Terry Collins Wants The Mets To Lead The League In Sacrifice Bunts For Some Reason

"The curious task of sabermetrics is to demonstrate to managers how little they really know about the runs they imagine they can create"

Terry Collins has had a lot to say this first week of spring training, with Adam Rubin passing along this nugget from Tuesday:

The focus in spring training will be on better execution, such as leading the league in sacrifice bunting by 10 rather than simply being even with the league leaders.

In other words, Collins wants to give away more free outs than any other team in the league. When he said this, a great disturbance was felt on Amazin' Avenue, as if millions of readers cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. It induces flashbacks to the hyper-interventionist Jerry Manuel days of bunting with the second batter of the game and the pinch bunter "innovation". Wanting to increase sacrifice bunt success rate is one thing -- it's preferable to striking out or popping up a bunt attempt -- but planning to get down more bunts than any other team just isn't smart baseball. The Mets had a below average 90 sacrifice bunt attempts last season. The Marlins led the league with 125. Does this mean the Mets will be pushing ~135 attempts in 2012? Yikes.

While the evils of the overused sacrifice bunt are well documented, it is a smart play under some circumstances. Think when pitchers are batting and in various late-and-close scenarios. However, planning to lead the league in sacrifice bunts as if they are an incontrovertible good like home runs or triples is planning to stifle a lineup's chance to score. If a periodic glass of red wine is good for the heart, that doesn't mean it's wise to up intake to four bottles per day.

There is a chance that this is more manager-speak than concrete declaration. Collins has to pass the time with reporters somehow and it's probable that he doesn't mean everything he says. Talk of "execution" is a staple of spring training rhetoric, which is fine, although it's preferable that it not be accompanied by a specific number of desired sacrifice bunts. So Collins receives the benefit of the doubt for now, but expect a torrent of cranky discussion if this February throwaway line transforms into April-September policy.

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