Anthony Gose had an interesting at bat on Tuesday night’s game against the Chicago Cubs in the fifth inning. Facing Jake Arrieta with one out and Ryan Goins standing on second base, Gose tried to bunt for a base hit on a pitch that ended up hitting him near the foot. On the second pitch, he swung away at a high strike. Down 0-2, he chose to try to bunt again but fouled out for a strikeout.
Immediately following that at bat a question was posed in our internal chat – how many times has Anthony Gose failed to lay down a bunt this season?
As it turns out, not including last night’s game, Gose has either reached base or sacrificed successfully on 11 of his 21 bunt attempts this season according to data at FanGraphs. This means that ten times he’s failed to get the job done.
That number on it’s own doesn’t give us much information to determine whether or not Gose is good at bunting. So I came up with a method to determine league average bunting ability.
First I collected bunt batted ball data from FanGraphs. I ran the averages of every player who has taken at least one plate appearance this season and determined the average number of bunt attempts, bunts for base hits, and sacrifice hits.
I came up with the following formula:
(Bunt Hits + Sac Hits) / Bunt attempts
For short, using FanGraphs abbreviations:
(BUH + SH) / BU
I’m not sure if bunting has already been looked at using this formula and I’m definitely not claiming to have invented anything. But for the purposes of this article, let’s consider this our bunting “success rate” with the premise it will help determine a player’s ability to “productively bunt”. Here’s the spreadsheet I used to come up with the results based on batted ball numbers from FanGraphs.
The league average works out to a .742 success rate (bunt hit or sac bunt) on bunt attempts in play. If we omit the players who haven’t attempted a bunt this season, the average raises to .774
How does Gose stack up? Of the 513 players who have attempted at least one bunt this season, he ranks 404th with a .524 success rate.
That raw rank and lower percentage makes it seem like he’s well below average but, with a standard deviation of 0.35, he’s less than one standard deviation below league average. Still less mind you, but not enough to be considered statistically significant, given my rudimentary understanding of the theory.
I’ll be the first person admit this is far from a perfect way to measure a player’s ability to bunt effectively. It’s impossible to account for every possible situation, such as when a player misses on his first two attempts and is forced to swing away with two strikes. Also, in my original sample 32 players ended up with BUH + SH / BU results above 100%, which shouldn’t be possible but somehow those players had more bunt hits and sacrifice hits than bunt attempts.
At first I thought it was because of sacrifice flies but I confirmed they are counted separately. I didn’t remove these players from my sample, which skews the league average slightly higher. With those players reduced to 100%, the league average drops to .745. There are probably countless other double counts within my sample but I have no way of knowing where exactly they may lie.
Regardless, I thought this provided a good snapshot of Anthony Gose’s ability to “bunt productively”. Below average but not by an extremely significant amount. Add to the fact that seven of his 21 bunts have gone for a base hit, which is the same pace as MLB co-leader Billy Hamilton, he’s almost league average on bunt attempts with a 97 wRC+ (for whatever that’s worth). He doesn’t know how to lay down a sacrifice bunt but he’s very good at bunting for a base hit – it’s basically a wash.
As much as anything, I think the bigger question is why was Gose bunting with one out and a man scoring position during the fifth inning of an American League game while his team his losing 2-0? It didn’t end up mattering in the long run as the Blue Jays bats exploded late but, without trying to sound like Gregg Zaun, it appears Gose still has some work to do on the mental side of the game.