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MLB stat corner: Sacrificing the sacrifice

Every week, emails from Dodgers Dugout newsletter readers ask why the Dodgers don’t bunt more. The reason: Analytics developed over the last several years show that a bunt is a waste of an out. Long story short, research has shown that the odds of scoring a run with a runner on first and no out are greater than the odds of scoring a run with a runner on second and one out. But what about near the end of the game, when one run can mean the difference? Well, this was researched in 2002, and a similar conclusion was reached. The win expectancy for a home team trailing by one in the bottom of the ninth was higher with a runner on first and nobody out than it is with a runner on second and one out. And that theory holds true in multiple late-inning situations.

With that research in mind, and with analytics-driven research an important part of modern-day front offices, you see why the bunt has fallen out of favor. Let’s take a look at the number of successful sacrifice bunts in baseball projected over a full season this year compared to last year, and compared to every 10 years before that.

2018 (projected): 804 bunts, 0.165 per game
2017: 925 bunts, 0.190 per game
2007: 1,540 bunts, 0.317 per game
1997: 1,547 bunts, 0.341 per game
1987: 1,455 bunts, 0.346 per game
1977: 1,764 bunts, 0.419 per game
1967: 1,480 bunts, 0.457 per game
1957: 1,115 bunts, 0.451 per game
1947: 1,406 bunts, 0.566 per game
1937: 1,420 bunts, 0.573 per game
1927: 3,183 bunts, 1.29 per game
1917: 3,079 bunts, 1.24 per game
1907: 2,602 bunts, 1.06 per game

All numbers are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

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