Well, the Cubs are going to the NLCS after their 5-1 victory on Sunday night. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior showed why the old adage about good pitching stopping good hitting is so true. 3 wins down 8 to go. Could this be the year?
I thought Baker's use of the bunt in the first inning with Lofton on 2nd was an example of poor managing. By bunting in that situation you almost guarantee yourself that you'll not have a big inning. And although Miller hit a double in game 4, I wouldn't hesitate to pinch hit for him in any situation, like the one in the 9th when he struck out looking with a runner on third and less than 2 outs.
So how to do you know that bunting in that situation is normally a bad idea? Below is a table of Net Expected Run Values calculated by Carl Morris.
|Outs/Men on Base||0||1||2||3||1,2||1,3||2,3||1,2,3|
Anyway, to answer the question posed above, Lofton was on 2nd with nobody out. That situation yields an expected run value of 1.138. By bunting the runner to third you now move the state of the game to a runner on third with one out, which yields an expected run value of .920. So you decrease your number of expected runs (the chance for a big inning), while likely increasing your chance of scoring the single run (although I would guess not by much). But what if Grudz singles and moves Lofton to third? Now the expected run value moves to 1.762. What if he strikes out (which he did)? The NERV moves down to .720. So generally speaking unless you're sure your pitcher is going to throw a shutout, I don't see any reason to bunt in that situation. Further, you'll notice that when moving from 0 outs to 1 out, you decrease the NERV by as much as a half run. Outs are the most valuable resource the offense has. Squandering them with bunts in the early innings is never a good idea. However, when you a need a run to tie the game in the late innings, then the play makes sense.
Looking at it a different way, below is a table of linear weight run values (originally computed by Pete Palmer) that I found on the SABR list. In this matrix each situation records a context in which a batter can perform. The columns indicate their result (a walk, single, double etc.) while the values are the offensive contribution of the result (i.e. a grandslam is only woth 2.82 runs since the other runners on base deserve some credit for producing the 4 runs). Using tables likes these sabermetricians can get a feel for how valuable walks or other offensive contributions are. I believe this table was generated from data in the 1990s. This kind of complete analysis can be done using retrosheet data.
|1 and 2||.58||.89||1.55||1.96||2.37||-.53|
|1 and 3||.38||.86||1.33||1.78||2.19||-.47|
|2 and 3||.22||1.07||1.40||1.60||2.01||-.49|