Sacrifice the Sacrifice
We all know that Dozier’s masterpiece last season was a fluke. He was trying to drag bunt, popped the ball in the air, happened to hit it to a rookie third baseman who should have just pocketed the ball but instead chose to throw it down the line, allowing for the rest of the oddity.
Minnesota sacrificed 53 times in 2017, the second-most times in the American League. It was such a high amount that it drove Twins fans on social media to utilize the hashtag #NeverBunt:
All American League teams combined for 272 sacrifice bunts, which is the lowest total since the league implemented the designated hitter rule, and down by almost half from Molitor’s first season of managing, when there were 453 sacrifices in the American League.
The game has changed drastically, and the Twins being nearly 1/5 of all sacrifice bunts in the AL is not a direction the team can still continue to pursue. With players working with their hitting coach to maximize their launch angle and get the best trajectory on the ball, continued bunting would be a misuse of the talent in Minnesota.
One crazy fact unearthed by Tom Froemming of Twins Daily that I pushed a bit farther. Tom found that Jorge Polanco, who led the Minnesota Twins in sacrifice bunts, hit quite well with a man on first and no outs. I took that farther and checked out a few things for Polanco specifically:
- Runners in scoring position: .288/.331/.489
- Any men on base: .292/.332/.476
- Man on first, regardless of outs: .298/.333/.457
- Mon on first, less than two outs: .304/.315/.441
Essentially, Jorge Polanco was an elite-hitting shortstop in all of the typical bunt situations, but he was the guy who was asked to bunt most often, in spite of only being successful 7 out of 10 attempts that he laid down.
The Minnesota Twins were one of the top run-scoring teams in the league, and the team hit the fourth-highest rate of fly balls (37.3% of all balls in play) in the major leagues. The team is not made to bunt, and Molly needs to leave that tendency in 2017.
Next: Lineup construction