- 05/21/2012, 06:48AM ET
MagicSpecs said 05/21, 06:48 AM
Last Tuesday Boston beat Seattle 5-0 at Fenway. No news there you might think. But leading off the bottom of the fifth with the score 3-0 David Ortiz bunted the first pitch he saw down the 3rd base line and rumbled comfortably up to 1st for a bunt single. Seattle were employing the ever-more-fashionable defensive shift in an attempt to counteract Ortiz's pull-hitting tendancies. A groundout, wild pitch and single later, Big Papi crossed the plate to tack on another run. And this got me thinking.
The defensive shift offers a great opportunity for a batter to achieve one of his most important goals - to not make an out. Depending on the exact positioning of the shift any decent bunt to the left side not in easy reach of the pitcher will result in a bunt single. From an elite batter such as Ortiz or Mark Teixeira (who also frequently triggers the shift when batting from the left side) a high level of success should be achievable (with a little bit of practice) despite their less-than-elite speed.
Batters leading off an innings presented with a defensive shift should take the opportunity when it is given and bunt to get on base.
CuntryBlumpkin said 05/21, 08:44 AM
Bunting against the shift is nothing new. Brian McCann has been doing it for several years.
But there's a few reasons why I think the players should try to swing the bat to beat the shift.
If a player has a defensive shift against him, chances are the player is in the middle of the lineup and one of the top bats in the lineup, and a big power source for the team. Chances are the team is paying them to hit home runs and extra base hits, not get bunt singles with the bases empty.
The shift is only used in the infield, the left fielder isn't over playing in right-center field, so it's not like the shift completely takes away one side of the field.
What would you rather a big power bat in your lineup start the inning with, a gap double or a bunt single?
Plus the big power bats typically aren't the best bunters in the world. I don't want my big power bats trying to direct a bunt and potentially find themselves in an 0-2 hole without even swinging the bat.
Pretty much, I want my big bats swinging the bat. I'll take my chances of the shift beating him when there's also a chance he leads off the inning with a home run.
MagicSpecs said 05/21, 10:35 AM
Good luck Outlaw, thanks for taking the TD.
Players are paid to help their team win. Regardless of your position in the lineup or the batting skills you bring, getting on base and not making an out is a way of helping your team score.
Of course a double is preferable to a single, but in a (contrived) scenario where every leadoff batter in every inning faced the shift would you rather go 3-9 with 2 doubles and a single (generous) or 6-9 with bunt singles? Over the course of the game the bunt singles aid the offense more than the doubles.
Sluggers like Ortiz have superb hand-eye co-ordination - would you suggest that with a few drills they couldn't master the art of the bunt? Not to mention the margin of error bunting against the shift is far greater than that of a speedster bunting for a single against a charging 3rd baseman on the grass, or a player bunting to move a runner across.
Once a player establishes that he can bunt against the shift the defences will again have to adapt. They will be forced to defend against the easy single, and normal defensive positions will be resumed. When there is no longer a shift to hit in to then the mashing may recommence.
CuntryBlumpkin said 05/21, 10:52 AM
Getting on base does help the team win, but still, I'll take my chances with my slugger swinging the bat. He might make an out into the heart of the shift, he might strikeout, but he might hit a ball into the gap, or over the fence.
And as for me, personally, I'll take the two doubles any time. With the two doubles, there's a runner in scoring position with no outs, with your power hitter bunting, you have a slow runner at first base with the bottom of the order coming up soon.
I'm sure sluggers could learn how to bunt, but I would prefer them not. Small ball is great, but it's even better when the bottom and top of the lineup do it. I want sluggers in the middle of my lineup driving in runs and getting extra base hits.
A few bunt single won't stop the shift. There's a lot of hitters in MLB where the opposing team would gladly take a bunt single as long as it keeps them from swinging the bat where they can do some real damage.
Have the hitting coach work on driving the ball to the opposite field, but don't bunt
MagicSpecs said 05/21, 12:06 PM
Statistically, a leadoff single scores 40% of the time. If David Ortiz (I'll continue to use him since he is the reason I began the TD) could successfully bunt for a single against the shift only 50% of the time (a low bar) then you could expect him to score 20% of the time bunting for singles as the leadoff man.
Last season was a great one for Ortiz. He hit a home run in just under 5% of his plate appearances, doubled in just over 6.5% of his plate appearances, and singled or walked 27% of the time.
A leadoff home run always scores (obviously). On average a leadoff double will score 64% of the time, and a leadoff single (or walk) will score 40% of the time.
Combining these values (and assuming his whole-season numbers would remain the same if he were leading off every inning) Ortiz would expect to have scored a shade under 20% of his plate appearances.
By 'taking your chances with your slugger swinging the bat' the final production of a good year is nearly the same as if he'd bunted for singles. But if Ortiz could successfully bunt 60% of the time (and why not more?) then over 600 plate appearances over a season Ortiz would score 24 more runs than by swinging free.
CuntryBlumpkin said 05/21, 09:54 PM
A leadoff single. I want leadoff singles from my leadoff hitters, so they are on base for my power hitters.
David Ortiz had a great season last season, and he wasn't buntin g for singles, he was swinging the bat.
You ask David to bunt the ball, yeah his number of hits might go up a bit, and he might score a couple more runs, but he's also driving in fewer runs, hitting fewer home runs, getting fewer extra base hits, you know the things a clean up hitter are expected and paid to do.
If a team is dumb enough to put a shift on for a guy like Michael Bourn, then by all means, he needs to bunt, but middle of the lineup guys shouldn't be out there bunting.
Never in the history of baseball has a bunt resulted in a home run. If you hit the ball over the shift, you beat the shift. By making your power hitter bunt, you're taking the bat out of his hands. It's like stealing a base in front of Barry Bonds, yeah he gets on base, but takes away the potential for him to put runs on the board.
Teach them an inside out swing, teach them to sit back on pitches, but keep the bat in the hands of your slugger.
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