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Is bunting overrated?

A normally boring topic, bunting, was pushed into the headlines by the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. First-year manager Mike Matheny took a fair amount of heat for his relatively-frequent calls for the bunt as well as their timing, but mostly because of the apparent lack of success in execution killed more than one potential rally during a season in which the club barely made the playoffs.

The skipper’s plan for 2013 was apparently not necessarily to bunt less, but to raise the level of proficiency of his hitters’ skills in that area. Increased focus in spring training drills underlined the plan, which even included a challenge to a bunting contest with the media.

It is still too early to pass judgment on the bunting prowess of the Cardinals hitters or the manager’s tactical deployment of the bunt in 2013.

However, one well-respected manager, Joe Maddon of the Tampa Bay Rays, has weighed in on the subject.

After a one-run, extra-inning loss on Sunday, the skipper told the Miami Herald the following:

“For that group of people out there that want guys to bunt all the time, you don’t know the outcome when you choose to do that,” Maddon said, of choosing not to bunt with two runners on base and no outs in the ninth inning, and again following a leadoff double in the 10th.

“I think the bunt is an overrated play.”

You can read more about Maddon’s view of when he believes it makes sense to bunt and when not here.

Do you agree with Maddon? Is bunting overrated?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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11 Responses to “Is bunting overrated?”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    There have to be statistical analyses about bunting and its outcomes.

    I would say this. Bunting is often a CYA tactic and CYA is important, if you are a manager. So its possible that there can be a risk avoidance bias to bunt, when hitting away might be better, statistically, over the fullness of time.

    But bunting does have advantages, like staying out of double plays.

    Its good to be proficient at bunting. Then a manager can choose between bunting and doing something else. Whatever you do, its best to do it well. Infrequent bunting, done well, seems well worth doing.

  2. blingboy says:

    I prefer the three run homer.

  3. blingboy says:

    From commenter BobFeller’s report on Palm Beach’s game last night.

    “Ramsey drove in the Cards only run of the night, scoring Matt Williams, who had bunted his way on and advanced to 2B on a wild throw by the 3B. Ronny Gil laid down another good bunt that moved Williams over to 3B. He then scored on Rammers hit”

    Bunt plays add excitement. When a guy squares around you never know what is going to happen. Anything from a throw going down the right field line to a double play. It tests execution not only on the part of the hitter, but fielders and baserunners as well. I especially like it when the bunt play is maybe on and maybe not. Fielders moving around out of position, the pitcher distracted and thinking about fielding a bunt. Everybody thinking about which base to throw to. Runners dancing around wanting to get a jump but not get caught going the wrong way. Will we see a masterpiece of execution by one side or the other, or a debacle?

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    There is a ton of saber research on bunting. If i remember correctly, it generally concludes that bunting is a poor strategy in all but the rarest cases.

  5. crdswmn says:

    I am not totally opposed to the bunt, I am just opposed to the way Matheny uses it. I don’t like bunting in the first inning, and I don’t like .300 hitters bunting ever. Pitchers and/or light hitters bunting in later innings when the game is close I can tolerate.

    • Nutlaw says:

      Agreed, and the Cardinals have a lot of very strong hitters. A lineup that stacked shouldn’t be sac bunting very often. Maybe Descalso if he’s playing? I’m a big fan of bunting against the shift or generally messing with defensive alignments, but these guys pretty much need to be left to do their thing.

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