The Flat Bat Award 2014

December 6, 2014

While 2014 continued the overall decline in power of recent seasons, it was something of a renaissance for bunting. In particular, Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon took advantage of their first full seasons of major league playing time to attempt 43 and 40 bunt hits, respectively. With their speed, that approach makes a lot of sense, and their .349 and .500 batting averages on those attempts demonstrates its effectiveness. However, both players fell short of the top 10 bunters based on batting average.

We give the Flat Bat Award every season to recognize the best bunter taking into consideration his bunts for hits and sacrifice bunts. Here are the batting average leaders on bunt-for-hit attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Bunt Hit Leaders
Name Bunt Hit Results Batting Average
Carlos Gomez, MIL 8 out of 11 .727
Denard Span, WAS 8 out of 11 .727
Jarrod Dyson, KC 9 out of 13 .692
Jean Segura, MIL 8 out of 12 .667
Asdrubal Cabrera, CLE-WAS 8 out of 12 .667
Brandon Guyer, TB 7 out of 11 .636
Alejandro De Aza, CWS-BAL 7 out of 11 .636
Leonys Martin, TEX 17 out of 27 .630
Erick Aybar, LAA 10 out of 16 .625
Junior Lake, CHC 6 out of 10 .600

 

You can make a compelling case that Dee Gordon’s 20-for-40 was more valuable to the Dodgers than Carlos Gomez’s and Denard Span’s 8 of 11 on bunt-for-hit attempts, but there is one bunter who renders that debate unnecessary. That is 2013 Flat Bat Award winner Leonys Martin. Martin secured 17 bunt hits on 27 attempts, which is just three hits fewer than Gordon in 13 fewer attempts.

Next, here are the most successful sacrifice bunters with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2014 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders
Name Sacrifice Bunt Results Percentage
Jean Segura, MIL 10 out of 10 100%
Brett Gardner, NYY 13 out of 14 93%
Shelby Miller, STL 13 out of 14 93%
Zack Wheeler, NYM 12 out of 13 92%
Mike Aviles, CLE 11 out of 12 92%
Tanner Roark, WAS 11 out of 12 92%
Aaron Harang, ATL 9 out of 10 90%
Stephen Strasburg, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Doug Fister, WAS 9 out of 10 90%
Jose Ramirez, CLE 13 out of 15 87%
Johnny Cueto, CIN 12 out of 14 86%

 

There is not much overlap with the two lists as most of the best sacrifice bunters from 2014 were pitchers. The one player who is on both lists, Jean Segura, happens to be the only player with 10 or more sacrifice attempts and a 100 percent success rate on those attempts.

As efficient as Segura was as both a sacrifice bunter and a bunt hitter, his eight bunt hits are fewer than half of Martin’s total. Meanwhile, Martin fell short of the sacrifice bunt leaderboard, but he did succeed on 7 of his 10 sacrifice attempts. His bunt-for-hit prowess is more than enough to bridge that gap, and that’s why Leonys Martin wins his second consecutive Flat Bat Award.

 
 

COMMENTS (13 Comments, most recent shown first)

bennybocce
In Spring Training maybe 2012 Tex told reporters he would not only try to hit to the left side more when batting lefthanded, but also lay down some bunts to keep them honest.
That never took place ! Extreme shifts had no bearing on his swings at the plate from the left side. His attempts to bunt stopped once the season began.
With shifts becoming so prominent, for the good of the team, a hitter should bunt more, even though he may not possess the greatest speed.
1:12 PM Dec 23rd
 
jollydodger
I believe the BA numbers are skewed up by the bunts made in sacrifice situations, but where the bunter got on, too. I don't have evidence of this, but anecdotally, I see such plays happen often.

10:46 PM Dec 15th
 
taosjohn
My comment is partly colored by my status as a Rockies fan-- he and Hamilton just absolutely killed us, and we a good bunt defending team. I think they both slugged around .700 on us and a lot of that was close to 1.000 on bunt attempts...
8:17 AM Dec 8th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
I watched Gordon all year and, Gee, I can attest that he did try bunting many more times than the 40 he got down, they did play him shallow, and they seldom threw up-and-in. He still bunted .500, even though they knew it was coming. That said, he could, and I think should, have tried much more often. .500!

It will be interesting to re-visit this in a year and see how many he and Hamilton and Martin, et al, get down next year.
11:40 PM Dec 7th
 
taosjohn
Gee, I wonder if it is just marginally possible that the frequency of those bunt attempts was determined by "what the defense showed and the pitcher throwed" rather than the number of successful attempts in the past?

That is, if they are going to play you shallow and throw it up and in, you're not going to be able to bunt, whatever your success rate when you do...
8:35 PM Dec 7th
 
MarisFan61
Dan: There's still the same question that I mentioned. We don't know how many additional times he did try to bunt, and missed the pitch or fouled it off, usually putting him behind in the count.

That's hard to know how to take into account. I'm sure there are various ways of "sort of" doing it, and whichever way it's done, there would be arguments about how indicative it is (I imagine some people might say that some particular way or another is very indicative -- I know that people do believe in such things :-) -- but it would be debatable). But in any event, you can bet that he did try bunting a lot more times than those 40 (and we also ought to add in his sacrifices somehow, but let's forget that) ......he did try bunting a lot more times than those 40, and those are a subtraction from the value suggested by the data appearing here.

I don't think we know meaningfully how to start arguing or answering what you said until we know this other stuff, and find a way to have some sense of its cost.
7:35 PM Dec 7th
 
DaveFleming
My softball club has a Flat-Bat award...it's actually a flattened bat, with the names of each year's winners engraved on it. The award has nothing to do with bunts, and isn't an honor.

I've won the damned thing twice in three years. The only benefit is that people will buy you condolence beers in the clubrooms.
1:43 PM Dec 7th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
You're right--it was actually 40. I misread Dewan's second sentence: when he said Gordon attempted 40 bunt hits, I saw got instead. With a .500 result, he was 20 for 40, not 40 for 80. Thanks for the correction!

Having said that, my argument remains: if Dee Gordon can bunt .500, why did he only get down 40 fair attempts? Why not 60 or 80 or 100? If Leonys Martin can bunt .630, how dare he not bunt three times more often?

They should become so skilled that playing them tight at the corners won't help that much: just Furcal it over their heads or at the shortstop!
12:38 PM Dec 7th
 
MarisFan61
BTW, where do you get "80 balls into play" for Gordon? I don't see no 80.....
9:03 AM Dec 7th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
MarisFan61: Yes, but Gordon got 80 balls into play. He fouled off plenty, too, so he attempted to bunt in over 100 plate appearances.

So, Gordon persisted because he saw the advantage, both personally and for his team. That fellow who was 17 for 27: why wasn't he 50 for 80?
8:53 AM Dec 7th
 
MarisFan61
To DanDan: I think I have at least a partial answer. I don't at all mean that it disposes of your point, but provided that I understand correctly what the given data represent, it's a partial explanation.

Assuming that the data reflect only balls in play, there's no accounting for the times that they got a strike or two by missing or fouling off bunt attempts.
2:39 AM Dec 7th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
I should add that Dee Gordon's 80 attempts at bunting for a hit, and the resulting 40 singles, are nearly the only things keeping him in the big leagues. He can't steal bases without getting on base, he has neglible power, and his defense is indifferent. In other words, he's figured it out, the way some others ought to, especially in this new era of defensive shifting.
9:16 PM Dec 6th
 
DanDanDodgerFan
It is incomprehensible to me that a player who can bunt for a .700 average doesn't have at least 75 attempts or so. Even if that becomes so predictable that his bunting average drops to .500 or even .400, it still seems totally worthwhile. What am I missing?
8:59 PM Dec 6th
 
 
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