Sacrifice [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]

My friends have been talking about sacrifice and I’m feeling out of the loop. Today I’m gonna talk about sacrifice too.

The sacrifice hit and the sacrifice bunt.

IMGP4061 Conor Jackson Sacrifice bunt - Arizona Diamondbacks

These two stats are among my favorite because they represent something rarely seen in modern American baseball today: small ball. Today’s MLB player is much more concerned with blasting a home run than bringing in a run with a well-placed pop up. MLB pitchers focus more on their devastating fastball than being able to drop a simple bunt on a given day. It’s atrocious.

Sabrematricians will tell you (probably correctly, I haven’t run the math) that the sac bunt or sac hit is more statistically damaging than worthwhile. The probability of scoring, according to them, is not significantly increased enough by exchanging an out for a base. It’s now “Common Baseball Knowledge” that you shouldn’t play like this, yet you still see successful managers, like Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, make great use of this antiquated play. In fact, that’s probably why it’s so useful.

Consider the state of the modern third baseman before the slight shift back into defense in baseball. His job was to be big, burly, a slightly better defender than the first baseman, and to hit home runs. The hits he gave up being bad at his job would be made up for with his bat. As the league accepted this as truth and third basemen became less defensively sound, the field of play was ripe for someone like Joe Maddon to exploit it. More bunts down the third base line mean more chances for the sac bunt to turn into a bunt hit instead because the third baseman is not a good defender, see what I mean?

Beyond the power of the sac play in today’s baseball, I’d also like to touch upon the feel-good nature of the sac hit or bunt. It’s not glamorous, but it’s one of the few moments in life you’ll have where you are rewarded for a good deed. See, in a sacrifice play you’re giving up your at bat to do what’s best for the team. You earn an out to move a runner. If you were strict about your statistics measuring, that would drop your batting average each time you did it. However, because baseball is a feel good sport, the sac hitter does not have an at bat counted against him and just gets an increase to his sac count. Happiness all around.





7 responses to “Sacrifice [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]”

  1. Eric Mesa Avatar

    So that’s why I rarely see bunts anymore!

    1. Dan Avatar

      We also tend to go to American League games because you’ve never been to a Nats game. In the National League they tend to have their pitchers bunt more often, even though many of them suck at it.

      1. Eric Mesa Avatar

        why the difference across leagues?

        1. Dan Avatar

          Oh, right. There’s a Designated Hitter in the American League, meaning the pitcher does not have to hit. The reasons for why that position exists (and will continue to exist for perpetuity) are detailed, but I can go into it if you’re interested.

  2. Eric Mesa Avatar

    Also, you failed to explain how sacrifice bunting is against Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

    1. Dan Avatar

      Well it sacrifices your chance to hit a home run, knock in an RBI, or improve your batting average, which could translate to a higher salary for yourself come negotiation time since sac bunts aren’t glamorous. To which Rand would say, “NO!”

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