Is Sacrifice Bunting Worth It?

Masahiro Kawai--Sac Bunt KingSacrifice bunting is rarely a good idea. With a man on first and the pitcher (or Shiroishi) at the plate, it could be argued that giving up an out in favor of advancing the runner is understandable. However, in most other cases it seems like a stupid waste of an out (or maybe it’s a face-saving technique?).

Those who are familiar with Japanese baseball have probably noticed the pervasiveness of the sac bunt. Man on first with no outs? Bunt. It’s nearly automatic, and .300 hitters like the Swallows’ Tanaka and Miyamoto have recently been ordered to take one for the team.

The math done in the states clearly shows that there is a better chance of scoring a run with a man on first and no outs (average of 0.9 runs) than with a man on second and one out (0.7 runs). In other words, voluntarily giving up an out just to get a guy on second actually decreases the team’s chances of scoring. Is the same true in Japan?

The Pacific league, with its designated hitters, should arguably not need to use the sac bunt quite as often, but a casual observer will notice that they bunt almost as often as their Central league counterparts. I decided to track sac bunting in the inter-league games as a way to check the value/effectiveness of the practice.

Game notes:

  • First game of interleague play (May 21st, 2008): Tokyo played Seibu in Saitama and Takada had Miyamoto sacrifice bunt to move Guiel over to second after he singled to right to start the fourth inning. Riggs is easily taken care of for out number two. Miyade draws a walk to put runners on first and second. Kinugawa brings Guiel around from second on a single to right. Kawashima strikes out to end the top of the fourth. In the 7th, the Lions had Kataoka bunt to move the runner over to second, but no runs ended up scoring. Tokyo won the game 5-4.
  • Game two of mini-series (May 22nd, 2008): Tokyo already had one out in the top of the 2nd inning, but third baseman Kawashima was told to bunt anyway (with men on first and second) for out number two. With runners on second and third, Fukuchi grounded out to the second baseman. No runs scored. Seibu won the game 7-2.
  • Tokyo versus Chiba (May 23rd, 2008): Top of the third-Kinugawa got himself on first by way of a walk, and then Takada had shortstop Shiroishi bunt to move Kinugawa over to second. No runs scored. Chiba did the same thing in the bottom of the fourth and eighth innings with the same result both times. In both cases the sacrifice bunt was followed by a base on balls (it could be argued that the bunts were unnecessary because the walk would have moved the runner over anyway). Tokyo won this game in 12 innings 2-0.
  • Game two (May 24th, 2008): With rain threatening, only Chiba sacrifice bunted. After a leadoff single, Hayakawa bunted the runner over. Fukuura then plated the runner with a single to right. Chiba won this game 4-3 by way of a walk-off single in the ninth.
  • Home series versus Rakuten (May 25th, 2008): In the top of the fifth inning, Watanabe came up first and singled past Tokyo shortstop Kawabata. Rakuten manager, Nomura, then had Teppei sacrifice bunt. No runs scored. Tokyo did not sacrifice bunt in this game. Rakuten won 10-2.
  • Game two of mini-series (May 26th, 2008): Tokyo’s Kawabata started the fifth inning with a single to left. Pitcher Rios then bunted him over to second. Kawabata then scored on Fukuchi’s single to center field. Rakuten’s pitcher bunted with one out in the top of the fourth to advance the runner. No runs scored. Rakuten won 5-4.
  • Nippon Ham series at Jingu, game one (May 28th, 2008): After Fighters center fielder, Murata, drew a leadoff walk to start the game, Takaguchi advanced him to second on a sac bunt. The bats then came alive. The next two batters singled, and that was followed by a walk. Out number two arrived on a strikeout, but two more singles soon followed. Nippon Ham scored three runs that inning. Tokyo did not sacrifice bunt in this game even though they had a chance to do so in the bottom of the fifth inning. Miyamoto led off with a single, and rather than having Kawashima bunt, Takada let him swing away. Kawashima and the two batters following him, Kinugawa and Saitou, responded with singles. Fukuchi struck out, Tanaka flied out to center (one run scored), and Takeuchi closed the inning with a strikeout. Two runs scored, but Nippon Ham won this contest 7-3.
  • Game two (May 29th, 2008): Tokyo utility man, Kawashima, was brought off the bench to sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the 8th inning. Fukuchi then brought Yuuichi around to score in the following at-bat. One run scored. For its part, Nippon Ham sacrifice bunted in the first, fifth and sixth innings, but no runs scored following those three bunts. Nippon Ham won 3-2.
  • First game of mini-series versus Buffaloes (May 31st, 2008): There were no sacrifice bunts in this game which was played at Skymark stadium. Tokyo won 9-3.
  • Game two (June 1st, 2008): Orix did not employ the sacrifice bunt in this series. However, after Fukuchi reached base on a single to start the game, Tanaka (yes, you read that right) was asked to bunt him over. He did his duty, and Fukuchi safely reached second base. However, no runs scored in that inning. Orix won 9-3.
  • Two-game series in Fukuoka (June 3rd, 2008): For the second game in a row, Takada had one of the team’s most reliable hitters sacrifice bunt in the top of the first inning. Fukuchi led off with a single to left, and Miyamoto bunted him over. No runs scored. The Hawks did not sacrifice bunt in this contest even though (theoretically) they had two opportunities to do so. Softbank won 7-3.
  • Game two versus Softbank (June 4th, 2008): Neither team sacrifice bunted in this game. Fortunately, Takada passed on a chance to repeat what happened the night before when Miyamoto came to the plate with a Fukuchi on first in the fifth inning. The Swallows scored two runs in that inning. Tokyo won 3-0.
  • Home series versus Seibu (June 6th, 2008): With Hatakeyama safely on second base, Takada had Takeuchi bunt him over to third. The wasted opportunity became evident when Hatakeyama reached home on Kawamoto’s home run. Three runs scored in that inning. Tokyo won 7-1.
  • Game two versus Seibu (June 7th, 2008): Seibu had Bocachica bunt Nakamura over to third and he scored just after that. One run scored that inning. Tokyo did not sacrifice bunt in this game although Takada was given two opportunities to do so. Seibu won 5-3.
  • Chiba comes to Jingu (June 8th, 2008): Chiba sacrifice bunted in the 5th, but no runs scored even though two men were already on base. Tokyo attempted something similar in the bottom of the 9th, but it did not result in a run. Chiba won 4-3.
  • Game two versus Chiba Lotte (June 9th, 2008): This was a long game, but there was no sacrifice bunting. With Takeuchi at the plate (not one of Tokyo’s best hitters) and a man on first, normally a sacrifice bunt situation for Takada, Takeuchi was allowed to swing, and he came through. Takeuchi’s single was followed by a Kawamoto double that drove in two rbi’s. Chiba won 5-3.
  • Two-game series versus Rakuten (June 11th, 2008): This game was played in Sendai. Tokyo won this one in the top of the 10th inning. Tanaka reached safely on a walk, and then Takeuchi bunted to move him over. The bunt was shown to be wasteful as Fukuchi ended up hitting a triple to bring both Tanaka and Kawashima around to score (Kawashima also drew a base on balls after Taekuchi’s sacrifice). Rakuten tried the sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the 8th, but it didn’t result in a run. Tokyo won 5-3.
  • Game two in Sendai (June 12th, 2008): Tokyo used the sacrifice bunt twice in this game. The first time came in the top of the third inning. Takeuchi single to right. Moved to second on Kawamoto’s sac bunt. Kawashima singles to put runners at the corners. Fukuchi rbi single past third base. Miyamoto grounds out to short. Aoki intentionally walked. Hatakeyama two-run single to center. Three runs scored in this inning although it could be argued that the bunt wasn’t helpful when the events of the entire inning are taken into account. Sac bunt number two came in the seventh, but was more or less shown to be wasteful when Aoki later homered. Tokyo won 7-3.
  • Tokyo plays Nippon Ham (June 14th, 2008): There were no sac bunts in this game. Takada had a chance to order one up in the top of the sixth, but Aoki was at the plate. Aoki, thankfully, is not forced to sac bunt. Tokyo scored its only run that inning. Nippon Ham won 2-1.
  • Game two at Sapporo Dome (June 15th, 2008): This was a sac bunt matsuri! Bottom 1st, Fighters shortstop Takaguchi bunts the guy on first over to second for out number one. Outs two and three come in quick succession. No runs score. Top 2nd, Tanaka asked to bunt. Nothing comes of it. Top of the 3rd, Tokyo tries it again. After Kawashima doubled, Fukuchi bunted him over to third. This time it works as Miyamoto singles to bring Kawashima around to score. However, Aoki soon followed with a single of his own, so it can be argued that the run would have come around anyway (the bunt was a waste of an out). Top 4th, Takada opts to bunt for the third straight inning. Iihara sacrifices, but no runs score. Tokyo’s fourth sac bunt came in the 6th. Iihara singles, so Kawamoto bunts. Kawashima walks (thus negating the possible gain from the bunt), and then Fukuchi singles to load the bases. Two successive outs mean that all three runners are stranded. No runs score. Tokyo won 3-1.
  • First game of the Softbank Series (June 18th, 2008): This game was played in Nagano as a “home” contest for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. There were no sacrifice bunts in this game. Tokyo won 3-2.

Summary:

Yasushi Iihara buntsDuring the inter-league games that have been taking place since the second half of May, sacrifice bunts were tracked in all Tokyo Yakult Swallows games until June 18th, 2008. Tokyo’s, and their opponent’s, sacrifice bunts were noted with the relative success (in runs) of each sacrifice.

Through the beginning of the Softbank series played in Nagano (21 games total), 30 sacrifice bunts were attempted. The runner bunted over later scored on 11 of those occasions (19 sacrifice bunts did not result in a run being scored). However, six of those cases in which runs scored were situations where a subsequent rally, base on balls, or big hit (triple or home run), nullified the relative gain of the sacrifice. Therefore only five of those bunts were successful and arguably worth the out that a sacrifice bunt entails. Accordingly, 25 of the sacrifice bunts served no other purpose than to hasten the end of the inning.

Tokyo had a slight, although negligible, lead over its opponents in terms of runs scored following a sac bunt by notching three successful attempts while the teams in the other dugout combined for only two successes. However, Tokyo led its opponents, by a count of 5-1, in terms of bunts that were later shown to be wasteful (for example, due to a subsequent home run or walk).

Although the sample size in this experiment is limited, and the analysis extremely simple, it is evident that sacrifice bunting played an irreplaceable role in a run being scored only 17% of the time. While much more play-by-play analysis is needed to corroborate these findings, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that less than one in five of the sacrifice bunts laid down during the first 21 inter-league games in which the Tokyo Yakult Swallows participated was a defensible decision (e.g. a run scored). If the percentages were the other way around, and, for example, two out of three bunts directly eventuated a run being scored, then, hey, I would happily trade three outs for two runs every inning if I were the manager of a professional baseball team.

However, in the case study presented here, more than 80% of sacrifice bunts were shown to be wasteful and detrimental to the team’s cause. It doesn’t matter how much better things appear to be if a runner is stranded on second, rather than on first, at the end of an inning, or even if he’s caught up in a double play. The bottom line is that outs are precious, and every one given away increases the chances that the team will not score a run in that inning.

In conclusion, except in situations where there are: a) no outs, b) a man on first, and, c) a pitcher who is actually good at bunting at the plate, sacrifice bunting should be abandoned in favor of allowing players to either draw walks or try to hit the ball. If a player’s OBP is greater than .170 (17% success rate of sac bunting according to this study), then a manager is effectively acting against his team’s best interests by ordering a sacrifice bunt.

[As of June 18th, infielder Shiroishi’s OBP was .059 while starting pitcher, Tateyama, had an OBP of .188. Making Shiroishi bunt is excusable, and perhaps advisable, according to these findings. Tateyama, however, could arguably benefit the team more by swinging away.]

About Christopher Pellegrini

Christopher is a budding sabermetrician and long-time supporter of Tokyo's more lovable team, the Swallows. He has publicly volunteered, several times, that he plans to buy the team at some point in the future. When he finally runs the joint, it is likely that he will fine any player who swings at the first pitch or sac bunts (unless it's a pitcher, of course). Follow him on Twitter: @chrispellegrini

  • Dan

    You hint at it in the last paragraph of your conclusion, but I think the determinant for when bunting is acceptable is all in context. Firstly, by the ability of the hitter – if it is someone who can give greater benefit with a walk or hit than in the sacrifice. I would also argue that the game context is important. What is the average Runs Added by giving a sacrifice bunt? Probably low. So the sac bunt is only valuable in situations where you only need a low amount of runs, and are running out of opportunities to get them – i.e. late in the game with the score tied, or down by one. I think adding that kind of context to your analysis would make it clear that sac bunting is even less attractive.

    Do you see many sac bunts, even by a pitcher with no outs and a man on first, in the early innings? Because playing for one run in that situation seems wasteful, with so much game left to play.

  • Dan,
    Excellent observations!

    To answer your question: yes. The teams observed in this article routinely sac bunted in the first three innings of the game. Just going back through my game notes in this post I noticed at least seven times that Tokyo bunted in the first three innings. In that game on June 15th, Tokyo manager Takada called for sac bunts four times in the first six innings of the game (even though the team wasn’t behind at any point during the game).

    And to make things worse, it’s sometimes our best hitters who are asked to bunt. Miyamoto (.361 OBP) and Tanaka (.390 OBP) have both sacrificed during the inter-league games.

    You’re right, Dan, that’s just plain wasteful.

  • Tad DeOrio

    Chris
    You don’t like small ball?

    When the KC Royals signed their new manager fresh from the Japan World Series all the writers here were gushing about the excitment of small ball.

    The most exciting bunt is when the infield is in very close and the hitter squares around but swings away.

    Amazing how fast the infielders can get flat.

  • Yeah, I did some NPB v MLB offensive numbers comparisons here for 2005-07 and PL teams bunt just as often as CL teams.
    http://jhockey.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/some-npb-v-mlb-offense-comparisons/

    Now, I don’t think the sac bunt is completely useless, but NPB teams overuse it to the point of being detrimental to their offense. Then again, Trey Hillman’s Fighters repeated as PL champs and they bunted often. Hillman noted the psychologically calming effect that bunting has on Japanese players (because it’s ingrained in Japanese baseball culture), which leads to better performance. Pull up various Hillman interviews and you’ll find him saying that.

    But in general, I think the optimal strategy is to go for the big innings early in the game (ie. don’t sac bunt). But if it’s late in the game and 1 run would tie or bring a lead to the team, then I think sac bunts are valid (especially against tough pitchers where chances of big innings is very low, which is not unusual in closely fought games).

    Actually, bunting early in the game might even be justifiable when facing true aces like Darvish (especially with the low scoring Fighters lineup), as every run is precious and chances scoring 3-4 runs off of him in an inning is very slim. Then again, this may just be a truism, teams don’t tend to have big innings against aces because they bunt early and often. Hmm…?

    Anyways, I think MLB teams bunt more often in the postseason (don’t have stats with me though) when the opposing pitchers are often ace quality, both starters and relievers, instead of the dreg that they often get to face during the regular season.

    Of course, pitchers should bunt with the runner on first, this is the same in the NL, unless you’re Micah Owings or Carlos Zambrano.

    This whole thing is similar to why NFL teams shouldn’t kick until late in the game, because the rewards of a TD (equivalent to a big inning in baseball) is often greater than the higher percentage 3 points from a FG or better field position gained from punts, even with the probability of TD is not as high as FG.

    I might’ve forgot something, but that’s more or less my thoughts on bunting and NPB.

  • Pingback: The Sac Bunt and NPB « Japan, Hockey, Baseball, etc.()

  • Well put, Simon. I can see a certain logic to bunting occasionally, but I look at the sac bunt in a very simple way: When is giving up an out worth it?
    Only when a run is all but guaranteed.

    As sac bunts, basically by definition, give up a precious out and, even under the best of circumstances, are far from guaranteed to bring in a run (the only thing more valuable than not having outs), it makes little if any sense ever to sacrifice bunt.

    The assumption that sac bunts will make a precious run more likely seems hard to defend. If Shiroishi is up, perhaps there’s some reason, but the better question is: Why is someone doing so badly in the line-up to begin with?

    A sac bunt is better than a K, a pop fly, or a ground out, but the downside is that the sac bunt has a hitter setting out to get out, which is just plain dumb as cases in which a batter sac bunts a man home (or even to third) are about as common as ivory-billed woodpeckers. Scoring from second is by no means a safe bet, especially when your team has an out or two.

    If there’s a psychological calming effect, OK, but that’s a clear sign that playing to win needs to be instilled in players before they hit the big leagues. Giving up outs on purpose is playing to uphold tradition and superstition, not playing to win ball games.

    Any of you guys know the succes rate of sac bunts advancing runners? Does anyone keep track of that? It could be a kind of “Bunting Average.” If a guy’s bunting average is low, it would follow that he should not bunt, regardless of his batting average or OBP.

  • Run scoring probability slightly decreases when going from 0 outs / runner on 1st to 1 out / runner on 2nd.

    But this is not the probability of scoring 1 run, it is the probability of scoring _runs_. So, if you just need to score 1 run to tie the game, or take the lead, moving the runner over to 2nd late in the game may be a valid move tactically, especially when facing a tough pitcher where extrabase hits or stringing together multiple hits will be difficult.

    In other words, there’s more chance of having a big inning (say scoring 3 or more runs) when it’s 0 outs / runner on 1st, than 1 out / runner on 2nd. But since the run probability only slightly decreases this also means that 0 outs / runner on 1st leads to many innings where 0 runs are scored, where as 1 out / runner on 2nd has a higher chance of scoring 1 run (but not a big innning).

    Oh, and this discussion is based off MLB data, I’d expect the numbers to be similar for NPB, but who knows.

    So yeah, automatically bunting is stupid, but depending on the game situation and the opposing pitcher, it’s a valid strategy. (I did a quick google search but couldn’t find the actual run probability numbers for different outs/runners situations.)

    Duh, after writing all of that, I found it.
    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/not-so-sweet-surrender/

    it turns out that for the 1999-2002 period a sacrifice is worth the risk only in the following situations:

    # you need to score a single run

    # there are runners on first and second

    # there is nobody out

    # the odds of being successful are greater than 79.9%

    and when…

    # you need to score a single run

    # there is a runner on second

    # there is nobody out

    # the odds of being successful are greater than 92.1%

    ———

    With less homeruns in MLB now, and NPB, than those steroid fueled days of late 90’s early 2000’s, runs are more precious commodities than back when this analysis was done. And big innings accompanied by the 3 run homerun are less likely.

    And this is coming from someone whose all about the OBP (if you read some of my blog you’ll be able to tell).

  • I have a question the I’m sure I’ll soon come to see as a bit silly (or obvious): How are the odds mentioned in the two situations you list calculated?

    As you mentioned earlier, Simon, the most important non-situational factor would be the pitcher/batter pairing. Darvish on the mound with the pircher up? OK, the sac bunt looks a bit less silly, esp. if there’s a chance of getting a runner around to third.

    Aoki up facing a rag arm? Let him try for the hit.

    I will, though, admit to a certain amount of (perhaps excessive) bias against the sac bunt in principle (I hate punting and field goals in football as well) and to being even more against it when I see Takada-kantoku using it as an offensive pillar.

  • I’d like to nominate Elton John’s “Sacrifice” to be the theme tune of this article. Anyway…….ahem.

    I’d echo most of what everyone has said above. In my opinion, in a tight game, and in the latter parts of such a game where runs are at a premium, I don’t see the harm in a sac.bunt.

    Though as you said Garrett, it is pretty much Takada-kantoku’s signature offensive strategy, from first to last innings regardless of context. It just shows an incredible lack of faith in the guys in the team to get the job done IMO. Or could it be due to the influx of new faces in the starting nine this year, that he doesn’t have faith in them yet, and thus he plays the most cautious form of baseball known to man to grind out tight wins?

    Incidentally, Miyamoto has pretty much always been used as a “bunter” since the beginning of time, at least since Wakamatsu-kantoku. That was his role. Bats second in the lineup and bunts over the speedy lead-off hitter. I seem to remember he broke the single season sacrifice-bunt record a few years back (or did I imagine that…..?)

    By all means be aggressive on the basepaths, and I don’t mind the steal so much (another of Garrett’s pet peeves…..), but just let the guys try for a hit and keep the inning, and thus chance of a big(ger) inning, going.

    But maybe Takada’s a stubbon old coot, and now the team were advertised by the organisation as “Small ball” from the very first game of the season, well that’s just what he’s gonna give us. Like it or lump it.

  • Let’s put it this way: If I were the GM of a team, I’d let the field manager know that he could start packing his things the first time a batter sac bunted and a run didn’t directly result from it. I’d ask him to be conservative with stealing and sure as heck would have some some choice words for plays like letting Iihara try to steal second with two outs and a couple of good bats coming up.

    Then again, I thought it was silly of the Cubs (the MLB team I like) to exend camp in an attempt to work out the batting order. After all, who cares about batting order after the first inning? The Cubs now have the best record in MLB. Shows what I know.

  • This is a common complaint about NPB from people coming over from MLB. In one of his Guides to Japanese Baseball published in the late 1990s, Jim Allen (now of The Daily Yomiuri) set out to prove that bunting was a bad idea. He took Mori-kantoku’s Lions as the prime example of bunting often. But his conclusion was that the Lions actually scored more when they bunted than when they didn’t.

    I thought that this was some sort of anomaly until I read Mori-kantoku’s “memories” in “Remembering Japanese Baseball” by Rob Fitts. What it boiled down to was that Mori-kantoku put people in the lineup where they would be the most productive, and for some, that meant the number two slot in charge of bunting a runner along. With the pitching staff he had, he knew that just getting a single run in the first could be enough to win.

    What is disturbing is that many managers since then have also employed the strategy, but without thinking out if it was the best one for the team makeup. For Mori’s Lions, it was. For Hillman-kantoku’s Fighters last year it was. And I’m sure that there are several more examples where employing the bunt in the first inning has been appropriate.

    If bunting in the first is appropriate for the Swallows this year, I can’t say. I can say that it’s wrong for Hara-kantoku to have Ogasawara bunt (among other stupid things he does). The BayStars’ pitching staff would be hard pressed to hold on to a 5 run lead in the first, and Lotte has been struggling to hold on to leads in the late innings as well.

  • Yeah, just reiterating what westbaystars is saying here but, bunting early and going for the 1 run lead (higher probability, lower but possibly early rewards) instead of gambling for big inning (lower probability, bigger rewards) also puts psychological pressure on the opposing team to play “catch up”… when both managers employ the same tactic, then you get into bunting wars where both teams try to get that 1 run in the early innings.

    How can we measure the psychological pressure an early lead puts on an opponent? I don’t know. Game theory-wise, I still think going for the big inning early would be a wiser strategy, but I guess it would also depend on the personnel, like westbaystars mentions. Some teams are better at holding onto small leads (Fighters and Tigers the last couple of years at least) than others (BayStars, etc.).

  • Good point Simon. The psychological pressure of taking an early lead shouldn’t be discounted, and indeed is probably the major reason Takada does what he does.

    And Westbaystars-san, as for preserving small leads, now that we have a trio of relievers – Matsuoka, Oshimoto, and Lim – who can actually (usually) close out a tight game, I guess that’s what he’s going for too. The problem has been that this strategy only really works if you get an effective outing from your starter, and with our erratic rotation so far this year that hasn’t always been the case.

    At times watching the Swallows this season, especially during the first portion of the Interleague games when Aoki and Miyamoto were out, has been so frustrating. Our ability to craft a big inning was being totally undermined by the consistent bunting, and as a consequence, if the starter didn’t get the job done and we got into some of our dodgy relievers, then it looked an impossibility for us to get back into games, as we seemed to only be able to score a run at a time.

  • Also, having a man on second puts additional pressure on the pitcher. I suppose that could be worth something against certain pitchers (especially inexperienced ones).

    However, TYS’s offense is still trying to stir itself out of its two-month-long slump. We’re currently tied for fourth in the Central in runs scored. The team needs to regain its confidence and start putting more pressure on opposing teams’ pitchers in additional ways.

    The team’s pitching is not nearly as big a concern as it has been the past few years. The team ERA is in the 3.50 range for the first time in ages, and we’re a close third in the Central in terms of runs allowed.

    The issue at the moment is largely hitting, a facet of the team’s game that has been a relative strength year-in and year-out, and the young guys on the team need to spend more time learning to take pitches and control the strike zone.

    Except for in the few extenuating circumstances listed above in previous comments, bunting is probably not one of the best answers for getting the team’s bats back in gear.

  • Swallows have the best defense in the league in terms of defensive efficiency (percentage of balls in play turned into outs, opposite of BABIP. Giants are the worst, btw 😛 )

    That combined with Jingu becoming a normal sized park instead of Hiroshima/Yokohama-like bandbox of yesteryears probably helps out the pitching staff.

    Aoki returned, which is huge. Whenever Guiel returns, they’ll form a formidable trio.

    Still, I was surprised by the Swallows defensive rating, not something that I heard a lot about anecdotally either being good or bad.

  • Simon,
    Yeah, that surprised me as well! I had no idea that the Swallows defensive efficiency was that good (or that other teams were that bad…). Just looking at our struggles to fill the gaping hole at third left by Iwamura would easily persuade me to believe that the team ranks mid table in def. eff.

    That said, Miyamoto and Tanaka in the middle have been excellent thus far (like Tokyo’s version of Araki and Ibata from Chunichi), and the rotating door of outfielders have been adjusting well.

    Do you have those def. eff. numbers by any chance? Also, do you think that Guiel will be back any time soon?

  • Here, actually.
    http://jhockey.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/2008616-npb-update/

    It appears as though the defense is helping to bring down the team ERA (if my calculations are correct).

    The thing is Miyamoto’s range has been steadily declining over the past few seasons, he’s getting old, and unfortunately he’s no Ozzie/Vizquel. And Aoki missed a good chunk of the season so far. Hence my surprise.

    3B is not as important a position defensively as up the middle (though more important than other corner positions) – Bill James’ Defensive Spectrum:
    1B – LF/RF – 3B – CF – 2B – SS
    with positions towards the right being more important than the left (I found a page with various NPB Range Factor numbers for recent seasons, so will probably translate that some time soon.)

  • I have no clue about Guiel. He still appears to be rehabbing, hasn’t appeared in a 2-gun game yet so his return seems to be a while off, unfortunately.

  • I found a page with various NPB Range Factor numbers for recent seasons, so will probably translate that some time soon.

    Definitely looking forward to that!

    I agree that the defense is helping out with the team ERA. Our young starters have made it through six or seven innings while given up only four hits on a number of occasions. As there isn’t an inordinate number of K’s being recorded, the only thing left to explain the situation is defense.

  • Ken

    I’ve always been under the impression that the sac bunt is a full-on waste of an out, since the batter’s entire mission should be to not make an out – anything he can do to make an out is bad. That said, there are some cases when it seems to make sense to sac bunt to move a guy over, especially when the team needs one run.

    Though, I would like to see by what ratio sac-bunting reduces the odds of a double play being hit into. Again, this will vary from hitter to hitter (Any coincidence that Rice and Yaz are both in the top 10 all-time GIDP?), but if a hitter’s more likely to GIDP, perhaps the sac bunt makes a little more sense.

  • Ever notice that every baseball strategy question is best solved by keeping track of one more easily quantifiable thing?

  • Ken

    Yeah, there has to be a better name for GIDP/AB than Grounded-into-double-plays-per-at-bats. Something like the, “Why Jim Rice is not in the Hall of Fame Average.”

  • Shinnosuke Abe, Yomiuri’s catcher, currently leads the Central in GIDP. Maybe we could call it the “Abe Average”.

  • In the fine tradition of verbing proper nouns (I’m sure I’m not the only kid born in the late ’70s who still uses the verb “to Buckner” in a broad and derogatory sense), I propose referring to GIDP with the verb “to Abe.” It works in both baseball and politics with pretty much the same meaning. (Isn’t there a member of Morning Musume named Abe as well? Anyway she could be worked into this?)

  • Ken

    DeOrio:

    I’m sure I’m not the only kid born in the late ’70s who still uses the verb “to Buckner” in a broad and derogatory sense

    You are. Everyone else is long since over it.

    You’re thinking of Natsumi “Nacchi” Abe. She “Graduated” from Morning Musume already.

    http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=8F_oXIKldXk

  • “To Buckner” stopped being about Bill Buckner the man in 1987 (esp. for non-Red Sox fans), yet the word remained.

    Anyway, what’s the connection between Natsumi Abe and GIDP that would give “to Abe” a sport-political-pop culture trifecta?

  • Natsumi Abe was nailed for plagiarism back in late 2004. She was suspended (for a few months) from working on the Morning Musume related “Hello! Project”.

    Does that work?

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.hellproject.com/person/Abe_Natsumi

  • Nobody’s responded to my last post adding to the validity of GIDP/AB being renamed the “Abe Avg.”, so I’ll get back to the heart of this post.

    Here are a few numbers I scraped together:

    Central League
    Sacrifice Bunts vs. Double Plays

    Team SB GIDP
    Hanshin 83 51
    Chunichi 56 47
    Yomiuri 51 48
    Hiroshima 50 41
    Tokyo 64 43
    Yokohama 55 41

    [SB = Sacrifice Bunt; GIDP = Grounded into Double Play]

    Other than Hanshin’s large number of bunts, the number of DP’s is between 41 and 51 for all six teams.

    Analysis?