The buntingest bunter of all time

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
4:15
PM ET
Some random stuff on sacrifice bunts as a follow-up to the previous post ...

Nobody loved to bunt as much as Gene Mauch. If Earl Weaver was famous for playing for the three-run homer, Mauch was famous for playing "little ball." The fact that he never reached a World Series in 26 years of managing could just be a coincidence.

Mauch's teams led their league in sacrifice bunts in 15 of his 26 seasons and his 1979 Twins squad had 142 sacrifice bunts, the most of any team since the 162-game schedule began in 1961. That total is all the more remarkable since it came in the American League, without the benefit of pitchers padding the total. The next-highest total by an AL team is the 1977 Rangers with 116.

Those Twins didn't have a lot of power -- 112 home runs, 12th in the AL -- so everyone bunted. Rob Wilfong had 25; John Castino had 22; Roy Smalley, who led the team with 24 home runs, had 15. Not surprisingly, many of those bunts came from the No. 2 spot -- a combined 48 sac bunts from the two-hole hitters.

Mauch loved to bunt when the game was tied -- 51 of the 142. But he also loved to bunt when trailing by one run -- 27 times. Nothing like playing for a tie. He'd bunt in any inning, as they had 52 in the first three innings, 45 in the middle three and 45 from the seventh on. The Twins had one game with five sacrifice bunts (they won 6-1).

The man loved his bunts.

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To show how a manager can change, look at Jim Leyland. When he managed the Pirates, he had Jay Bell as his No. 2 hitter from 1990 to 1992, when the Pirates won three straight NL East titles. Bell led the NL with 39 and 30 sacrifice bunts in '90 and '91 and had 19 in '92. The Pirates led the NL with 96 sac bunts in 1990, 99 in 1991 and ranked fourth with 89 in 1992.

Leyland's 1997 Marlins, which won the World Series, had 71 sac bunts, below the NL average of 74. His 2012 Tigers bunted just 36 times, although that was enough to rank third in the AL.

But where he once loved to bunt with Bell in the second spot, his No. 2 hitters had just eight sacrifices. Mostly, he bunted from the No. 9 position (15).

As for Bell, his 39 sac bunts are the second-most by one player since 1961. Bert Campaneris of the '77 Rangers had 40.

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All the lowest team totals for sacrifice bunts have come in recent years. The 2005 Rangers hold the "record" with just nine sacrifice bunts. Buck Showalter managed that team and they hit 260 home runs. Somehow, they outhomered their opponents 260 to 159 and still finished under .500. I'm guessing the double-play combo of Michael Young and Alonso Soriano didn't help: They're credited with -58 combined Defensive Runs Saved.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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