Say it ain’t so, Joe – Mauer lays it down on the job
Baseball aficionados in Minnesota cringed last month when their home-state baseball star Joe Mauer laid down a bunt with runners at first and second and no outs. However, a self-styled ‘Twin’s Geek’ supported this decision with an interesting statistics grid called the “expected runs matrix” published by Pete Palmer and John Thorn in The Hidden Game of Baseball. I came across this today in the Gameday program for the contest between the Minnesota club and the Toronto Blue Jays (Twins win! :)). If you are a baseball nut like me and enjoy digging into all the stats, check out this case made for making the sacrifice. In a nutshell, statistics compiled over 75 years of major league baseball indicate that Mauer’s success in advancing two runners made the out moot – the expected runs did not change. The Twins’s Geek (TG) thinks that Mauer, the reigning American League batting champ, thought he might get a surprise bunt hit, which would have increased the expected runs by a big margin. However, TG notes that the sacrifice may have gone in vain by not advancing runners (force at third, for example) or created a disastrous double play (pop to the pitcher and double up at first). What made this really interesting for me was the juxtaposition of situational stats provided by Gameday in this same issue. It shows that Joe Mauer is the premier clutch hitter on the Minnesota Twins and possibly all of baseball. For example, he bats nearly .400 with runners in scoring position! Therefore I must say: Joe, give it a go – swing away and make our day!