John Dewan, the defensive evaluation whiz, posts a “Stat of the Week.” Last week, he looked at bunting. Of course, the Reds’ Norris Hopper figures prominently in the section on bunting for a hit:

When bunting for a hit, the leaders are (listed in order of most bunt hits):

Willy Taveras Rockies 37 for 52 .712
Norris Hopper Reds 18 for 26 .692
Juan Pierre Dodgers 17 for 46 .370
Luis Castillo Twins-Mets 13 for 21 .619
Corey Patterson Orioles 12 for 24 .500
Gerald Laird Rangers 10 for 20 .500
Jose Reyes Mets 10 for 25 .400

The best bunters hit well over .500 when bunting (the 29 players with 5 or more bunt hits in 2007 batted a collective .545 when bunting).

Hopper is good at bunting. The sad(?) thing is – bunting accounted for 34 points of his .329 AVG, and 31 points of his .388 SLG. I don’t know how valuable a bunt single is — I would guess it’s a tiny bit more valuable than a walk (Pros: The risk of error and excitement bonus; Cons: No pitch count damage or “lost command” frustration). No matter how he got there, though, Norris Hopper had a nice .371 OBP, which is just fine for a $300k leadoff hitter. (New leadoff man Corey Patterson’s 10 bunt hit (in 20 attempts) made up 10 points of his .269 AVG.

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4 Responses

  1. Dave from Louisville

    I think taking away bunts and recalculating batting average is kinda like talking away walks and recalculating OBP.

  2. Ben

    I agree with Dave… And there is another thing to consider: If Hopper can get on base 70% of the time he bunts, do defenses adjust to prevent him from bunting for a base hit? They should, and when they do it makes it easier for him to get a “real” hit. So, his bunting may be even more valuable than the statistics suggest.

    Someone said in a previous thread that Hopper had an unusually high ratio of hits to balls put in play last year, and that this might not be sustainable. If you consider that he does it by bunting, not by luck, maybe it actually is sustainable. I’m not a sabermetrics guy (for lack of skill and free time, not for lack of interest), but it would be interesting to see how successful base-hit-bunting effects a players like Hopper’s buntless BA.

  3. Johnny N

    why doesnt he just bunt every time?

  4. jinaz

    The nice thing about bunts is that they can be a very high percentage play for certain players. Willy Taveras has been the best in baseball for a few years now–he’s successful in something like 70% of his bunt attempts. Clearly, he can’t bunt too often or the defense will cheat too much, and he can only bunt when the defense is appropriate for the play… but I’ll take a 0.700 BABIP any day.

    The way I see it, it’s a way for a player to be more valuable than they would have been otherwise. Nothing wrong with that.