of that sort of analysis would be determining what an average RFer would result in, but I can certainly remember at least four examples where runs didn't score because they held them up at third.

(That's another example where the macro stat is probably way different than the micro look, too)

At 10:34 AM, Blogger DM said...

On Guillen's arm, I strongly agree Chris. It seems there have been several times runners have held primarily due to ball being hit to Guillen.

But I have yet to pull the trigger and give him credit for that. It's probably the hardest ERV judgment to make, as there are many variables. Did the runner get a good jump? What kind of runner is he? Where was he when Guillen got the ball? These are also things hard to pick up on from TV. Even if you had data on where the ball was hit and what the average result was from that spot, it would be hard to factor in the particularities of the runner and the circumstances.

This is one where the "wisdom of crowds" is almost indispensible to getting the right result. Each of us with our own scraps of information could probably get the right number collectively.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Sam said...

I'm usually a humble, moderate, guy, with respect for all and a ready willingness to admit the chance that I might be wrong in my views.

But bunting Schneider in a tie game with Guzman and the pitcher coming up is insane.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Basil said...

Obviously the hard part of that sort of analysis would be determining what an average RFer would result in,

IIRC, STATS has/had a measure for this. I can't recall its usefulness, though.


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