Thursday, February 17, 2011

Again with the bunting...


I like Ron Gardenhire as a manager, I really do.


For starters, he seems to carry with him the immeasurable intangible of keeping his team motivated and focused over the long-haul of a 162-game schedule. After the announcement of his recognition of AL Manager of the Year but before the state’s dedicated Ron Gardenhire Day, Jim Thome offered this regarding the Twins skipper:

"I think he's done a great job of handling his players, and I think to be a good manager, that's key. You have to know each personality, and he does that. I think he knows everybody from top to bottom, and he does a great job with the on-field stuff, too. ... I've had good ones, and he's right up there, definitely, at the top of the list. It's definitely been a pleasure to play for him, that's for sure."

He sticks up for his players, both on the field and to the press. Over the course of his tenure with the Twins, Gardenhire has led the team to 803 victories, outperforming their Pythagorean wins estimate by 21 games in nine years. In fact, Gardenhire’s teams have underperformed their Pythagorean record only three times since his promotion and even then, each season it has been a difference of one win. Perhaps cultivating this type of clubhouse environment is the reason for doing better than the projections suggest they should.  

For that, he should win the Manager of the Year.

Plus the fact that he seems to share the same eating habits as Parks & Rec’s Ron Swanson. You have to respect that.

Still, if there is one thing that irks me about the manager - albeit a small, insignificant issue for me – is his stubborn insistence of maintaining a pre-1990s lineup construction mentality.
In a recent interview with the Pioneer Press’s John Shipley, the beat writer inquired what the manager would do with his lineup if neither Tsuyoshi Nishioka nor Alexi Casilla is capable of handling the number two spot in the order – would Gardenhire be so bold as to move Joe Mauer to that spot?

Gardenhire’s response was:
“Everybody talks about that, and yeah, I would. In fact, I have, and it wasn't the greatest.
Now, the scale of judgment on what represents greatness may be up for discussion, however, it’s hard not to deduce that Mauer’s time in the No. 2 spot has been anything but the greatest.

The authors of The Book: Playing The Percentages in Baseball – Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dophin – found that the optimal two-hitter was someone who was a high-OBP guy and that the No. 2 hitter came up to bat in situations as important as the No. 3 hitter, only more often throughout a season.

For his entire career, Mauer has assumed the second position 284 times – the bulk of which happened in 2009 the year in which the two-spot was a nightmarish, revolving door of misfits. In his limited capacity of batting second, Mauer hit .398/.451/.707 in 142 plate appearances. He drove in 28 runs while scoring another 29 on his own in 33 games. Additionally, he did not ground into a single double-play in that time.

Gardy continued to say that:
“You got to understand, the No. 2 batter gives himself up all the time. If the leadoff hitter is on, we want him to hit a grounder to second and move the guy over. How many times do you want Joe walking to the plate expected to get the guy over? It happens; it's part of the game. But the second hitter is a bunt guy, really.
I’ve got several problems with that statement. The first of which being Gardy’s testament that the ideal No. 2 batter should be “giving himself up all the time.”

In the TwinsCentric 2009 Offseason GM Handbook and after the Twins signed Orlando Hudson last February I lamented the importance of having a strong offensive presence in the two-spot and NOT give yourself up. Once again to explain the significance of having a strong offensive presence batting second, I’m going to borrow from the write-up:
“In 1986, Bill James constructed a poignant analysis on lineup composition and revealed that the total runs scored and second spot in the batting order had the strongest correlation among any player in the lineup -- more than leadoff, third or cleanup.  Mr. James noted in his 1986 Baseball Abstract that ‘many managers tend to waste the second spot in the order by putting somebody there who isn’t one of the better hitters on the team...Too many managers will say ‘bat control’ as if these words were a magic wand, and place some .260 hitter with a secondary average of .150 batting second…’
 What Mr. James was trying to convey was that a sizable portion of baseball managers were submitting lineups that 1) had an excellent on-base oriented leadoff hitter, followed by a guy that 2) would slap the ball the other way or lay down a bunt thereby advancing the runner but surrendering an out, followed by 3) the team’s best hitter. Conceding the out was not advantageous for an offense. His solution to create an optimal lineup, one would want to enlist as many hitters in a row that avoid making outs – regardless of the out’s so-called productivity.” 
Bottom-line: Let’s not give away outs, it’s bad for business.

Secondly, moving the runner over is well-and-good, however, it’s better to put TWO runners on-base for the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters. Clearly, as a .327 hitter with a robust .407 on-base percentage, Mauer would do just fine getting on base as well as moving the lead-off hitter around the bases. In fact, it’s more likely that Mauer would do better under these conditions than some of the other options. When Mauer pulled the ball last year, he pulled it on the ground 79% of the time last year. With an opening between first base (since the first baseman would be holding the runner) and the second baseman inching over towards second to play for the double-play, Mauer should be given a larger target toward right to shoot a ball through.  

Critics of Mauer’s shift to the two spot would suggest that he would be set-up for more opportunities to ground into a double-play. This, too, is simply untrue.

Once again, research by The Book found that the No. 2 hitter comes to the plate in a double-play situation .09 times a game. Conversely, the No. 3 hitter hits under a double-play situation .18 times a game – nearly twice that of a No. 2 hitter. Extrapolating this over the course of a 162-game schedule, the No. 2 spot comes to bat an average of 14.58 times with a double-play in order. Meanwhile, the No. 3 hitter comes up 29.16 times over the course of a season. Again, while the difference may be negligible, but the decision to use a groundball-oriented hitter in the No. 3 spot (Mauer’s 49.5% career groundball rate) may be worth at least a win in the overall record.

The underlying message from Gardenhire was that he wanted more “team speed” this offseason, but what he may have been requesting was someone who was more skilled at bunting. Hudson’s strong OBP history and little record of dropping down sacrifices in his nine year career combined with leadoff Denard Span’s decrease in OBP left Gardenhire without bunter or bunt situations. Because of this, his team executed only 38 sacrifices all season – his No. 2 hitter laid down 10 of those. The previous season, the one with misfits and Mauer, the No. 2 spot dropped five bunts. Prior to that, an Alexi Casilla-led assortment of No. 2 hitters sacrificed 20 times in 2008. In my opinion, Gardy’s need for speed is also a euphemism for getting back to that ’08 type of play that.   

Although, he may fit the new two-hitter philosophy, I can concede that Mauer may not be the right choice to bat second. After all, having Orlando Hudson there last year added depth to the lineup and gave the Twins a strong offensive presence for five out of the six months (hitting .284/.358/.402 from April through August). Still, if the difference is having Mauer bat second versus insert a bunt-happy, groundball machine directed to record an out in the sake of “advancing the runner” – I’m taking Joe all day, every day.  

Again, lineup construction can wind up being a minor contribution – maybe costing or benefiting the team a win or three overall – yet for a team that has to play within the margins of what could be a very competitive run against the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, that win or three could be very significant this year. 

29 comments:

matt broberg said...

Gardenhire is a moron, so is the FO. Im glad we make personnel decisions based on stuff he believes but has never really questioned. Even the slightest bit of critical thinking or research would show how bad a decision bunting typically but gardy isnt capable of that.

TT said...

Actually the fans who believe Mauer should be batting second are more likely the morons. I know Bill James is the godfather of sabermetrics, but he is wrong as often as he is right.

James just recently "discovered" that he had wrongly assumed that the fact that a statistic varied from year to year did not, by itself, mean there was no skill involved in achieving it. This is pretty obvious. Yet you will find numerous claims by James and others based on assuming it isn't true.

The problem with batting Mauer second is that he will have far fewer chances to drive in runs. In the first inning alone, Mauer will have about twice as many runners on base ahead of him batting third.

If you move everyone else up in the order and put Nishioka and Casilla in the number 8 and nine spots, Morneau will also get opportunities with fewer runners on base and in scoring position. Those lost opportunities will go to the 5th, 6th and 7th batters.

So the question is what are Mauer and Morneau better at, getting on base or moving runners over to score? With their average and power, the answer is moving runners over to score. Giving them each a handful of extra at bats isn't going to have nearly the effect of the lost opportunities for RBI's.

AK said...

Great piece Parker, enjoyed reading it.

TT said...

"Conversely, the No. 3 hitter hits under a double-play situation .18 times a game – nearly twice that of a No. 2 hitter. "

Exactly, you want Mauer at the plate with runners on base.

Anonymous said...

Reading the whole thing in context, Gardenhire makes reasonable points. When he talks about the #2 hitter bunting, he goes on to illustrate what he's talking about by saying assume it's the bottom of the 8th in a tie game.

(traditionally) your best hitter bats third, and that's the way I like it. But would I ever think of batting him second? Sure.

And here I think he's pretty much agreeing with you.

Anonymous said...

"So the question is what are Mauer and Morneau better at, getting on base or moving runners over to score? With their average and power, the answer is moving runners over to score. Giving them each a handful of extra at bats isn't going to have nearly the effect of the lost opportunities for RBI's."

I think you've missed the point of the article. Its not about getting mauer and morneau a few extra ABs, its about not giving away outs with bunts and misplaced inferior hitters, espcially in the middle of your best hitters. Theres a ton of evidence that outs are much more valuable to run scoring than an extra base is. While mauer would make an ideal guy to fill the 2nd spot in the line up because he gets on base so much, i think the point was more that a slap hitting middle infielder that bunts a lot is a bad choice for the 2 hole.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

@TT

Ah, TT, you've become fairly predictable in when you will crop up: FIP posts, Mauer-Batting-Second posts, etc. I do appreciate your opposition. Can't always preach to a choir, amirite?

ANYWHACK, you globbed on to the one part of the post that wasn't the focal point - Mauer batting second. I wasn't advocating it, I was denouncing Gardenhire's perceptions of Mauer being a bad two-hitter in addition to Gardy's proclivity to bunt with his two-hitter. I noticed you do not have qualms with that second point, just the Mauer batting second part.

What I'm saying is that YOU DON'T GIVE UP OUTS - not out of the two-spot.

James just recently "discovered" that he had wrongly assumed that the fact that a statistic varied from year to year did not, by itself, mean there was no skill involved in achieving it.

I'm not sure I'm familiar with this finding. For the sake of enlightening me, can you site the source?

Again, it's not just Bill James' findings. He theorized that it was a waste to misuse your two-hitter and several years later the researchers from The Book proved it with data. While the authors concluded the same thing and then noted that the second spot in the order is that much more valuable than the third spot (well, 2nd and 4th spot are more valuable than the 3rd). So if you are going to argue, argue the writers of The Book and not Bill James on this issue.

I'm not refuting the part about losing a few RBI opportunities, what I'm saying is that you gain more opportunities by (A) getting your best hitter more at bats and (B) in higher leverage situations than the third hitter does. Constructing a lineup isn't always about the RBIs.

Ideally, as I noted, someone with high OBP (hopefully that is either Nishioka or Casilla this year) is able to add depth to the lineup that Hudson did last year. If that doesn't pan out, if it comes to using Mauer versus the '09 version of Casilla, I'm taking Mauer all the way.

Anonymous said...

Gardy's proclivity to bunt with his two-hitter

But to be fair, in the part you didn't quote Gardy qualified that by adding the scenario about bunting when the score is tied late in the game with a runner on.

I remember a few times when Hudson would take it upon himself to bunt early in the game, and when Gardy was asked about it he'd say Hudson did it on his own - I gathered that he meant he questioned the decision.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

But to be fair, in the part you didn't quote Gardy qualified that by adding the scenario about bunting when the score is tied late in the game with a runner on.

The two-hitter shouldn't be in charge of bunting someone over -- even under that scenario. The ideal two-hitter should be a good enough hitter to be able to move the runner over by getting on-base himself, putting two runners on for the 3rd and 4th hitters. Playing for one-run will get you just that.

I remember a few times when Hudson would take it upon himself to bunt early in the game, and when Gardy was asked about it he'd say Hudson did it on his own - I gathered that he meant he questioned the decision.

There could have been a time or two when Hudson did that on his own (the first inning of the ALDS game was one where I think that came up) but he rarely sacrificed (5 times).

What bothers me more is that amount of times Gardy will sacrifice in the middle innings. Last year, the Twins sacrificed 13 times between the 4th and 6th innings. That's one fewer than between the 7th and 9th innings. The year before, they sacrificed 14 times in the first three innings of a game. Hell, Boston sacrificed 19 times that entire year...

I understand there is circumstances when you want to bunt but it should not be with your two-hitter.

Anonymous said...

Last year, the Twins sacrificed 13 times between the 4th and 6th innings.

I guess I could look this up myself, but were those sacrifices from guys like Plouffe and Tolbert?

That study that says it's usually not worth it to bunt - is that based on how an average hitter would produce if told to swing instead of bunt or is it based on hitters that are more likely to be asked to bunt (speedy middle infielders and pitchers who can't hit)?

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

I guess I could look this up myself, but were those sacrifices from guys like Plouffe and Tolbert?

It was a combination of basically everybody of that ilk - fronted by Span and Hudson.

That study that says it's usually not worth it to bunt - is that based on how an average hitter would produce if told to swing instead of bunt or is it based on hitters that are more likely to be asked to bunt (speedy middle infielders and pitchers who can't hit)?

I'll have to re-read the section in The Book but I believe they weight it on wOBA so they are taking the level of hitter into context.

jp said...

Mauer is the prototypical number 2 hitter, he is a high average slap hitter who draws a lot of walks. Just because we pay him like a power hitting run producer does not make it a given he should bat third. Mauer has never driven in 100 runs in a season hitting in the 3 spot, moving him to the 2nd spot is the right thing to do.

TT said...

"What I'm saying is that YOU DON'T GIVE UP OUTS - not out of the two-spot."

I want to score a run. A runner gets on first. I have a guy batting second who will move him to second about 40% of the time if he swings away and 80% of the time if he bunts. The next guy, Mauer, gets a hit about 1/3 of the time. If 80% of those drive in the runner from second but not first, Mauer is 5 times more likely to drive in the run if the runner is on second. And the bunt will put him on second twice as often. Its pretty obvious you are more likely to get that one run by bunting even with those very conservative assumptions.

The main problem with the argument about "outs" is that the difference between a .250/.300 hitter and a .350/.400 hitter is one out in ten at bats. That is significant over the course of a season, but not necessarily all that important in a single specific situation.

Bobbie Fischer, the chess champion, became famous by deliberately sacrificing his Queen. I doubt anyone would say sacrificing your Queen is generally a good move. But it was in that instance.

Unless Tom Tango has suddenly developed a new tune, I doubt he considered anything other than his linear weights. i.e. how much more likely a team is to win the game with the runner on second and one more out. That's a pretty simplistic analysis.

I doubt any manager makes that decision solely based on the inning and number of outs. In the example above you would need to consider the runners, the hitters, the pitcher on the mound, your pitcher, the bullpen ... its a long list of factors that go into deciding whether playing for one run will win you the game. Average probabilities are probably not even a useful starting point.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

I want to score a run.

Wow, that's very sabrmetric of you.

If you do that, you'll possibly score A run. We're in the business of scoring many runs. There are limited few places where a sacrifice actually improves the chances of winning. One in which you described - depending on what inning your in, who's on the mound for them as well as on the mound for you - might be one of the few. HOWEVER, the main criteria for a two-hitter should never involve his ability to bunt.

Bobbie Fischer, the chess champion, became famous by deliberately sacrificing his Queen. I doubt anyone would say sacrificing your Queen is generally a good move. But it was in that instance.

*FACEPALM*

By the way, were you able to track down that article in which Bill James said he was wrong?

TT said...

"We're in the business of scoring many runs"

Well that explains a lot. Gardy is in the business of scoring one more run than the other team.

As for Bill James admitting he was wrong there is an article about it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/24/sports/baseball/24score.html

and an article "Underestimating the Fog" by Bill James himself here:

http://www.sabr.org/cmsfiles/underestimating.pdf

TT said...

"HOWEVER, the main criteria for a two-hitter should never involve his ability to bunt."

Of course it should. In the example I used if he only gets the runner over 60% of the time instead of 80%, the result is going to be 25% fewer extra runs. Being able to bunt is an important skill for a guy who is in the position to move a runner into scoring position for the two best hitters on the team. The better he is at it the more he will contribute to his team winning.

But I am not going to convince you if you aren't convinced by the wisdom derived from literally thousands of years of combined baseball experience.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

Of course it should.

So your main criteria for a two-hitter is being able to bunt in the rare event in which you described above actually happens? Yikes.

TT said...

"So your main criteria for a two-hitter is being able to bunt"

I didn't say that did I? I was responding to your claim is that it "should NEVER involve his ability to bunt."

As for "rare" occurances, there are a lot of those that determine the outcome of a season. The Twins have ended up tied twice in this decade. The season would have been won or lost based on whether a runner was moved over.

Of course, individual events that determine the outcome of a game are all exceedingly rare except in close games. And then there is usually a long list of the "little things" that had to have been done right. Its only in those close games where a sacrifice bunt is used.

The number two hitter is sandwiched between your leadoff hitter who can run and gets on base a lot and the team's two best hitters. That is exactly where the ability to bunt is likely to be most important. Why WOULDN'T you consider that ability in choosing a number two hitter?

lvl 5 Charizard said...

"As for "rare" occurances, there are a lot of those that determine the outcome of a season. The Twins have ended up tied twice in this decade. The season would have been won or lost based on whether a runner was moved over. "

I think this is the biggest flaw that goes into small ball. While a bunt may have helped them win a close game they might have won anyway, the entire season body of bunting cost the team runs. If the twins had scored more runs maybe some of those close games become easy wins and close losses become close wins. Scoring more runs is going to result in more wins than minimally increasing your chances of scoring a timely situational run. Bunting isnt always a mistake, but the majority of the time it is. Bad hitters in late game situations are they only time it should happen. Its not something that should be valued in a 2 hitter.

Twins said...

As for "rare" occurances, there are a lot of those that determine the outcome of a season. The Twins have ended up tied twice in this decade. The season would have been won or lost based on whether a runner was moved over.

Of course, individual events that determine the outcome of a game are all exceedingly rare except in close games. And then there is usually a long list of the "little things" that had to have been done right. Its only in those close games where a sacrifice bunt is used.


That's my basic premise that we are not seeing eye-to-eye on. Having a strong offensive presence in the No. 2 spot effectively improves the scoring, (hopefully) avoiding the situations in which you need to sacrifice for the one-run games.

Anonymous said...

There's something in the back of my mind that bugs me about studies like these - I probably can't articulate it correctly, but bear with me.

The data that is used to form concusions is based on decisions by managers using their traditional strategies. So it's not a random sample.

For example, take two scenarios. In both cases, Span is at second base with no outs. In scenario A, Tolbert and Kubel follow Span in the batting order. In scenario B, Mauer and Morneau follow Span.

In scenario A, I'd have Tolbert sacrifice to move Span to third and have Kubel hit it hard, hoping for a hit but settling for a sac fly.

In scenario B, I'd let Mauer and Morneau hit.

Over time, scenario Bs are going to produce more runs, but that doesn't mean you should use scenario B tactics when you're in scenario A.

I'm guessing the point of the study was to determine if that is the case, but how could you do that without forcing managers to make decisions they disagree with?

TT said...

"Having a strong offensive presence in the No. 2 spot effectively improves the scoring"

Which position in the order is that not true of? You can argue the order would be better with Cuddyer, Kubel, Thome or Young batting second. But I don't think it is better for those guys to be batting in front of Mauer and Morneau instead of behind them. And I think you would agree. Which is why this is really an argument to move Mauer into the number two spot,despite your denials.

The reality is that the offense is improved by having two guys having a chance to get on base in the first inning ahead of Mauer and Morneau instead of only one. After the first inning, the question are your chances of scoring improved by having someone batting between your leadoff hitter and your three and four hitters. I think they are and I explained why.

Once you determine you want someone batting second before your two best hitters, the final question is whether the ability to bunt is one of the criteria for who it will be. Again, the answer is yes.

Finally, this whole argument about "outs" ignores the fact that there really isn't a huge difference between hitters in how often they make outs. Almost all hitters make an out between 60% and 70% of the time. For batters likely to be in the number two spot, the difference is going to be half or less than that.

Which brings us to the critical problem. If you put two hitters ahead of Mauer and Morneau you double the chances they will have someone on base when they bat. You also double the chances there will be at least one out. Which one of those do you think has the bigger impact on whether you will score? Remember, Morneau only bats if there is at least one runner on base.

TT said...

Anonymous -

I think you hit the nail on the head. The actual question being statistically evaluated is whether you should randomly bunt with a runner on first. That isn't really a very interesting question since everyone already knows the answer.

And the offensive players involved are probably the least of the issues. You aren't going to find many managers who have guys bunt when the other team's mopup pitcher is on the mound. Or when the other team's pitcher is having a hard time finding the plate.

BTW, that is true of almost all decisions by a manager. Where there is a "one size fits all" answer, no one even asks the question. For instance, managers don't "decide" whether to have a catcher or which other fielding positions they are going to use.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

The reality is that the offense is improved by having two guys having a chance to get on base in the first inning ahead of Mauer and Morneau instead of only one.

YES. Finally. Thank you. That's it. Phew. Going to take a mental picture of this one. Having a strong offensive presence in front of the heart of the order is much more beneficial than "wasting a second spot in the by putting somebody there who isn't one of the better hitters on the team." BINGO. That's all this was about.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

@Anon

No, a manager shouldn't follow the results blindly and, as TT has tried to convey over (and over and over and over), context means a lot (duly noted TT). What should be known is that - in general - sacrificing reduces the run expectancy as well as the win expectancy. However, given your scenario, a manager may be better served laying one down and getting Kubel to hit a sac fly.

The real issue then would be the construction of the hypothetical lineup. If you have your light-hitter (Tolbert) insert between a high OBP (ok, pre-2010) guy and your above-average No. 3 hitter (assuming a righty is on the mound) you will likely opt to sacrifice often, giving away outs and resulting in a low run total. If you have a Mauer/Morneau following up Span, it's easy to see how a hit parade may begin (assuming both hitters are reaching safely 40% of the time). What's more is that with Span on second and a base open, an opposing manager who, along the same lines as the foolish coaches who opt to sacrifice too much, may decide to walk Mauer to "set-up" the double-play for Morneau. Now you have two runners on and no outs for one of your biggest bombers.

Again, you might now have the personnel to accommodate the situation so you might be relegated to bunting more, scoring few runs in the long haul and you call Seattle home.

TT said...

"What should be known is that - in general - sacrificing reduces the run expectancy as well as the win expectancy"

That is simply untrue. Random sacrificing might do those things, but no such thing actually happens. What might happen in a world where it did is completely irrelevant.

Not only does context matter, but it is the determining factor. No manager randomly bunts based solely on the score, number of outs and inning.

"What's more is that with Span on second and a base open, an opposing manager who, along the same lines as the foolish coaches who opt to sacrifice too much, may decide to walk Mauer to "set-up" the double-play for Morneau. Now you have two runners on and no outs for one of your biggest bombers. "

Which just underlines the point you are missing. The number of outs are irrelevant if Morneau hits a bomb. If he doesn't, they only matter for the hitters who follow.

As I pointed out above, what you are really doing is taking opportunities away from Mauer and Morneau in order to have them set the table for the guys that follow them. I don't think that makes sense.

TT said...

"That's all this was about."

Really? Then let me ask you, why not stick Cuddyer, Thome, Kubel or Young in the number two spot?

The answer is because their skills are actually better used hitting AFTER Mauer and Morneau. Just as Mauer and Morneau are better used to drive in runs than for setting the table, the same is true of those other guys. And its true of Valencia as well if he hits like he did the last half of last year.

So the number two spot ends up with the best guy who lacks power, can get on base, has the bat control to bunt or move a runner over and the speed to stay out of a double play and score when he gets on base. When Tolbert is in the lineup, he may well be the best fit for that description.

This only becomes rocket science when you are trying to prove you are smarter than all the professional baseball people who have been playing the game for the last 100 years.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

@TT

Welp. We could continue to pick apart each other's statements for days. I could go through both of your last posts and give reasons why what you are saying is wrong (in my opinion) and then you would do the same.

I think we've agreed several times that IDEALLY we have a different hitter batting in-between Span and Mauer.

In terms of bunting, I get your argument. I don't buy it but it is well-thought out and - at times - logical.

I'm not now nor ever going to buy into the "It's been done this way for 100 years so it must be right" nonsense. Strategy changes as we find ourselves with better tools to analysis the game with.

Data -- extracted from those 100 years of baseball you've cited twice now -- has shown that sacrificing isn't advantageous to your overall production through the duration of season.

What's more is that through the same exercise of researching those 100 years of baseball, we have learned that having a strong offensive presence in the number-two spot (OBP) is a benefit to a team's overall production.

TT said...

"Strategy changes as we find ourselves with better tools to analysis the game with. "

Thank you for proving my poine. You haven't found yourself with a better tool, you only imagine it. You are taking probabilities based on random situations with random teams, pitchers and hitters. You are then applying the results to situations with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Your tool actually tells you nothing..

"Data -- extracted from those 100 years of baseball you've cited twice now -- has shown that sacrificing isn't advantageous to your overall production through the duration of season"

The data shows nothing of the sort. As I pointed out, its poor analysis that creates that conclusion.