Tangotiger set up a poll yesterday asking whether people would rather live with the status quo of the sac bunt or do away with it all together. I was quite surprised to see that 65% had voted zero tolerance (stop it all together). I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of the sac bunt and think that managers more often than not use it when they shouldn't, but I can't get behind this zero tolerance idea.
The players on the field will make mistakes. They know they should throw to 2nd base rather than throwing home, but they throw home anyway. It's a poor decision and leads to more runners moving into scoring position than necessary. Players make all kinds of mistakes they know better than to make. Pitchers throw at batters and get suspended. Some of them even admit they did so on purpose. These guys make mistakes all the time and if you ask them about many of them they'd tell you that they should have done something else.
I see managers sac bunting as similar to players making boneheaded mistakes. Most of the time the Cubs sac bunt by a non-pitcher I don't particularly like it, but if I'm a fan of the other team I'm more than happy to capitalize on the other team's mistake.
Most importantly, if you create some sort of rule that you can't sac bunt except for pitchers, you're not going to see fewer bunts. You're just going to see batters appear to be bunting for hits. You'll also see fewer quality bunts as a result. The only way you can eliminate these types of bunts is to create a rule that says no non-pitcher can bunt when there are runners on base.
This would obviously be a silly rule that eliminates an important part of the game for some players: speed. It would completely eliminate it as the batter could still bunt with nobody on base, but when a Tony Campana bunts with runners on base he's got a very good chance of beating it out if he gets it down. You allow teams to employ crazy shifts against pull hitters and there's little they can do about it. Carlos Pena has recorded a hit on 63.4% of the bunts he's laid down. This doesn't include failed bunts so the percentage is lower. It was 62.5% in 2009 and then 80% in each of 2010 and 2011 and 100% so far this year. When Pena gets a bunt down there's a very good chance he's going to get a base hit because of that shift. It's an advantage the defense is giving him and taking the bunt away in some situations eliminates that advantage the defense gave him.
As I pointed out already, there's just no way to police this. Tony Campana is still going to bunt with a runner on base. So will Darwin Barney and just about any other position player the Cubs use to bunt. They just won't turn around early, but the defense will still know it's likely and will be playing up anyway. The end result is that we've created worse bunters than we already have.
Count me among the 35% in that poll. I'd much rather managers have the option of using it even though it's overused often used incorrectly, but forcing them to not sac bunt isn't going to change anything except the batter's ability to lay the bunt down.