Like pass-heavy offenses in the NFL and three-point shooting in the NBA, home runs have become the main part of MLB offenses. Power hitting and working walks have become the way of baseball. Even with the man on second rule in the 10th, batters still swing away. While bunting is something most people grew up watching, is it a dying art? What do the numbers have to say about small ball and its effect on MLB?
Sacrifice Hits Have Little Value
The year is 2005. You have runners on 1st and 2nd with your #7 hitter up, so he bunts the baseball. He gets out and now you have runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Sounds like a good idea right? Well back then sure, but now 7th hitters on elite teams can still rake.
For the Yankees, oftentimes their 7th hitter is Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier, or even Gleyber Torres who are very good offensively. The Dodgers usually have power hitting Joc Pederson hitting 7th. The Twins can put a guy like Byron Buxton 7th and he was a pretty solid hitter last season. These simply are hitters you have swing away, as you don’t want to give them an out when you have a good hitter up. This is where small ball begins to fall out of favor in MLB play.
Power Hitters Are More Common
To put it bluntly: Most hitters can hit extra-base hits. The average SLG% was .435 in 2019, the 2nd highest since 2000. For context in 2000, that was in the middle of the steroid era. Baseball players just hit for more power and they can crank the longball whenever. Luis Arraez is seen as the example of a pure contact hitter that “defies advanced analytics” when he actually fits perfectly in modern baseball. He has a near 10% BB% and hits a lot of doubles. He’s perfect for the modern offense. He isn’t a contact hitter, he’s a doubles machine. No one who starts in a great lineup are singles hitters anymore, as it’s got little to no value in baseball compared to extra-base hits.
Should Small Ball No Longer Be A Part of MLB?
To put it simply, yes, yes it should. The long-two in basketball is still two points, but it’s got little value. This is the same thing with a bunt. Sure you get an extra base, but that’s in exchange for an out. You only have 27 outs, so to use it to advance a runner when you have a hitter with a high OBP or high SLG% is asinine. Should hitters go up there to just hit home runs? No, but they should look to hit line drives and work walks, not just make contact.
Yes, it sucks when you see a strikeout with runners on, but good hitters strikeout. Mike Trout is the best hitter of our generation yet he’s known for striking out a lot. It’s a part of modern baseball, and these guys know more than we do about hitting. We’re fans, they’re pros. Hearkening back to when small ball is played won’t change the fact that this baseball is the most efficient baseball.
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