With the regular season behind us, it is time once again to hand out the Flat Bat Award for the best bunter in baseball in 2012. In 2011, Emilio Bonifacio beat out the two-time defending champion Erick Aybar. However, Bonifacio only played in 64 games this season because of a series of injuries. Will it be Aybar who reclaims the title or someone else?

To decide, we will first look at which players were most successful on bunt hit attempts. These players had the best batting averages on bunt hit attempts with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2012 Bunt Hit Leaders

Name

Bunt Hit Results

Batting Average

Alcides Escobar, KC

11 out of 13

.846

Denard Span, Min

8 out of 10

.800

Alejandro De Aza, CWS

8 out of 11

.727

Emilio Bonifacio, Mia

9 out of 13

.692

Will Venable, SD

8 out of 12

.667

Danny Espinosa, Was

6 out of 10

.600

Ben Revere, Min

9 out of 16

.563

Erick Aybar, LAA

15 out of 27

.556

Juan Pierre, Phi

10 out of 18

.556

Jose Reyes, Mia

8 out of 15

.533

Erick Aybar set the pace for bunt hits with 15, which were four more than Alcides Escobar, the nearest bunter to him. However, Aybar also attempted 27 bunt hits, which were far and away the most in baseball. The result was a .556 average on bunt hit attempts, which is a excellent but still well behind the leaders. Escobar led baseball with a .846 average, and Denard Span and Alejandro De Aza were close behind.

Next, we will consider the most successful sacrifice bunters with a minimum of 10 attempts:

2012 Sacrifice Bunt Leaders

Name

Sacrifice Hit Results

Percentage

Elvis Andrus, Tex

17 for 17

100%

Clayton Kershaw, LAD

14 for 14

100%

Chris Capuano, LAD

13 for 13

100%

Marco Scutaro, 2 Tms

10 for 10

100%

Juan Pierre, Phi

17 for 18

94%

Johnny Cueto, Cin

17 for 18

94%

Bobby Wilson, LAA

13 for 14

93%

R.A. Dickey, NYM

10 for 11

91%

Barry Zito, SF

10 for 11

91%

Ian Kennedy, Ari

10 for 11

91%

Elvis Andrus was an impressive 17 for 17 in sacrifice bunt attempts. He led the American League in sacrifices and did not fail once. Juan Pierre and Johnny Cueto put down 17 successful sacrifices in the National League. Each had just one failed attempt.

Pierre is the one player who appeared on both lists. He bunted 36 times, which was the most in baseball. That is nothing new for Pierre, who led baseball with an incredible 61 total bunt attempts in 2011. The major change for Pierre was with his success rate. A year ago, Pierre batted .438 on his bunt hit attempts and had an 86 percent success rate on sacrifice bunt attempts. This year, Pierre increased his average to .556 on bunt hit attempts and his success rate on sacrifice attempts to 94 percent.

With those improvements, we were tempted to call Pierre the winner. However, Pierre’s edge comes from his sacrifice bunts, which are not nearly as valuable as bunts for hits. In aggregate, players were successful in their sacrifice attempts 85 percent of the time in 2012. Pierre attempted a sacrifice 18 times and was successful 17 of them. In a similar number of attempts, an average bunter would have succeeded between 15 and 16 times. The difference in their run expectancies is only a third of a run.

In contrast, even with his high volume of bunt-for-hit attempts, Erick Aybar had four more successes than anyone else (five more than Pierre), and those successes each create nearly half a run in value, on average. Despite the fewer sacrifice attempts and the more-frequent failed bunt-for-hit attempts, Aybar still outpaced the field by two runs of expected value. That is why Erick Aybar is the 2012 Flat Bat Award winner.

“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.”

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail