I went to the Dodgers baseball game tonight and saw something extremely rare in baseball: a bunt double. Speedy Dodger centerfielder Juan Pierre tried to dribble a bunt down the third baseline for a single, but popped it up over the head of charging Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. The mishit bunt landed a little past third base and trickled off into foul ground.
Here's a YouTube of Pierre getting a bunt double in an earlier season, although in the video he appears to be intentionally bunting the ball hard into left field. What I saw was a pure bunt executed poorly, but
By the way, young Dodger catcher Russell Martin, who will start the All-Star Game a week from now, looked great with four hits and non-stop hustle on the basepaths.
That reminds me of a baseball statistic that doesn't exist, but should. Hitters' statistics are biased by the home ballpark they play half of their games in, so honors like Most Valuable Player and the All-Star Game often go to guys who just happened to be at the race place at the right time to drive in 130 runs. Everybody knows that Colorado Rockies hitters aren't as good as their eye-popping statistics suggest because of the mile-high elevation means fly balls travel farther and faster due to less wind drag, but it's hard to keep track of how the other 29 parks bias statistics. This is especially true because park factor can change from year to year. For example, Wrigley Field in
Even statistically adjusting batters' performance for park factor (runs scored at home / runs scored away) has its problems because it's not all that stable: e.g., Dodger Stadium jumped from 25th best hitter's park to 10th best from 2005 to 2006. Was this due to some objective change in hitting conditions in Dodger Stadium or just because of luck (e.g., pitchers having worse outings at Dodger Stadium than in away games)?
On the other hand, dedicated fans can typically tell you with a lot of accuracy who is the most valuable player on their own team, not from statistics, but from the number of times he was the best or almost the best player in the game. For example, Russell Martin was clearly the best player on the field last night. If I attended, watched or listened to Vin Scully (now in his 58th year announcing Dodger games!) every night, I'd have pretty accurate impressions of who the best player on the Dodgers was, and by how big a margin.
This approach is independent of park factors. For example, back when the Houston Astros played in the old Astrodome, one of the worst hitters parks in history, they came up with a long string of terrific players like Jimmy Wynn, Rusty Staub, Cesar Cedeno, Bob Watson, and Jose Cruz. But only Joe Morgan made the Hall of Fame ... because he got traded to
This kind of relative game analysis could be institutionalized. Right after the end of hockey games, the announcer traditionally proclaims the top three players in the night's games. I presume a few sportswriters make up the list. This could become an entertaining tradition in baseball as well. You'd then sum the game rankings over the entire season. (It would be best to rank all the players in the game, to prevent low-average sluggers from getting an unfair boost by just including games when they were in the top 3 and leaving out games when they didn't do anything.)
Or, you could do calculate the best players in each game statistically, giving a point for every total base and on-base, as in the OPS average.
Still, a subjective ranking for each game could be useful. For example, I followed the Dodgers closely in the 1971 pennant race, and it was clear that 38-year-old shortstop Maury Wills was their most valuable player, even though his statistics were merely average (.281-3-44 and 15 stolen bases). Night after night down the stretch he made the big plays that made him among the best players in many crucial games. That year he was well-recognized for his contributions, finishing 6th in the league in the MVP voting, but he was lucky because he was a famous old player with the spotlight of a pennant race on him, so the national media heard about his contributions. Less well known players could benefit from some kind of game-by-game ranking system.
It's a little bit like how you rate movie character actors. Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frances McDormand, and Gary Oldman don't often get the big role that every star in Hollywood wants, or the best screenplays or best directors, but in whatever movie they are in, they more than hold their own relative to the other actors. For example, in 2005, Catherine Keener out-acted Sean Penn in The Interpreter, and held her own with Daniel Day-Lewis in the Ballad of Jack and Rose, Hoffman in Capote, and Steve Carrell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. That's a pretty good year.