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Elliott Avent and the sacrifice bunt

Things are not as they seem.

Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

When Elliott Avent asked Chance Shepard to bunt Monday night against East Carolina in hopes of tacking on an insurance run, he made an indefensible error in judgment.

Let's forget for a minute that mountains of research show that the giving away of an out through the sacrifice bunt not only decreases your chance of scoring multiple runs in an inning, but also actually significantly decreases your chances of even scoring one. That goes for both runner on first with no outs and runners on first and second with no outs scenarios, but my biggest issue is that YOU DO NOT ASK CHANCE FREAKIN' SHEPARD TO BUNT. Got a slumping hitter who can run a little and put pressure on the defense? Maybe. Playing in the NL with the pitcher up? Sure. But you just don't bunt with a dude triple slashing .298/.390/.589. There are far better things a big ol' beast of a man with 11 doubles and 11 homers can do to a ball other than tapping it to move a dude up 90 feet.

(Avent did get his run, but only because of a two-out error.)

But, and am I ever thankful for this but, it turns out that the sacrifice is not Elliott Avent baseball, at least not anymore. Sometime between the end of the 2013 season and 2014, Coach Avent got his hands on some heady baseball analysis, read it, and digested it. Sure, he still bunts too often (as in ever), but he is in fact much less likely to bunt now than at any time in recent memory, and he calls for the poor statistical play in far fewer instances than most of his ACC contemporaries. Please, consider the following:

Season

Sacs per game

2012

0.89

2013

0.79

2014

0.56

2015

0.51

2016

0.48

Avent is giving away nearly a half out less per game this season than he did in 2012, and his use of the mostly useless tactic has decreased in every year since 2012. Someone smarter than me can figure out exactly what that means in terms of expected runs, but it's not insignificant. Regardless, hear the good news: even though Old Ass Avent rears his head on occasion, like the headscratcher last night, it seems to have gotten through to him that, despite our running joke to the contrary, numbers are in fact not bullshit.

Additionally, note that NC State ranks tied for 10th among ACC teams in sacrifice bunts this season. Two teams, Virginia (48) and Miami (47), have actually racked up well over double State's 19 sac bunts. North Carolina (37) and Pitt (30) love to lay it down as well.

This, praise Baby Jesus, ain't your daddy's Elliott Avent offense.