Flat Bat Award 2011

October 27, 2011
 

Bunting is often an overlooked skill.  Except for the rare occurrence of the suicide squeeze, bunting generally does not generate much excitement for the average fan.  But as much as people may disagree as to how often and in what situations a bunt should be used, we all know the pain of watching a player square around to bunt only to pop it up, bunt it straight at a fielder, or even strike out.  Therefore, each year we like to recognize the best bunter in baseball with the Flat Bat Award.

First, let's look at who had the best seasons on bunt hit attempts.  Here are the top batting averages on bunt hits for players with 10 or more successful bunt hits:

2011 Bunt Hit Leaders
Player Bunt Hit Results Batting Average
Brett Gardner, NYY
11 for 18
.611
Emilio Bonifacio, Fla 16 for 27 .593
Peter Bourjos, LAA 17 for 29 .586
Corey Patterson, Tor/StL 10 for 19 .526
Alexi Casilla, Min 10 for 19 .526
Danny Espinosa, Was 10 for 19 .526
Michael Bourn, Hou/Atl 12 for 24 .500
Juan Pierre, CWS 19 for 39 .487
Erick Aybar, LAA 14 for 32 .438

 

The top bunters in baseball continue to hit over .500 on bunt hit attempts, as in previous years.

Next, we have the players who had the best seasons in sacrifice situations, listed here by percentage of sacrifice attempts that were successful for players with 15 or more attempts:

2011 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders
Player Sacrifice Bunt Results Percentage
Omar Infante, Fla
17 out of 17 100%
Livan Hernandez, Was 15 out of 15 100%
Austin Jackson, Det 14 out of 15 93%
Chris Getz, KC 14 out of 15 93%
Alcides Escobar, KC 18 out of 20
90%
Elvis Andrus, Tex 16 out of 18 89%
Roy Halladay, Phi 16 out of 18 89%
Nyjer Morgan, Mil 15 out of 17 88%
Juan Pierre, CWS 19 out of 22
86%
Jeff Mathis, LAA 14 out of 17 82%

 

Juan Pierre was the most prolific bunter in baseball by far this season with 61 total bunt attempts.  Accordingly, Pierre led all of baseball in successful bunt hits (19) and successful sacrifice bunts (19).  However, Pierre's success rates were not particularly impressive, as he failed on more than half of his bunt hit attempts (.487 batting average) and failed on three of his sacrifice attempts (tied for most among players on this list).

The winner of the past two Flat Bat Awards has been Erick Aybar.  He again was among the most prolific bunters in the game this year with 42 total bunt attempts, second only to Pierre.  However, he had a disappointing season this year on bunt hits, where, like Pierre, he failed on more than half of his attempts (.438 batting average).

All told, the player that had the best season bunting this year was Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio had the second highest batting average on bunt hit attempts (.593), the third most bunt hits (16), a perfect sac bunt percentage (11 out of 11) and was just behind Aybar in total attempts (38).

Therefore, congratulations to Emilio Bonifacio for winning the 2011 Flat Bat Award!

 
 
 

COMMENTS (12 Comments, most recent shown first)

kipdellinger
The most impressive number was put up by Livan Hernandez. He did exactly what a starting pitcher should do, which was to help his team - every single time he was asked to.
8:46 PM Oct 31st
 
those
oops, realized trailblazr mentioned the 2nd point.

7:37 PM Oct 31st
 
those
One thing that's not being mentioned....I would think a walk is more valuable than a bunt single, because you're generally forcing the pitcher to throw more pitches.

When someone bunts, the count is 0-0, 0-1, 1-0, 1-1 or maybe 2-1. Except in very rare instances, you're not going to bunt for a hit with two strikes, and you're not going to bunt for a hit with three balls. I would guess a 2-0 count is also a rare time for bunts.

Another thing that's not being mentioned....maybe these guys ARE bunting more. The chart is just batting average on bunts. So if Juan Pierre bunts a 1-1 pitch foul and then strikes out on the next pitch, that's not counted as trying to bunt for a hit in the charts above.
5:35 PM Oct 31st
 
hankgillette
Trailbzr,

I agree that bunt hits are not randomly distributed. I'm assuming that the players mentioned in the article have a real ability that increases their success rate.

Even if you are correct that a bunt single is closer to the value of a walk (and that seems reasonable), don't you also have to consider what the alternative possibilities are for the specific batter?

It might not make sense for Albert Pujols to bunt for a hit even if he could achieve a success rate of 60%, but some of the players on the list are not major offensive threats. A bunt single, like a walk, is still a positive event and much better than making an out.
1:25 PM Oct 28th
 
Trailbzr
Bunt hits are not randomly distributed, and the value of singles is highly leveraged by base-out situation. Linear run estimation methods credit the average single at about .50, but it's only a little more than .10 with two out and no baserunners, but almost a full run with a runner in scoring position.

The average bunt single is probably closer in value to a walk (about 1/3 of a run, instead of 1/2).

1:02 PM Oct 28th
 
hankgillette
jwilt,

Brett Gardner's overall OPS for 2011 was .713, so if he could raise the number of bunt attempts to where he only had a 40% success rate, it would still seem to be a positive for [i]him[/i].

There must be an optimal level of attempts, but there are a lot of variables and I have no idea how they should be weighted. How good a hitter the player is when he is not bunting would be a consideration. If the player increases the number of attempts, the infielders are going to change their defensive positioning to guard against the bunt, lowering the success rate. This i]should[/i] increase the player's batting average when he doesn't bunt, but by how much? If you could quantify that, it might be possible calculate an optimal strategy.

There's also the possibility that these players already bunted every time the defense gave them a reasonable chance to bunt for a hit, but considering the very high success rate of the players listed, that doesn't seem likely.

I submitted this as a question to Bill, so perhaps he will weigh in.


12:52 PM Oct 28th
 
hotstatrat
A .487 batting average on bunt-for-hit attempts is "impressive" to me. That is a .974 OPS. Pierre would be quite an asset if he could keep that up and do it more often. I appreciate the article and have no problem with the choice for the flat bat award. It just struck me as not hitting the right note regarding Pierre.
9:55 AM Oct 28th
 
pob14
"Unless their ISO is microscopic . . . ." Isn't that pretty much the definition of Juan Pierre? His was something like .048 this year.
9:06 AM Oct 28th
 
jwilt
Maybe they should be bunting more, but I seriously doubt they should be bunting enough that their bunting BA approaches their non-bunting BA. Because unless their ISO is microscopic or they're particularly great at walking during PAs where they're intending to bunt, they'll have far less value out of their bunt attempts. Even if you're bunting for a .400 average, your OPS on those ABs is going to be .800.

If you bunt enough that your BA on bunts is only .300, you're also going to have roughly a .300 OBP on those attempts and a .600 OPS. You'd have to be an awful hitter to make that worthwhile.
8:28 AM Oct 28th
 
Trailbzr
Maybe they should bunt more, but... these stats only count AB that are RESOLVED with a bunt. Not bunt attempts early in the count that result in strikes that ultimately count in a non-bunt AB.

We'd need a more complete set of bunt attempt by pitch data.
6:27 AM Oct 28th
 
greggborgeson
I agree with Hank. None of these guys are bunting ENOUGH. They should increase their frequency until the defense makes sufficient adjustments so that their bunting BA approaches their non-bunting BA. And those defensive adjustments will draw three fielders out of position, which should serve to increase their non-bunting BA.

I'd give the award to Pierre, since he was smart enough to take 61 attempts (although even he should have taken far more).
5:45 AM Oct 28th
 
hankgillette
If you are batting over .500 when bunting for hits, should you be bunting more?
5:54 PM Oct 27th
 
 
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