The Atlanta Braves don’t bunt much. To be fair, most teams aren’t bunting all that often these days, especially since the introduction of the universal designated hitter. The Braves, however, still stand out from the pack. In an age of reduced bunting, Atlanta is leading the charge.
Of the thousands of balls the Braves have put into play this year, only four have been bunts. Of their 1,327 hits this season, only one has come on a bunt. One. You’d be hard-pressed to find any other counting stat category on the FanGraphs leaderboards with the number one written next to a team’s name.
The bunt-tracking era at FanGraphs began in 2002. (Side note: I’m going to take credit for coining the phrase “bunt-tracking era.”) Records for sacrifice bunts were kept long before 2002, but the data for bunts and bunt hits only goes back 21 years. In that time, the lowest number of bunts for a team in a full season is 12, courtesy of the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays. With a mere four bunts this season, the Braves are nestled amongst most teams from the shortened 2020 season at the bottom of the team bunt leaderboards:
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This is Leo’s first piece as a FanGraphs contributor. Leo is a Philadelphia sports fan, but he lives in Toronto, meaning he is subjected to the agony of watching Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning walk-off home run replayed on a loop every single time he attends a Phillies game. Nevertheless, his love of the game has persevered. He has written for sites across the web, including Baseball Prospectus, Inside the Phillies, PitcherList, and The Good Phight. He is also a comedy writer and occasionally tries his hand at mixing baseball and humor. Sometimes it goes well; sometimes his work is called “bad satire” and “a waste of time.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Framber Valdez is having a historic season.
Earlier this year, Justin Choi wrote about Valdez and his historic groundball-to-fly ball ratio through the first six weeks of the season. Valdez has always been good at inducing groundballs and limiting fly balls, but his 10.00 GB/FB ratio over his first seven starts was on another level.
Unsurprisingly, Valdez himself was on another level, too. Through May 18, he posted a 2.93 ERA and 3.33 FIP in 40 innings pitched. His journey from middle-relief prospect to top-of-the-rotation starter was complete. Groundballs were always his super power, and fly balls had long been his kryptonite, so it made perfect sense he was thriving after increasing his GB/FB ratio. Since mid-May, however, his GB/FB ratio has slowly been coming back to Earth. It now sits at 4.20, which is still excellent to be sure, but not exactly sky-scraping. Yet Valdez is still having a historic season – just in a different way. Read the rest of this entry »