On Carlos Pena’s Attempt at ‘Small Ball’

From SABR member Christina Kahrl at ESPN.com on April 2:

From SABR member Christina Kahrl at ESPN.com on April 2:

The former Rays slugger [Carlos Pena] was heading into his third career at-bat versus the Bucs’ lefty [Paul Maholm], having popped up and struck out earlier in the game. And he was going to have to hit into the face of the Pirates’ defensive shift, with everyone pulled to the right side.

It’s the classic Ted Williams conundrum: What’s a pull-heavy, fly-ball bopper to do? Teddy Ballgame would just hit into the teeth of any shift, and more power to him, greatest hitter of a generation. But in this case, Pena decided to show bunt. He didn’t get a breaking pitch to work with, fouled it off, and had to go back to plan and “settle” for doing something he’s really good at — drawing a walk. But where did playing at the little man’s game come from?

Sabermetric orthodoxy generally suggests that the bunt’s a bad idea. The sacrifice is best left for late-game situations when playing for one run will get you the run to win with, while bunting for a base hit isn’t the sort of thing anybody can do reliably well. Nevertheless, couldn’t this be one of those plays you might take an indulgent eye towards, even while acknowledging that bunting in general and bunting for base hits are low-percentage plays?

Read the full article here: http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/8424/cubs-pena-tries-his-hand-at-little-ball

Originally published: April 3, 2011. Last Updated: April 3, 2011.