Francisco Lindor had a great debut for the Indians last season, hitting .313 in 99 games on the way to finishing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting. He also led the league with 13 sacrifice bunts despite not being called up until mid-June and … well, manager Terry Francona thinks that’s probably too much bunting for a guy who can hit so well.
Lindor laid down a sacrifice bunt in the first inning Monday and afterward Francona discussed the topic with reporters, telling Zack Meisel of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
I love the fact that he wants to move runners. I absolutely love it. … At the same time, he’s such a good hitter, that you don’t want him to just give away outs. But I’ve been really reluctant to approach him on it, because I like the idea so much that he’s trying to do the right thing.
I’m not sure anybody who’s hitting in [the No. 2] spot, we’re going to want them to give themselves up too much. Whether it’s [Jason] Kip[nis] or whoever it is, those are your best hitters. Whether you have a runner on third with one out or a runner on second with nobody out, your chances of scoring are pretty good. Sometimes your chances of scoring more than one are better if you just let them play.
Lindor is taking a very old-school approach to moving runners over and sacrificing yourself for the good of the team, except a hitter of his caliber doing that isn’t really helping the team because the Indians’ run expectancy goes down when he gives up an out to move a runner over one base. The numbers on this topic are pretty straightforward and have been for decades.
In other words, if there’s a runner or two on base when Lindor comes to the plate the Indians will almost always be better off if he simply tries to drive them in himself. His choosing to bunt them up a base instead isn’t exactly the end of the world and, as Francona points out, it’s a nice sentiment from a young player, but at some point the manager will hopefully convince one of the best young players in the league to let ‘er rip.