FIRE JOE MORGAN: "Baseball For Dummies," Indeed (Part II): Joe Morgan Wants Your Team To Lose


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Wednesday, July 20, 2005


"Baseball For Dummies," Indeed (Part II): Joe Morgan Wants Your Team To Lose

Also from page 94 of "Baseball For Dummies," by Joe Morgan with Richard Lally, in a section called "The Dying Art of Bunting" (need you read more?):

"There comes a time in every baseball season when anyone - even hulking sluggers like Sammy Sosa or Carlos Delgado - should bunt. For example, say you're playing a game that decides whether you or your opponent clinches a championship. You come to bat with the winning run on first and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning. I don't care how many home runs you hit all season, your job is to bunt that runner to second base."

>> I know that it seems unlikely that anyone will ever convince Joe Morgan and his bunt-happy dinosaur friends that bunting is often a bad idea. But just so we're all on the same page, let's just take a quick look at the numbers one more time (based on the enormous sample size of all data from 1999-2002).

SITUATION A: With a guy on first and nobody out, the average number of runs your team will score is: .953
SIUTATION B: With a guy on second and one out, the average number of runs your team will score is: .725

Perhaps most importantly, your chances of losing the game in the example that Joe Morgan's outlined are higher in situation B.
Chances of scoring zero runs in situation A (and losing): 56.3%
Chances of scoring zero runs in situation B (and losing): 59.4%

The only way that successfully bunting gives your team an advantage is if your only goal is to score just one run, and presumably send the game to extras. In situation A, your team has a 17.6% chance of scoring one run. In situation B, your team has a 23.0% chance of scoring one run. (If you're trying to score 2 or more runs, and actually win the game, not bunting gives you a distinct advantage ceteris paribus.)

Of course, Joe Morgan doesn't care who's batting. He doesn't care if you're Barry Bonds and you've hit 73 home runs already. He wants you to lay one down.

To say that bunting occasionally helps your chances of winning is a difficult, but reasonable argument to make (pitcher up; terrible fielding pitcher; speedy guy at the plate with no power and a decent chance of bunting for a hit -- these are all things that might make bunting more viable) . To say that bunting is always the right thing to do in the example Joe Morgan writes about is to insist on living in a pre-Francis Bacon age.

posted by dak  # 7:40 PM
To be fair, Joe is talking about the run on first being the winning run. So, scoring zero runs doesn't mean you lose. It means you go to extras. The point is the same, however, since the chances you will score zero runs with a runner on second and one out is greater than the chance you will score zero runs with a runner on first and no one out. Your last paragraph is the best, I think, since there are certainly scenarios in which you might want a bunt. Christian Guzman is up, ninth inning, 1-1 game, Game Seven of the WS, with a speedy runner on first and Bartolo Colon pitching (in the Angels-Nats World Series that ESPN predicted a while ago), you want that guy bunting, because when he swings he makes outs like 75% of the time. get him over, and let Nick Johnson get him in, or get on base himself, and wear out the pitcher. But to say that like David Ortiz or someone, who never ever practices bunting, and who has an OPS of .960+ should EVER bunt, is straight insane.
Eh, you're right, Ken.

Looks like I'm the dummy. Who's with me?
I'm with you, friend.
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