Discovering the Finest Bunters in Baseball

TJ Friedl
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In Tuesday’s missive on league-wide bunt tendencies, I ran out of time and house earlier than I may single out a few of this season’s standout particular person bunters for particular consideration. As in each assortment of ballplayers, there are a number of outliers who skew the pattern. To proceed the metaphor {that a} bunt is baseball’s mid-range soar shot, these are your LaMarcus Aldridges.

The buntiest hitter in baseball, which you in all probability may have guessed, is Reds outfielder TJ Friedl. He has put 28 bunts in play this season (no one else has greater than 18) and has struck out trying to bunt three extra occasions (additionally tops within the league; there have solely been 19 bunt try strikeouts complete this 12 months, in response to Baseball Savant).

You may see on this compilation why Friedl bunts a lot. He’s a small left-handed hitter who, regardless of having 12 dwelling runs on the 12 months, doesn’t often hit the ball onerous. He’s additionally a plus runner who has graded out as top-of-the-line runners within the league this season, and even on the plate, he’s looking for each benefit. The archetypal lefty jailbreak bunt motion is at work right here, as Friedl lops the ball everywhere in the infield within the hope he can beat it down the road.

However whereas Friedl is a superb quantity bunter, he’s not essentially probably the most environment friendly bunter within the league. His 14 bunt singles lead the league, however his batting common on bunts, .700, is simply sixteenth amongst gamers with at the very least 5 bunts in play. (By way of Monday’s motion, 72 particular person gamers had reached that milestone. Joey Bart has singled twice in two bunt makes an attempt however doesn’t have the amount to be value discussing right here; my “The Bart is a Lonely Bunter” headline thought sadly goes to waste.) And although Friedl is 8-for-8 on sacrifice bunt makes an attempt and has even reached base as soon as whereas being credited with a sacrifice hit, his success charge (hits and sacrifice hits divided by bunt makes an attempt) of 71% is simply thirty third out of 72. We are able to do higher.

In January, Ben Clemens wrote in regards to the bunt single as an unsung pillar of Daulton Varsho’s offensive sport. And positive sufficient, Varsho is the one hitter, apart from Friedl, with double-digit bunt hits this season. Whereas Friedl has made 31 bunt makes an attempt and reached base solely 14 occasions, Varsho is 10-for-15 on bunt hit makes an attempt and was profitable on his solely sacrifice.

Friedl embodies one of many two archetypes of nice bunters. The primary is the little man who can scoot and bunts to get on base; usually talking, this can be a quick group of gamers.

Heavy Bunters vs. League-wide House-to-First Instances

Imply Median twenty fifth Percentile seventy fifth Percentile ninety fifth Percentile
Total 4.05 4.03 4.15 3.93 3.83
High Bunters 3.98 3.96 4.04 3.86 3.78
High Bunters Below Leaguewide Time 76.1% 74.6% 90.1% 45.1% 12.7%

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

About three-quarters of probably the most frequent bunters within the league have above-average home-to-first occasions. Nearly half of the heavy bunters are within the prime quartile of quickest runners, and one out of each eight bunt fanatics is within the prime 5% of leaguewide velocity. However there are a number of laggards.

That brings us to the second archetype: the… hmm, give me a minute to provide you with a well mannered euphemism… defensively targeted catcher who doesn’t run nicely however can get down a sacrifice bunt. Should you’re going to make an out, it would as nicely be a productive one.

5 gamers out of the 72 have an ideal report on bunting this season; each time they’ve dropped one down, they’ve both reached base themselves or superior the runner. These gamers are Luke Raley, Brendan Donovan, Adam Frazier, Kevin Smith, and Jose Herrera, and all of them have precisely 5 bunts on the season. Herrera, although, has Eleventh-percentile dash velocity. Martín Maldonado (11 for 14 on sacrifice bunts, zero hits) has a home-to-first time of 4.51 seconds. If he raced Corbin Carroll down the road, Carroll would beat him by almost three-quarters of a second. Austin Hedges (10 sacrifice bunts on 11 makes an attempt, fifth-percentile dash velocity) is without doubt one of the finest sacrifice bunters round however has but to beat out a bunt single this season.

What if there have been a synthesis of those two varieties? The speedy, pesky left-handed contact hitter and the light-hitting catcher on the lookout for any approach to contribute? (Varsho, who was a catcher till very not too long ago, now not qualifies.) Meet Garrett Stubbs: 10 bunt makes an attempt, one sacrifice, seven singles, two RBI.

In any respect of 5-foot-10 and 170 kilos, Stubbs is hardly an imposing bodily presence. However regardless of being a catcher, he’s an above-average-to-plus runner who will get down the road a fraction quicker than Steven Kwan and Cedric Mullins.

Friedl has a little bit of a shotgun high quality to his bunt model; he’s usually shifting earlier than he makes contact with the ball, and so long as the ball lands in truthful territory, he’s received a very good shot at beating the throw. Stubbs additionally breaks out of the field shortly, however his bunts are typically extra exact; he squares the ball up and locations it earlier than he scrambles down the primary bottom line. And he does it a ton.

Bunt of the Class

Rank Participant Bunts Complete BIP % bOBP* Success Fee**
1 Andrew Velazquez 8 54 14.8 .400 .600
2 Garrett Stubbs 10 68 14.7 .700 .800
3 José Azocar 6 50 12.0 .167 .833
4 Johan Rojas 8 75 10.7 .500 .875
5 Zach Remillard 8 89 9.0 .500 .750
6 Dairon Blanco 6 75 8.0 .833 .833
7 TJ Friedl 28 354 7.9 .484 .710
8 Austin Hedges 11 141 7.8 .000 .909

*(Bunt hits + FC + ROE)/(Bunt makes an attempt + Bunt double performs)
**(Bunt hits + sacrifice hits)/Complete bunt makes an attempt

With Rojas and Stubbs within the prime 4 of this checklist, it’s value noting that the best bunt-to-total batted ball ratio of the Statcast period belongs to Roman Quinn, who tickled 19% in 2019. The Phillies appear to like a man who can bunt.

Friedl is an on a regular basis starter for the Reds. Stubbs is the backup to J.T. Realmuto, who has caught nearly 10% extra innings at catcher than anybody else over the previous 5 years. As a substitute of his identify, Stubbs has “Day Games” stitched onto his mitt, as a result of that’s the one time he performs. Ten bunts won’t seem to be that many in comparison with Friedl or Varsho, but it surely’s an enormous quantity for a hitter who has solely put 68 balls in play all 12 months.

Stubbs’ 7-for-9 on bunt hit makes an attempt is the second-best batting common, behind Blake Sabol, amongst gamers with 5 or extra bunt hits this 12 months. It additionally makes up an enormous portion of his general offensive manufacturing:

Garrett Stubbs by Contact Kind

Bunts 10 .778 .778 .778 .686
Every little thing Else 89 .163 .247 .237 .224

I really feel assured declaring Stubbs the most effective bunter in baseball — partially as a result of this talent is so essential to his all-around sport, however principally as a result of no one will get extra bang for his bunt.