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Jose Ramirez and the Indians have a ton of sacrifice bunts

Giving away outs like those gross taffies in the orange and black wrappers on Halloween...

This is NOT a picture of Jose Ramirez bunting... I don't think. - Photo
This is NOT a picture of Jose Ramirez bunting... I don't think. - Photo
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Let me start by pointing out that the Indians lead all American League teams in sacrifice bunts, and Jose Ramirez leads all American League players. Those are the reasons for this post, and I'll get back to them in a minute.

More often than not, bunting decreases the number of runs a team is going to score, and hurts a team's chances of scoring any runs at all. Below I've posted a chart* from Tom Tango, originally published at The Book website.

*In case you're not familiar with this type of chart, use the left side to find the baserunner situation (a 1B in the 1B means there is a man on first base, a 2B in the 2B column means there is a man on second base, etc.), then find the era you are interested in, and use the outs column to find out how many runs are expected to score in that situation. For example, the top line of numbers is for having the bases empty. From 1993 to 2010, when there were zero out and the bases were an empty, and average of another 0.544 eventually scored that inning. When the bases were loaded (bottom row) and there were no outs, an average of another 2.390 runs eventually scored in that inning.

Here's the chart:

Base Runners 1993-2010 1969-1992 1950-1968
1B 2B 3B 0 outs 1 outs 2 outs 0 outs 1 outs 2 outs 0 outs 1 outs 2 outs
__ __ __ 0.544 0.291 0.112 0.477 0.252 0.094 0.476 0.256 0.098
1B __ __ 0.941 0.562 0.245 0.853 0.504 0.216 0.837 0.507 0.216
__ 2B __ 1.170 0.721 0.348 1.102 0.678 0.325 1.094 0.680 0.330
1B 2B __ 1.556 0.963 0.471 1.476 0.902 0.435 1.472 0.927 0.441
__ __ 3B 1.433 0.989 0.385 1.340 0.943 0.373 1.342 0.926 0.378
1B __ 3B 1.853 1.211 0.530 1.715 1.149 0.484 1.696 1.151 0.504
__ 2B 3B 2.050 1.447 0.626 1.967 1.380 0.594 1.977 1.385 0.620
1B 2B 3B 2.390 1.631 0.814 2.343 1.545 0.752 2.315 1.540 0.747

Note than when going from "man on first, no outs" to "man on second, one out" the run expectancy falls. (The current run-scoring environment is most similar to that from 1969 to 1992, so that might be the best set of numbers to look at.) It also falls on plays that move a runner from second to third while adding an out, and for every other possible outcome of a sacrifice bunt. In short, the more you bunt, the fewer runs you will score.

Now, sometimes a team is just looking for one run, and there are some situation where a successful sacrifice bunt increases a team's chance of scoring just one run, but there aren't all that many, and the increase those situations provide is small.

A crappy hitter sacrifice bunting sometimes makes sense, which is why it's understandable that pitchers bunt far more often than position players.

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Okay, so back to the Indians leading the American League in sacrifice bunts...

The Indians have 51 of them. That's a far cry from Cincinnati's 71, but of course pitchers have put down a huge chunk of those bunts, and when you remove pitchers from the equation, the Indians lead all MLB teams with 49 position-player sacrifice bunts. Those 49 position-player sacrifices are only 2 behind the 51 Kansas City put down in 2011, which is the highest total by any MLB team this decade.

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Only four position players in either league have 10+ sacrifice bunts this season. In third place is Mike Aviles, with 11 of them. Leading them all though is Jose Ramirez, who has 13 sacrifice bunts. That's not an incredibly high total; what makes Ramirez's count notable though, as that he's only had 246 plate appearances all season. If Ramirez holds onto his league lead (New York's  Brett Gardner  has 12), he'll set a new record for fewest PA by a position player who led his league in sacrifice bunts.

Position players who led league in sacrifice bunts with the fewest PA:

  • Al Pilarcik (1959, Orioles) led the AL with 13 sac bunts in 317 PA.
  • Bert Campaneris (1978, Rangers) led the AL with 25 sac bunts in 319 PA.
  • Pat Kelly (1994, Yankees) led the AL with 14 sac bunts in 329 PA.
  • Craig Reynolds (1981, Astros) led the NL with 18 sac bunts in 354 PA.
  • Del Young (1938, Phillies) led NL with 15 sac bunts in 376 PA.
  • Jerry Browne (1992, Athletics) led the AL with 16 sac bunts in 390 PA.
  • Adam Everett (2009, Tigers) led the AL with 15 sac bunts in 390 PA.
  • Enzo Hernandez (1975, Padres) led the NL with 24 sac bunts in 399 PA.

Ramirez is going to end up with far fewer PA than any of those guys. Even if he plays all five of the remaining games, and even if the offense actually shows up for all of them, and he gets 5 PA a game, he'd only make it to 271 PA.

History. We're seeing history, people, one free out at a time.