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Rules and Exceptions
Rule 1 (The Conventional Wisdom): Don't be afraid to bunt early and often, especially in close games. Whenever there is a runner on first and fewer than 2 outs, make the bunt at not even a possibility unless you are in a close one run game -- sometimes the threat of a bunt can get fielders moving around, and that alone could prevent a double play or open up a hole that isn’t usually there. Just don't bunt with 2 strikes, 2 outs, or when the pitcher is on deck...
- Exceptions: You probably shouldn't bunt with your best hitters, though.
Rule 2: (The Sabermetrican's Mantra) Never, ever bunt with anyone but the pitcher. Okay, so that's a bit of an overstatement -- bunts can certainly come in handy late in close games (where one run can make all the difference)... But they are typically a poor strategy because they, by definition, involve the giving away of outs. And we want to hoard outs, because we're greedy, greedy people. According to the run-expectancy framework, which measures the expected number of runs a team should score in a given inning as a function of the game situation they are in, the only situation in which a successful sacrifice bunt increases the number of runs the team should score in an inning is with runners on first and second with no outs. In all other situations, the sacrifice lowers the number of runs the team would be expected to score in that situation.
- Exceptions: Pitchers are allowed to bunt because they suck at hitting. Also, sometimes on bunts, the fielder will try to get the lead runner -- usually a terribly stupid thing to do -- and either throw the ball away or allow both runners to reach safely. And sometimes players simply beat out a bunt hit. So, it’s not always a bad idea to bunt, but as is the case with the stolen base, managers almost universally overuse the strategy.