Former Major League pitcher and 16-time Gold Glove award winner Jim Kaat called for Sabermetrics to be thrown in the trash can while commentating on MLB Network. Kaat made the quip when the U.S. put runners on first and second in the top of the second inning against Canada in a deciding match between Pool D contestants in the World Baseball Classic. Ryan Braun had doubled and Ben Zobrist had reached base on error, then were advanced a base on a successful bunt by Adam Jones. After giving up the out, Eric Hosmer and Shane Victorino grounded out to end the threat with no runs scored.
The expected runs matrix at Baseball Prospectus spits out 1.44 expected runs with runners on first and second and no outs as opposed to 1.29 with runners on second and third and one out. In one game, the difference of 0.15 runs is unnoticeable, so neither side can claim with any authority that the decision to bunt in that specific circumstance was an extremely good or extremely bad idea.
The bunting would continue for the U.S. After Joe Mauer singled and David Wright walked to lead off the fourth inning, Ben Zobrist bunted towards third baseman Taylor Green, forcing him into committing a throwing error. Mauer scored on the play, putting the U.S. on the board. Wright would score shortly thereafter on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2-2.
In the seventh, Eric Hosmer led off with a single to center. Shane Victorino immediately attempted to bunt on the first pitch he saw from Canada reliever Phillippe Aumont, pushing it foul. Down a strike, Victorino took the at-bat normally and ended up striking out.
Update (6:20 PM): Just as I pushed “Publish” on this post, Zobrist attempted to bunt with runners on first and second and no outs. Rather than advancing the runners, he popped out to the catcher. World Bunting Classic.