The Atlanta Braves, on Oct. 4 against the Miami Marlins came one game short of doing something no team has ever done.
In the fourth inning, Michael Harris actually did it. He laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving William Contreras to third base. This was the first sacrifice bunt all season that the Atlanta Braves had laid down, leaving them approximately fourteen innings short of being the first team ever to go a full season without a sacrifice bunt.
This season has seen multiple fascinating milestones reached and records broken, like 3000 career hits by Miguel Cabrera, 700 career home runs for Albert Pujols, and 62 home runs in a season for Aaron Judge.
While these milestones and records have rightfully so garnered much attention, the Braves almost making it a full season without a sacrifice bunt does raise a question.
Why did the Atlanta Braves take so long to lay down their first sac bunt?
The Atlanta Braves appear to be part of the new trend of bunting less because the reward for a sacrifice bunt is not worth sacrificing an out. As we saw in the game, the bunt did not ultimately result in a run. It can be argued that not bunting is not as aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but the results this year have shown that not bunting as often has paid dividends.
While there are multiple variables in play to determine how many runs are scored in a season, bunting is one of them. If we do a trend analysis we can see that a large number of teams that did not bunt very often scored more runs than a lot of teams who opted to lay down sacrifice bunts above the league average level.
The Atlanta Braves have the least amount of sacrifice bunts at one, and they have scored the third most runs in MLB. The Los Angeles Dodgers have the second-fewest sacrifice bunts this season with three, and lead MLB in runs scored.
In fact, if you look at the ten teams with the fewest sacrifice bunts, six of them are in the top-10 in scoring (Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Phillies, and Astros). Only one team in the top-10 in sacrifice bunts (Mets) are in the top-10 in scoring.
Of the top-10 teams in sacrifice bunts this season (Diamondbacks, Angels, Athletics, Guardians, Nationals, Royals, Cubs, Mets, and Pirates), six of them are in the bottom ten in scoring.
Now, it is fair to say that many of the teams that are laying down more bunts are bad offensively on paper anyway. Teams like the Pirates or Athletics were never favored to score a lot of runs. However, it does show that teams that do have a good offense don’t seem to need to bunt.
This is not to say that teams should never bunt. Rather, it is showing why offensive juggernauts have opted to try for a hit, rather than sacrifice one of their 27 outs per game to move a runner over one base.
It should also be noted that now that both leagues now have a DH for full seasons, we were already going to see a drop off in bunts, but look for this trend of fewer bunts in favor of saving outs to continue.
It would have been fun to say that the Atlanta Braves were the first to accomplish something, even if it was about sacrifice bunts, but it can be assumed that they are not too worried about that considering in the same game they clinched their fifth straight division title.