How many homers did Babe Ruth lose bunting in 1927?

There’s an interesting Babe Ruth stat, one of many things that’s unique to the Sultan of Swat. The historical record shows Ruth with 14 sacrifice hits in 1927. Ruth, in fact, is the only player in baseball history with any sacrifice bunts in a season where he hit at least 60 homers.

It’s a bit of a misleading stat. My Twitter friend @aceballstats [who, by the way, is a superb follow] pointed out that sacrifice hits included both flies and bunts until 1954 after I started tweeting about this a little while ago. Looking through 1927 game logs on Retrosheet.org, I found that Ruth had 11 sacrifice flies and three sacrifice bunts in 1927.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if Ruth lost any homers with those three sacrifice bunts. If I’d been Ruth’s manager in 1927, I’d have fined Ruth for not swinging.

It’s of course impossible to know what Ruth might have done swinging the bat instead, but with the help of Retrosheet, I’ll present his three sacrifice bunts from 1927:

1. June 23, 1927: Ruth bunted in the first inning of an 11-4 win against the Red Sox. Boston’s starter Del Lundgren lasted just two innings, surrendering seven runs with just two earned runs. He allowed a homer to Lou Gehrig in the second inning.

2. August 1, 1927: Ruth bunted in the fourth inning of a 2-1 loss to visiting Cleveland. Opposing starter Jake Miller allowed just six hits and one run before the game was called in the sixth inning because of rain. It should be noted that Ruth otherwise owned Miller, hitting five homers in 32 at-bats against him lifetime with a .375/.412/.906 slash.

3. August 18, 1927: This Ruth bunt might be the most interesting, as it came in the 12th inning and the player that Ruth sacrificed over, Mark Koenig, subsequently scored the deciding run for the Yankees. Ruth’s bunt also came against Ted Lyons, who held the Great Bambino to just five homers in 113 at-bats lifetime with a .274/.383/.442 slash.

It’s a small sample size, granted and it’s perfectly possible Ruth did the right thing bunting. All the same, I can’t help but wonder.

0 thoughts on “How many homers did Babe Ruth lose bunting in 1927?”

  1. Ruth’s Aug 18th bunt might be the most interesting, but it’s his June 23rd bunt that is the most curious, on two accounts. I’m no fan of the sacrifice bunt, but with Murderer’s Row being what it was – Ruth normally being followed in the lineup by Lou Gehrig and Bob Meusel – the bunt option becomes a bit more palatable. If Ruth’s bunt is successful, the opposing pitcher can do either of two unappealing things, pitch to Gehrig or walk him and pitch to Meusel. But on June 23rd Meusel was not in the lineup. His place was taken by Cedric Durst, an undistinguished 4th year player whose career BA at the time was somewhere in the neighborhood of .235. Curiosity number 1 was that Ruth bunted in a situation in which Lundgren could have walked Gehrig and pitched to a lesser hitter. This was followed by curiosity number 2, which was that in the face of the opportunity to pass Gehrig and pitch to Durst, Lundgren pitched to Gehrig. As it turned out, Gehrig delivered a hit and two RBIs. Does this outcome justify the decision to bunt? Hard to say.

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