The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 4, 2009

Sacrifice flies


The Minnesota Twins in 2008 had 72 sacrifice flies. This is not a record, but it's close: the Oakland A's had 77 in 1984.



The average major league team had 49 sac files last season, so the Twins were 23 SF above average. It occurred to me that this probably had an impact on the Twins' famous overproduction with men in scoring position last season — those 23 "extra" SF represent 23 missing at-bats with men in scoring position.



(Just to be clear: I am using the term "sacrifice fly" in its strictest sense — a fly ball out that brings home a run. A fly ball that moves a runner from second to third is not a sacrifice fly unless it also plates a runner from third. By definition, a sacrifice fly comes with a runner in scoring position — RISP.)



The Twins in 2008 had 1,491 RISP at-bats and had 455 hits RISP — a batting average in those situations of .305. No other team topped .287 RISP.



Let's pretend that the Twins (a) had only the 49 sac flies hit by the average MLB team last year and that (b) they got no hits, walks, HPB in those missing 23 opportunites. Just 23 empty, unproductive at-bats.



That lifts them to 1,514 RISP at bats and still 455 hits a .301 BA-RISP. That's still well above average.



Hitting with men in scoring position is not a repeatable skill, by which i mean that nobody, year after year, consistently hits better or worse than their overall numbers in RISP situations. The secret to hitting .300 with men on base is to hit .300, period.



Likewise, there's little reason to believe that compiling sacrifice flies in bunches, as the Twins did last season, is repeatable. If it is, it certainly hasn't been a particular hallmark of this franchise.





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