I've been thinking a lot about bunting recently. Considering all of the information we have about offensive statistics, it's surprising to me that we don't have more data on bunting readily available - Fangraphs has data for bunt hits and sacrifice bunts, but it's much more difficult to find information for bunts that aren't hit into play. Certainly, one of the most important aspects of being a good bunter is being able to consistently get the ball in play, so I believe that it's just as important to look at foul and missed bunts as it is to look at fair bunts. Combining the Fangraphs bunting splits leaderboard with PITCHf/x data can give us a more detailed look at who the league's better and worse bunters are.
For the first table: attempt% is the number of bunt attempts (fair bunts, foul bunts, missed bunts) divided by the total number of swings; fair% is the number of fair bunts divided by bunt attempts; foul% is the number of foul bunts divided by bunt attempts; missed% is the number of missed bunts divided by bunt attempts. For the second table: hit% is the number of bunt hits divided by fair bunts; out% is the number of bunt outs (in which a sacrifice is not involved) divided by fair bunts; sac% is the number of sacrifice bunts divided by fair bunts; double play% is the number of bunt double plays (there are very few of these) divided by fair bunts. As you can see by the attempt percentage, it's not that common that a hitter decides to try to lay down a bunt - on average, only three or four pitches in a game result in a bunt attempt. For the 2010 season, which is the data set that I'll be working with for this post, I have a total of 5,921 bunt attempts.
Who attempts to bunt the most?
Of the qualified hitters, there were 138 without a single bunt attempt, and a few more with an attempt percentage between 0% and 1%. Approximately 90% of the qualified players had rates under 10%, and the vast majority of the players over the number were pitchers, with Tim Lincecum (.252), Aaron Cook (.247), Livan Hernandez (.234), Zach Duke (.223), and Dave Bush (.218) leading the charge. Raising the minimum number of swings to 200 (and thus eliminating pitchers) gives us these leaders:
|4||Juan Pierre||White Sox||.098|
On a counting level, Juan Pierre was the clear champion of bunt attempts with 111; he was the only player with more than 100. Next closest were Nyjer Morgan and Erick Aybar with 95 and 94, respectively.
One more thing on attempt percentages. Common baseball sense would tell us that the guys who are less offensively adept would be the players resorting to bunting most often. Based on these data, that would appear to be the case. Keeping the 200 swing minimum, here is attempt percentage plotted against linear weight runs per 100 pitches (the numbers aren't exact, so don't consider 0 to be the exact 2010 league average).
For the most part, the frequent bunters are to the "below-average" side of the chart. If you were wondering, the outlier with a bunt percentage of just over 6% and and an 0.69 runs per 100 is the Tigers' Will Rhymes.
Who gets it in fair territory?
Since this metric only judges whether the bunt was in play or not, its best use is probably to determine which players would be good in sacrifice situations. There are plenty of pitchers sprinkled throughout the list (including three in the top 10 and four in the bottom 10), and the pitcher's role is almost exclusively to sacrifice.
Who does the most damage?
|7||Juan Pierre||White Sox||55||.527|
|1||Darnell McDonald||Red Sox||13||.923|
The last thing I'd like to look at in this post is a way to tie in all of the facets of bunt attempts into one metric. Using run values is typically the best way to do this. For bunts in play, I'm using the following weights (with "0" representing a neutral outcome):
In the overall value, I'll also include failed bunt attempts. The run values for these pitches are dependent on the count and are similar to the ones shown here.
The top table shows bunting runs, and the bottom table shows bunting runs / 100 (minimum 20 attempts for both). Both lists include pretty much the same players, but I've included both metrics anyway.
|1x||Juan Pierre||White Sox||-6.27|
|Rank||Name||Team||Bunt Runs / 100|
I think it's fair to say that Gregor Blanco was the majors' best bunter in 2010. As notable is Juan Pierre's number of bunting runs, which shows that lots of mediocre bunting might not be a good idea.
Fair bunt data are from Fangraphs. Foul and missed bunt data were generated from Joe Lefkowitz's PITCHf/x tool.