Are Sacrifice Bunts Undervalued?

Baseball is a sport full of ever fluid rules and regulations that have shaped generations of backyard and sandlot games. The prevalence of these rules is the major reason baseball has transcended generations and why grandfathers and grandsons enjoy watching the game together, debating the competitive fairness of each ruling. Most rules are open to interpretation and result in at least one heated debate per weekend series.

One of these rules that I have tried to debate since I was a teenager is the correct ruling for an effectively completed sacrifice. In scoring a sacrifice (bunt or fly), the current rule dictates this action as tactical maneuver which is not to be counted as a official at bat. This prevents such selfless acts from affecting the batter’s overall hitting percentage.

I would argue that a successful sacrifice (bunt or fly) should constitute a successful hit for the batter. I reason it this way; sacrifices are all about placement. If you have spent any significant time swinging a bat at a moving object you can relate with just how difficult a feat that is. Now, add to that the fact that the opposing pitcher is charged with doing everything he can to prevent a batter from make solid contact, and you begin to understand the considerable skill that this task involves.

To think about it statistically, let’s consider the example of current New York Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who lead the majors in sacrifices during the 2014 regular season.

During his 2014 campaign, Gardner successfully completed 19 sacrifices throughout the course of the season while finishing with a batting average of .256. If a MLB statistician where to account for each of the sacrifices by scoring them as both a plate appearance and a hit, Gardner’s average would creep up to .280. This change could potentially bring statistical benchmarks like a .400 batting average into the realm of possibility for players who currently hit .340 or higher.

This slight change in the manner by which these specific plays are scored could have a lasting impact on baseball for generations to come. In these cases, baseball would move toward a trend where players are rewarded for their selfless act, rather than simply not penalized.

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