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June 18, 2004

Jimy's penchant for the sacrifice bunt

The next time you hear the Stros' propaganda machine touting the brilliance of Jimy Williams' strategy of having Adam Everett's sacrifice at virtually every opportunity, please recall this Baseball Prospectus analysis:

Waste Not, Want Not: We'll use an example from the Astros game against St. Louis on June 4, but any Houston fan could name a half-dozen others. Craig Biggio led off the game with a double to left field, bringing up shortstop Adam Everett.

Nice start, right? On the way to a big inning, right? Wrong, if you're Jimy Williams, who's never met a pointless sacrifice bunt that didn't seem like a good strategic decision, especially with Everett at the plate. So far in 2004, Everett has 19 sacrifice bunts in 61 games, by far the most in the majors.

So, as ever, Williams asked Everett to lay down a bunt. He couldn't get the bunt down, and the Astros eventually stranded Biggio at second base.

In James Click's series on the sacrifice bunt, we learned that the threshold for a bunt in a runner on second, no out situation is .249/.305/.363--that is, if the batter's numbers are below that threshold, a bunt makes sense. Otherwise, the batter should hit away.

Everett is currently at .282/.316/.370 this year, which means that a bunt with a runner on second and no one out is a bad play with Everett at the plate (although, not as bad a play as you might think). And keep in mind, that situation is the best situation for a sacrifice bunt when you're trying to maximize the number of runs you score; any other situation early in a game is an even worse time to lay one down.

This is old news to most of you out there, but apparently Williams hasn't gotten the memo on this. In a lineup that features four players with a VORP in double digits, Williams' penchant for throwing away outs and runs early in games is especially baffling, and if Houston comes up short in the NL Central, he'll deserve a great deal of the blame.


Posted by Tom at June 18, 2004 8:52 AM |

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