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The Flat Bat Award 2017

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The Flat Bat Award 2017

December 1, 2017

The Flat Bat Award is given annually to the best bunter of the year. To determine the winner, we look at run value—run expectancy gained or lost—for both successful and unsuccessful sacrifice and bunt-for-hit attempts for each player. Last season’s champion, Cesar Hernandez, fell to fourth this year as Delino DeShields and Dee Gordon, the 2015 Flat Bat Co-champions, rebounded to claim the top two spots in 2017.

Here are the top 10 players in bunt run value in 2017:

Bunt Leaders by Run Value, 2017
Player Sac Hit Attempts Sac Hits Bunt Hit Attempts Bunt Hits Run Value
Delino DeShields 14 13 14 11 4.93
Dee Gordon 5 2 26 16 4.76
Byron Buxton 6 5 14 11 4.44
Cesar Hernandez 1 0 13 9 3.03
Freddy Galvis 2 2 7 6 2.57
Cody Bellinger 0 0 7 6 2.45
Jorge Polanco 8 7 6 5 2.32
Starling Marte 0 0 9 6 2.03
Odubel Herrera 0 0 6 5 2.01
Ryan Goins 6 5 4 4 1.96

The winner of the Flat Bat Award for 2017 is Delino DeShields of the Texas Rangers, who edged out noted speedsters Dee Gordon and Byron Buxton, among others. Please see the technical section below for further detail on the run value calculation. Unlike previous winners of the Flat Bat Award who obtained much of their run value through bunting for hits, DeShields derived his run value from a combination of sacrifice bunts and bunts for hits. In 2017, DeShields was far and away the leader in sacrifice bunt attempts (14) among position players and finished just three total bunt attempts shy of Dee Gordon (31 vs. 28) despite having approximately 250 fewer plate appearances. DeShields was also the 2017 co-leader (along with Byron Buxton) in batting average on bunt hit attempts (minimum 10 attempts) at .786. DeShields plays his home games in the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park, so it will be interesting to see if the Rangers continue to encourage his small-ball habits going forward.

Technical Stuff:

There are two inputs we use in the run value calculation listed above—bunt-for-hit run values and sacrifice bunt run values. Let’s start with the calculation for the bunt-for-hit component. Over the last three seasons, a successful bunt hit increased a team’s run expectancy by 0.444 runs and a failed bunt-for-hit attempt cost teams an average of 0.210 runs. DeShields had 11 successful and 3 failed bunt-for-hit attempts. Thus, his run value for this component is (11 * 0.444) - (3 * 0.210) = 4.25.

The sacrifice component of the run value for bunts is more complicated. Since sacrifice bunts have a negative run value, we instead measure a player’s effectiveness with sacrifice attempts with a plus/minus approach. Since 2013, players have been successful on their sacrifice attempts 66 percent of the time. The difference in run expectancy between a successful sacrifice attempt (-0.174 runs) and an unsuccessful attempt (-0.354 runs) is 0.180 runs. Thus, for each successful sacrifice we add (1 - 0.66) * 0.180 = 0.061 to a player’s run value component, and consequently subtract 0.66 * 0.180 = 0.119 each time he fails. DeShields had 13 successful sacrifice bunt attempts and one failed attempt giving him (13 * 0.061) - (1 * 0.119) = 0.68. When we combine DeShields’ run value for bunt-for-hit attempts (4.25) and sacrifice bunt attempts (0.68) we get the 4.93 that tops the leaderboard above.

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