The Sac Bunt and NPB
Posted by simon c on 2008 June 19日 Thursday
Another great article on the Tokyo Yakult Swallows blog where I wrote a rather lengthy comment, so I’ll post that here too.
I previously did some NPB v MLB offensive numbers comparisons here for 2005-07 and PL teams bunt just as often as CL teams (and way more than MLB teams).
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.