The Bunt Part Deux

I am not writing this to spite Lincoln Floyd. I am also not writing this just because it happened to work this time. I am certainly not writing this because I want to stir up a hornet’s nest on this subject (okay, maybe I am just a little). No, I am writing this article because I think it is important to point out the one time in professional baseball that a sacrifice bunt is the best and wisest move strategically. Despite what the statistical analysis and percentage charts may tell you, some times a manager just has to go with his gut.

Monday night the Rangers got a leadoff single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the ninth off of Athletics reliever Tyson Ross. After Craig Gentry pinch ran for Moreland, Ian Kinsler promptly singled to left to get runners to first and second with nobody out. Elvis Andrus stepped up to the plate and the entire Ranger fan base could feel the game tilt immediately in the Rangers favor.  Not because Elvis was going to drive in the winning run, but because of the thunder and lightning combination behind him in Hamilton and Beltre. Had this game been in the bottom of the third inning, Ron Washington lets Elvis swing away hoping for the big inning. But, this game and situation called for one run and one run only. As a manger, you must then play the percentages of what puts your team in the best possible position to win the game. Here is my guess at what flashed through Ron Washington’s head during the brief moment as Elvis walked up to the plate: 

Option 1: Do I let him swing away and risk the double play? I’d probably still have Gentry at third with Hamilton up to bat with two outs. It eliminates the possibility of a sac fly winning the ball game, but it also takes the game away from my hottest hitter Beltre.

Option 2: Let Elvis sac bunt and get the runners to second and third and hope that Beltre can win it after they would obviously walk the bases loaded.

We all know that he chose option two and it worked out with an Adrian Beltre single up the middle to win the ballgame that pushed the Oakland Athletics one step further away in the race for the AL West. But, why is this the right decision in this moment?

If you let Elvis swing, the percentages are in your favor of scoring a run (see Lincoln’s excellent bunt chart) compared to him giving up an out and laying down the bunt.  

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There is no arguing that point statistically and if you do not look beyond the static spreadsheet, it is a moot point and this argument is over.  But, in this particular case you want to get the game to Adrian Beltre if at all possible. He was seeing the ball well on this night and is the leading candidate for AL MVP, (in this author’s opinion). The minute that Ron Washington asked Elvis to bunt, the entire baseball world knew that walking Josh was a foregone conclusion. You have to walk him there to set up the force play at home and possible double play back to first. Washington forced the game to Adrian Beltre and on nights when he is hitting and seeing the ball like he was, you throw out the percentages and charts and go with your baseball gut every time.

The numbers and percentages may say that bunting is not the smartest or best move with runners at first and second with nobody out, but the game sometimes dictates decisions more than the numbers.

Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog.
Jeff Johnson

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