One of the most striking discoveries of much of the statistical research done in baseball over the last 20 years is that outs are more valuable than bases.Ã‚Â This breakthrough … means that “sacrifices” are an extremely bad idea if you’re trying to score runs.Ã‚Â (James Click)
Outs are more valuable than bases.Ã‚Â It’s really that simple.
Teams should not sacrifice outs to move runners up one base.Ã‚Â Runners have a better chance of scoring with no outs from first base than they do with one out from second base.Ã‚Â This isn’t speculation or based on anecdotes, it’s an honest-to-goodness fact that has been confirmed by studies looking at hundreds of thousands of real MLB innings played.
They have been playing baseball for more than 100 years. And for more than 100 years, more runs have scored with a man on first and nobody out than with a man on second and one out. This has been true EVERY SINGLE SEASON for more than 100 years. Every single one. Not only that, but since expansion in 1969, your chance of scoring a single run is better with a runner on first and nobody out than with a runner on second and one out. Get that? Your percentage for scoring ONE RUN is better.Ã‚Â (Joe Posnanski)
The sacrifice bunt made more sense in an era of elevated pitching mounds and big strike zones, when the relationship between outs and bases was different.Ã‚Â And there are circumstances even today, like with most pitchers at bat, where the numbers swing back in favor of sacrificing.Ã‚Â But most GMs and managers have come to realize that small-ball strategies are not as effective in today’s high-run environment.Ã‚Â As a result, the amount of sacrificing has decreased dramatically.
When old-school managers call for sacrifice bunts, they are often praised by equally out-of-date broadcasters for “going by the book.”Ã‚Â I doubt you could buy that book for your iPad.
… so much of the stagnation of baseball today is the inability for people both inside and outside the game to get past the 1960s.Ã‚Â That game is long gone.Ã‚Â Today, everyone can hit for power, outs are incredibly precious, and throwing them away in the fashions described above is incompetence.Ã‚Â (Joe Sheehan)
That brings us to the Reds’ manager, who was trained in that bygone era.
If you watched last night’s loss to the Houston Astros, you know that Dusty Baker sacrificed three of the Reds outs for bases.Ã‚Â Baker had one of the team’s hottest hitters, Drew Stubbs, who was 2-for-3 in the game, sacrifice.Ã‚Â That strategy also predictably allowed the Astros to intentionally walk Joey Votto.Ã‚Â Baker even sacrificed the very first out of the game.Ã‚Â In contrast, the Astros ignored “the book” and didn’t bunt in the tenth inning.Ã‚Â Instead their hitter slashed a single to right field, advancing the eventual game-winning runner from first to third without sacrificing an out.
Despite the Reds possessing the third highest OBP in the league, Dusty Baker’s team is among the league leaders in voluntarily sacrificing outs.Ã‚Â Baker is notorious for his religious-like devotion to the sacrifice.Ã‚Â He sacrifices with fast runners on second and no outs, or with the pitcher due up (“really, really stupid”).Ã‚Â He sacrifices middle-of-the lineup hitters like Adam Dunn (“a joke”).Ã‚Â He’s tried to sacrifice a couple players who hadn’t attempted it even once in their careers (“fails at losing”).Ã‚Â Baker even sacrificed the #2 hitter with the Reds three runs behind, to move a runner from second to third (“single craziest managerial move I’ve ever heard of”).
In the dictionary, the word “sacrifice” has two meanings: (1) the surrender or destruction of something for the sake of something else; and (2) an act of offering something precious to a deity.
(2) used in a sentence: The Cincinnati Reds sacrifice too many crucial runs at the altar of old-timey baseball.