Should Jeter have bunted?

It’s a popular topic. Let’s ignore the decision to bunt with two strikes – even Jeter admits that was a mistake – and look at the decision to start the PA bunting.

So what’s the most salient fact about Derek Jeter bunting? He reaches base safely a third of the time when he lays down a bunt fair. This shouldn’t surprise anyone – Jeter is a gifted singles hitter who is also perenially one of the league leaders in reaching base on an error.

So let’s look at run expectancy. As Bee notes:

According to run expectation, with runners on first and second and no out, a team is expected to approximately 1.5 runs in an inning. When there are runners on second and third with one out, the run expectation actually goes down to 1.4.

Yes. But – that ignores the possibility of Jeter reaching safely. Let’s simplify this and look at the odds of Jeter reaching base and the runner at second holding up at third (there is of course the odds of the runner at second scoring and of being thrown out, among other things):

(1.41-1.48)*2/3+(2.28-1.48)*1/3 = 0.22

So – and again, we are drastically oversimplifying here – the average run expectancy of a bunt there was .22 runs. For the basis of comparison, over the past three seasons, Jeter has averaged about .15 runs per plate appearance. Again, this is a drastically oversimplified analysis (MGL is the crown prince of not simplifying bunt analysis, if you’re interested in such things).

But it’s quite frankly silly to claim the Jeter bunt was a bad idea without looking at the odds of him bunting for a hit (or reaching on an error). That goes double for anyone quoting his batting average with RISP. I advise anyone who cares about this sort of thing to go read The Book.

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  1. Clete6 said...

    The way I read the BRef stats, he’s 41 for 63 when bunting for a hit, and reached base on error 6 of 100 times when sacrificing.
    (1.41-1.48)*0.94+(2.28-1.48)*0.06 = -.0178

  2. Colin Wyers said...

    Only six of Jeter’s bunt hits have occured with the bases empty. The vast majority (19) have occured with a runner on first, no outs. It is possible for a batter to reach base safely on a sac bunt and have it ruled a hit. You’re simply misreading the Baseball Reference numbers.

  3. Ghosts said...

    With a one-run lead late and Rivera looming, scoring one run would pretty much have salted it away.  Further runs would have been gravy.  You really should be considering the odds of scoring at least one run.  And he should have bunted.

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