The Atlanta Braves rank dead last in the National League in sacrifice bunts. Only four times have the Braves gotten down a successful sacrifice bunt this season, and three of those have come from Julio Teheran. If the Braves continue to struggle with bunts, they will continue to leave runs on the table.
It’s hard to complain about the performance of the pitching staff with how well they’ve performed on the mound, the last two nights notwithstanding. That said, Atlanta pitchers have been horrible in bunt situations. Other than Teheran, Braves pitchers have only put down one successful bunt in 11 opportunities this season.
A failed bunt has already cost the Braves a chance at a win. In Atlanta’s 1-0 loss to the Phillies on Apr. 17, Alex Wood had an opportunity to bunt Gerald Laird over to third base and failed. If he had succeeded, the subsequent fly ball hit by Jason Heyward could have scored Laird from third and pushed the game into extra innings.
It’s not just the pitchers who are struggling with bunts either. Against the Marlins on Apr. 21, Heyward attempted to bunt Jordan Schafer over to third base and popped out to the pitcher. B.J. Upton also had an at-bat where he began attempting to bunt only to strike out after falling behind in the count from failed bunt attempts.
Even though Heyward and Upton struggled at the plate for most of April, it’s still somewhat puzzling as to why they are even attempting to bunt. Sabermetricians have determined that a successful bunt actually decreases a team’s chances of scoring. Teams score more frequently with a runner on first or second with nobody out than they do with a runner on second or third and one out. Chances of scoring decreases when moving over a runner and going from one to two outs as well.
While the team’s inability to move runners over hasn’t cost the team much over the first month, it could become more of a problem if they continue to have problems generating runs. It’s hard to believe the pitching staff will continue the level of success they maintained over the first weeks of the season, so the offense will need to pick up some slack to keep the wins coming. Even if the team ERA begins to rise, the pitchers can start to help themselves by getting more bunts down.