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June 24, 2010

To bunt or not to bunt?

There was almost nightly complaints about former manager Dave Trembley's failure to call for the bunt more, but I'd imagine this is not what you had in mind:

With men on first and second and nobody out and the Orioles trailing by two runs in the eighth inning on Wednesday, interim manager Juan Samuel asked for catcher Matt Wieters to drop down a bunt.

"That was my decision. That’s what I wanted to do,” Samuel said.

It didn't work out too well. Wieters, who didn't recall the last time that he had bunted in a game but knew it hadn't been with the Orioles, dropped one down not far from home plate. Florida Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino had plenty of time to field it and get the lead runner at third base. That loomed large later in the inning when the Orioles scored one run on Corey Patterson's RBI infield single, but came up short of tying the game as Miguel Tejada flied out with the bases loaded.

The bunt certainly surprised and pleased Florida reliever Brian Sanches.

“I think I heard one of their guys say, ‘We never bunt,’” Sanches said. “I don’t know whose call that was. I’ll take an out any way I can get it. The first out in that situation is big.”

Samuel's rationale was a successful bunt would give his team two shots at a single that would likely tie the game. He also feared that the plodding Wieters could hit into a double play and take the Orioles out of the inning.

My main problem with the decision was Wieters hasn't been asked to bunt like that in years. And behind Wieters in the order were Scott Moore and Cesar Izturis, who was pinch hit for with Jake Fox, so it's not like you were setting up the inning for Nick Markakis or Ty Wigginton.

Either way, Wieters took the blame for failing to execute.

"It’s the first bunt this year, but we do it every day in [batting practice]," he said. "Juan told me if it’s first and second, we’re probably going to bunt here. I just have to get the job done. We do it every day three times in BP. I just didn’t get it out there far enough."

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 1:47 AM | | Comments (54)
        

Comments

Good debate on this one. It was the perfect situation for a bunt...other than the fact that Matt Weiters was at bat and had been hot lately. Samuel can't be faulted. His thinking and conclusions were sound. It's doubtful I'd have done the same thing given the same situation, however, if Matt executes there is no debate. Cool.

well it played out wonderfully didn' it? play for one run, get one run. somebody get that guy a copy of Managing 101, and make sure he reads it. Of all the real dumb moves in a real dumb season...

I like the call - a little unconventional to take the bat out of your "big hitter's" hands - but Weiters has not exactly been knocking the cover off the ball.

In fact, the odds are pretty decent (over 40%) that at least one of the next two hitters, even with their paltry batting average, would get a hit.

Yesterday, when I was on this site, my computer started shaking. I thought McPhail had made a significant move. Turned out it was only an earthquake.

Bunting was certainly the right call. Wieters said "We bunt three times every day in batting practice." How about if they all bunt until they know how to bunt instead?

Are you serious? You had a problem the bunt call? Bunting is a basic fundamental of the game. Wieters not being able to bunt shows they lack of preparation by this team. As a major leagues player you have to know how to bunt. Samuel made the right call the only bad call is he didn't run the team until the sun came up for failing to execute a basic fundamental. This team lacks talent, heart, and discipline.

I agree with Juan Samuel. The situation called for a bunt and that is what he asked his player to do. The fact that Wieters didn't execute doesn't make Samuel's decision wrong. If Wieters had hit into a double play would you second guess Samuel for not bunting? Come on...quit babying Wieters...and let the manager do his job.

you really couldn't do any worse than Samuel. Hire the Oriole Bird for manager.

Matusz night should have been done after 6, it was hot. He just threw a ton of pitches in S.D. Not to mention we are a million games out of first. Then the "bunt" to bring up Moore and Izzy.....simply out did himself there.

I like the fact that Samuel at least had a rationale for bunting, but why leave Wieters in to execute the bunt? Was there no one on the bench with some more bunting experience or more speed that might have had more success? Or maybe have the runners stealing so they have a better chance of beating a throw?

...............................................................................................Jeff Z's reply: Lugo was available off bench and he's already dropped down a couple of good sac bunts this year. Don't like stealing idea. Wieters doesn't get it down and Luke Scott would get thrown out by a mile at third.

Bunting has been shown statistically to be almost never a good idea. I am not so against bunting as the stat-heads are, as I think you need to challenge defenses and apply strategy situationally, but that was a terrible time and situation to bunt. People blab on about "fundamentals" and all that, but dumb strategy is dumb strategy, whether it makes so-called purists happy or not.

Totally understand Juan is trying to do something to get this anemic (and that's a mild description) offense to put some runs on the board, but you probably don't give up an out when you only have 6 left in the game. Stayed out of the DP and Matty did his job, a hit gives us two runs, but my 4 year old will learn to drive before Miggy drives in another run.

Good call in a bad situation. They've proven they can't score runs WITHOUT bunting in that situation, so why not?

I don't care if it's Roberto Alomar or Barry Bonds, all major league hitters should be competent bunters. Frankly, bunting is too easy to be making excuses about it. A competent bunter has a much better chance of getting the job done when compared to getting a base hit. If memory serves, Alomar was pretty much automatic with his sacrifice bunts.

This has been part of the O's problems for a while now; a lack of fundamentals. They suck at running the bases. They suck at hitting sacrifice flys. They suck at hitting behind runners. They suck at hit and run. This would not be such a problem if they could hit 250 home runs a season, but they suck at that too.

Bunting was a terrible call!

You are basically surrendering an out to move the guys to 2nd and 3rd. I could understand if they were only down a run and a sac would tie it. But to bunt with Wieters makes no sense in that situation.

I thought this was the major leagues. The people that get here are the best.
Now I find out that despite years of training, annual spring training and countless sessions in the batting cage, they don't know how to bunt???

Nothing wrong with this call.In fact had he been able to get it down might just have surprised the Marlins.kept us out of the DP and Matt is not tearing the cover off the ball this year. I like the call.

How about how the Marlins throw at Markakis,,,the O's do nothing to retaliate. What a bunch of lifeless goons

...............................................................................................
Jeff Z's reply: To be fair, Nolasco's pitch behind Markakis was obviously in response to Jeremy Guthrie beaning Jorge Cantu with a first-pitch fastball in the ribs after giving up four runs the night before.

Since Lugo pinch ran for Weiters anyway why not let him pinch hit and lay down a decent bunt?

Tim, I would love to see the math that proves the 40% claim.

Who on earth was calling for Trembley to bunt MORE? He bunted too much as it was. Why give away one of your precious 27 outs? Samuel gave the Marlins an out when the O's only had 6 left. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

My question is, why weren't these questioned asked last night? The press corps asked if Matt bunted on his own, Samuel said he ordered it, and that was that.

Why no follow up questions? Why didn't anyone ask Samuel why he ordered his catcher, who hasn't bunted probably since he was 12, to bunt in the late innings of a close ballgame? Why ask him to do something in a game he's never done in practice?

The Baltimore press corps failed fans of the Orioles last night as much as the team did. They are the only ones who can make this team answer for its performances, and they failed to do so last night.

I imagine he hasn't bunted in a game in the majors, minors, college or high school. The bunt was what is to be expected from this guy and the manager should have realized this and pinch hit for him or not bunted.
Then when Wieters was on first with one out- no pinch runner. Now there are two outs- pinch runner. This is on the ball managing. I sure hope we wait till the end of the year to get our next manager.
Maybe we could catch the marlins off guard today by actually getting hits with runners in scoring position. Just an idea, I know I would be shocked.

Luke Scott shouldve had a better jump from second base on that play...it wasnt even close.

This bunt call was one of the worst managerial decisions I have EVER witnessed in all my years watching the Orioles.

For the love of Earl Weaver...know your personel is Rule # 1 as a manager.
Goodbye Juan.
Next!

I love how everyone thinks bunting is amazingly easy. You are still trying to put the bat on a major league pitch. You are still trying to direct the ball away from the mound. It's not automatic. Hitters prectice hitting every day far more than they practice bunting, and they are only successful 25 - 30% of the time. Pitchers practice throwing strikes, but they still issue walks. Everyone's so critical.

All that being said, bunting was a terrible call. Let the man swing the bat. You have the first two runners on, try to instill a little confidence in your team. Go for the big inning. Having one of your (although underperforming) bigger bats try to lay down a bunt just says as a manager that you have ZERO confidence in your team.

What I like best is Weiter's attitude on this and manning up that he should have gotten the job done. Go get 'em Matt.

Terrible call. As Orsulakfan mentioned, statistical evidence shows that bunting rarely ever leads to more runs. And as Jeff very astutely pointed out, Moore and Izturis were on deck, no middle of the order bats (or at least what the Orioles pass off as middle of the order bats).

On top of that, save the 'major league hitters are supposed to be able to bunt' dialogue. It's laughable and preposterous. It would be one thing if most catchers or star players were good bunters, but doesn't the fact that very few of them are tell you all something? It's not particularly easy to bunt, especially when you're 6'5, 240, and are facing 90+ fastballs and two plane breaking balls. Just because you all bunted in little league doesn't mean that major leaguers can do it.

And it's Samuel's job to know what his players are capable of. If Wieters were on first with two outs and we were down one with Izturis at the plate, would he have told him to steal? Of course not because that's not in Wieters' skill set. It's theoretically the right move, since Izturis has no power and doesn't walk, but if the guy can't do it, he can't do it. Same goes for bunting.

Long story short: the best possible approach to scoring 2+ runs in that inning is to let Wieters swing away. Bunting (and I'm talking about before the result was known), most definitely reduced the predicted number of runs that would be scored. Lousy decision by an inexperienced manager.

Sorry, I don't like the call at all, and not because it didn't work. Outs are the most precious commodity in baseball. You get only three per inning. I don't believe you should ever give one of them away.

And if I ever did decide to sac bunt, I would only do it with a guy who a) has proven he can do it reliably and b) who has a chance of turning it into a base hit.

I agree that everyone should be capable of bunting, but that's not the point. You make the decision based on what the player *is* capable of doing at that point in time.

And trading outs for base position is never a productive strategy.

I loved the call. I've been waiting for the O's to play this type of baseball for years. It's a shame it didn't work out, but when I saw it, it showed me Samuel is trying to make something happen out there. Playoff caliber teams do these things all the time. Maybe if they played fundamental baseball like this more frequently, a bunt like that will get executed better in a real game. They need more of this, and more aggressive base running. They have nothing to lose.

It is absolutely an awful decision and I'll tell you why. Suppose Wieters lays down a perfect sac bunt. Now you've given up one of your last 6 outs to create a situation that depends on Scott Moore, Cesar Izturis or Corey Patterson getting a clutch hit. And then, even if that happens, you've still only (MAYBE) tied the game so you can hand it back to our not-so-much-with-the-pitching bullpen.

And that's the best case scenario. And that doesn't even take into account the fact that there's a pretty decent chance Matt Wieters has never had to execute a sac bunt on any level.

The situation was right for a bunt regardless of who the batter was. The fact that it failed was not Samuels' fault. And to say that Wieters has been hot because he hit a double in one game and a home run in the next just proves how desperate we are to say anything good. Wieters has been struggling a long time and 2 hits in 2 games does not constitute getting hot.

Bunting Wieters was a moronic call, and a gift to the Marlins. Wieters seems to have finally started to figure out again what to with that club he takes to the plate with him. He has two homers and a double in the three games before today. You don't take the bat out of a possibly hot power hitter's hands to give Izturis (who can't spell OBP or hit) and Fox, who was released because he couldn't hit, the rbi chances.

Even if the bunt is successful, you're depending on a pair of undisciplined .200 hitters to bring the runs home. A good situation for the Marlins, but not for Samuel's team.

Earl Weaver hated giving away outs.

Bunting is definitely an unonventional tactic in that situation, but you can't fault Samuel for trying to mix things up a little. The season's lost, and the Orioles have had serious problems scoring runs the conventional way, so what is there to lose?

Look, you don't bunt a guy that's never bunted since little league in the hope that it may work out so that your next 2 hitters that are terrible may hit a single. You don't give up outs with a guy that is capable of hitting it out so that the bottom of your order can prove why they play on this team & bat 8th. & 9th.

What was there to lose? Hmmm, where should I start? How about the fact that you are leaving it up to the 2 worst hitters on your team- 3 if you count patterson- to actually get a hit. And then you take the bat out of the hands of a guy that you need to develop to be a productive hitter in these situations. If you consider the season a total loss anyway, this decision is even worse!

I can see Wieters bunting a couple weeks ago when he was slumping, but not now, when he's starting to turn the corner.

Bonzi is 100% correct, I love this:

“It is absolutely an awful decision and I'll tell you why. Suppose Wieters lays down a perfect sac bunt. Now you've given up one of your last 6 outs to create a situation that depends on Scott Moore, Cesar Izturis or Corey Patterson getting a clutch hit.”

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. Even if, and it is a big if with a hitter who has probably never been asked to bunt someone over since high school, Wieters moves them over we have to really on a .239 (Moore) and .216 (Izturis) hitter, or a .212 (Fox) pinch hitter to bring them home? It is not just abut averages, it is talent and clutch hitting, which the above group has shown in short supply this year.

As to the person who stated that the hitters following Wieters would have a 40% average success rate in bringing a hit, statistically speaking, he is correct. The chance of Moore NOT getting a hit is 76.1%, followed by Izturis whose chance of not getting a hit is 78.4%. Using Statistics 101 use the following formula: .761*.784= .597. Or 59.7% chance of not getting a hit over the next two batters, or a 40.3% chance of getting a hit.

That is statistics, but baseball reality is relying on two weak hitters to come through late in the game and in the clutch. I’d rather place my faith in a fomer minor league player of the year who looks to be coming out of a slump than those other two ANY DAY.

Mark -

Based simply on batting average, the math behind Tim's claim is sound. Even if the pitcher's batting average against was taken into account, it would have improved the odds of either Moore or Izturis getting a hit since his BAA was higher than either batter's average. So for the sake of the odds of either batter getting a hit, I've chosen to simply use each hitter's batting average as the odds that he would get a hit in any given at bat.

The batting averages for each player (including last night's game) were .239 for Moore and .219 for Izturis. Therefore, the odds of Moore getting a hit was about .239, and the odds of Izturis getting a hit was about .219 when taken as individual events. When combined, the odds of both getting a hit is found by multiplying both averages together. That yields odds of about .052 that both players would get hits in back to back at bats.

Getting the odds of either player getting a hit isn't so direct. You can't simply add them together or else two hitters batting .600 back to back would produce odds 1.2 for either one getting a hit, and odds of anything being greater than one isn't possible. As a result, it's necessary to look at the odds of either one not getting a hit, which is found by subtracting the batting average of each from 1.0. So the odds of Moore not getting a hit was .761, and Izturis had odds of .781.

Obviously, the only way to fail a situation where either one has to get a hit is for neither to get a hit. So to find the odds of neither getting a hit, the odds of both batters not getting a hit are multiplied. Therefore, the odds of neither getting a hit are .761 x .781 = .594. As a result, the odds of either one getting a hit is simply 1.0 - .594 = .406.

As a disclaimer, I'll admit that this doesn't take situations like runners one base or being late in the game into account, but on average, the odds of either player getting a hit in the at bat following Wieters' bunt was in fact above 40%, even if only barely.

Don't these managers read Earl Weaver? Or Bill James? The only definite thing a team has in a game is 27 outs. Why give one away? Why has nobody commented about Izturis laying down a sacrifice bunt in San Diego when the Orioles had a runner on first and were three runs down?
What's wrong with these managers?

Wieters is a professional ball player and professional ball players should execute!!! My God, what is wrong with this guy!

Samuel made the right call.
You stay out of the double-play and you move both runners into scoring position.

The "play for one run" theory is nonsense. He was playing for two runs.

I never hear anyone saying that letting a slow-running, double-play-prone batter swing away is "playing for two outs".

Bravo Juan and shame on Weiters.
He needs to practice bunting for a couple of hours today until he gets it right.... beginning with holding the bat properly.

It's just another in a long line of consistently moronic decisions by the O's. Having a non bunter bunt is idiotic. It's just as idiotic as our bullpen situation where we don't have solid relievers other than Berken but we remove him for an annoited closer. Someone blow this team up and start it over please.

Bonzi is 100% correct, I love this:

“It is absolutely an awful decision and I'll tell you why. Suppose Wieters lays down a perfect sac bunt. Now you've given up one of your last 6 outs to create a situation that depends on Scott Moore, Cesar Izturis or Corey Patterson getting a clutch hit.”

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head. Even if, and it is a big if with a hitter who has probably never been asked to bunt someone over since high school, Wieters moves them over we have to really on a .239 (Moore) and .216 (Izturis) hitter, or a .212 (Fox) pinch hitter to bring them home? It is not just abut averages, it is talent and clutch hitting, which the above group has shown in short supply this year.

As to the person who stated that the hitters following Wieters would have a 40% average success rate in bringing a hit, statistically speaking, he is correct. The chance of Moore NOT getting a hit is 76.1%, followed by Izturis whose chance of not getting a hit is 78.4%. Using Statistics 101 use the following formula: .761*.784= .597. Or 59.7% chance of not getting a hit over the next two batters, or a 40.3% chance of getting a hit.

That is statistics, but baseball reality is relying on two weak hitters to come through late in the game and in the clutch. I’d rather place my faith in a fomer minor league player of the year who looks to be coming out of a slump than those other two ANY DAY.

Bunting in that situation makes sense if - and ONLY if - the hitter at bat is a good bunter, and the next two guys are good hitters. Neither of those conditions existed in this case, which is why it is literally one of the dumbest things I have ever witnessed on a baseball field. Absolutely no justification for it. If I were GM, that would have been Samuel's a**, right there.

The way Earl sees it ,your most valuable commodity is your precious 27 outs,with no outs and 2 men on Weaver sees more ways to score MULTIPLE RUNS BY not surrendering an out.In fact Earl says if you bunt for one run usually one run is all you're going to get .Weaver was keeping track of this stuff LONG BEFORE PERSONAL COMPUTERS &ELIAS became so popular . Weiters might have been in a slump which he seemed to be getting out of (3 run homer just day before) this flys in the face of advancing 2 baserunners into scoring position when the batter is a power hitter who can break a game open with an extra base hit. If Izsturis was up to bat i could almost agree.Look what happened Weiters bunted and failed to advance the runners anyway. Now a potential big inning is diminished WE GAVE THEM A FREE OUT JUST LIKE THEY DO IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE (except our pitcher wasn't batting) No if you like this kind of baseball perhaps the NATS are the team for you. The American League strategy revolves around the DH and letting your best hitters hit as much as possible not buntingThe National league strategy is about the double switch & pinch hitting for the pitcher or having the pitcher bunt . WE lost anyway but it kills me to think what would have happened if Weiters would have lit up a pitcher who was struggling to find the plate. I GUARANTEE YOU any manager with AMERICAN LEAGUE EXPERIENCE would not have bunted their #1 draft pick -IT WAS A DUMB CALL!

These pro bunting a power hitter people obviously have never read "WEAVER ON STRATEGY"

Stupid decision. As bunting always is. As stated many times above, but here we go again anway - in Baltimore, people should know better. HOF manager Earl Weaver, who should be the blue-print on which "Orioles' Baseball" (if such a thing were to exist again) is built, NEVER BUNTED. Because it is counter-productive. Mathematically, when you lay down a bunt, you are taking runs off the scoreboard. It's like buying a lottery scratch ticket; maybe once in a while it works out for you, but over the course of a season, it kills you. The one thing Trembley did right was allowing his hitters to swing the bats, and not sacrificing any precious outs for a measely base.

To those who say Earl Weaver never called for a bunt are living revisionist history. In 1969 (Earl's first full season) the Orioles successfully executed 35 sacrifice bunts by 10 different field players (non-pitchers) - including every starter except Frank and Elrod. in 1979, the Orioles successfully executed 42 sacrifice bunts by 13 different players, including every starter except DeCinces. In fact, from 1969-1982 the O's were above the AL average in Sac Bunts 6 years, finishing 2nd in the league twice.

Even Davey Johnson, during Brady's 50-HR season, had Brady lay down 6 sac bunts.

Ridiculous statement.
You can't take runs off the scoreboard that you haven't scored yet.

But you can sure lose by only one run, can't you ?

And most runs are scored after the runner is put in scoring position one way or another.

What are the odds a guy on first with no outs is going to come all the way around and score on a single play, hit or otherwise?

If he's not in scoring position, then it's usually going to take more than one play for him to score, hit or otherwise.

By sacrificing, and/or hitting and running, and/or hitting behind him, you make sure he gets into scoring position.
(That's why it's called that.)
It's better to give up an out to insure that than it is to give up two by grounding into a double-play.

I loved Earl... but he was not God.
Guys who could hit the wall or beyond, like Powell, Brooks, Frank, Blefary, Murray, Ripken, Singleton, Brother Lo, Sheets, Dwyer, and Ford with the frequency at which they did, made it easier for Weaver to let them swing away and come out on top.

But when you're struggling to score runs like the current Orioles are, you have to create situations in which runners are in scoring position, in which, as Earl would understand, the odds of scoring are increased.

Like any other judgement call, the manager looks good if it works and bad if it doesn't.

That said, there is no excuse for ANY major league player to be thought of as not being able to bunt. Take one minute a day at the beginning or end of your batting cage swings and bunt a couple pitches. It can be an important strategic moment in a game and a team player should be able to execute whatever is called for by the manager.

All this hoopla about a poorly executed bunt .. kind of the story of our season. It's not like Wieters has been getting the ball out of the infield all that often in recent weeks. Luckily we still have Zaun .. oops we don't have Zaun any longer .. just a solid AA catcher. Almost half way there ..

To compare, would Earl Weaver ask Boog Powell to bunt with Mark Belanger and Andy Etchebarren coming up next?

hey,2 in a row 1 over the Marlins and 1 over Washington....don't remember the last 2 game winning streak.Thank God.

Well, I know Boog Powell..... and Matt Weiters is no Boog Powell :))

Mark Griffin,

To answer your question - yes. On June 13, 1969 in the 4th inning of a 0-0 game Frank Robinson led the inning off with a walk. Boog sacrificed him to second. He was followed in the batting order by Brooks (batting .217 at the time), Etch, and Belanger.

'On June 13, 1969 in the 4th inning of a 0-0 game Frank Robinson led the inning off with a walk. Boog sacrificed him to second."

WHERE DID YOU GET THIS INFO? BELANGER WOULD NOT HAVE BATTED THIS HIGH IN THE ORDER DAVEY JOHNSON WOULD HAVE BATTED IN THAT SLOT --PROVE IT !

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Response from Steve Gould: A quick check of baseball-reference.com shows that Tim is correct. Boog did indeed bunt and was followed in the lineup by Brooks Robinson, Andy Etchebarren and Mark Belanger. Davey Johnson batted eighth.

Perhaps an unorthodox decision for those Orioles, but then again, the game was played on Friday the 13th.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.


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