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How Big? So Big
2003-08-07 16:01
by Jon Weisman

From Steven Goldman, whose writing makes me feel like one of the schlubs waiting to be healed by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, comes this great discussion of big ball vs. small ball. (Scroll down.)

"Bunting and base-stealing make a lot of sense in an environment where runners are unlikely to be advanced by other means or one in which forcing the infielders and the catchers to throw the ball might lead to some free bases," Goldman writes. "Neither condition describes major league baseball today."

However, this does describe major league baseball from the past, which is why some very wizened veterans may cling to the superiority of small ball. Goldman quotes Clay Davenport of Baseball Prospectus as saying:

"Big ball being better than "small ball" is not an absolute truth; game conditions determine how possible it is to achieve "big" or "small" results. Under past historical conditions, with inferior gloves and less developed and trained team defensive strategies, the sacrifice was a much better play (and still is, today, at lower levels of play).
With the Dodgers having abandoned the sacrifice in recent weeks (although Adrian Beltre did square around to bunt with Robin Ventura on second base Wednesday night - before knocking a game-winning RBI single to right), I haven't pursued this topic as much as when this ripening season was 16 going on 17. But I do have one thought from April 5 that bears repeating.

Frankly, IÕve been wondering what makes mediocre offensive teams like the Dodgers think they would be any better at manufacturing runs than they are at buying them retail. If theyÕre not good enough build an above-average OPS, what makes them think that they can execute a fairly difficult play, the hit-and-run?

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