Monday, March 11, 2013
One more note on Joe Torre's bunts
By David Schoenfield
We've seen a lot of bunts in the World Baseball Classic. In an earlier game against Japan, Chinese Taipai twice attempted bunts with one out. On Sunday, Joe Torre had Adam Jones -- who hit 32 home runs last year -- bunt with two runners on in a tie game. Later, Ben Zobrist bunted with two on when the U.S. was trailing by two runs. (Zobrist reached on a fielding miscue and the U.S. scored twice that inning.)
I mentioned that Torre had bunted only 13 times in his career managing the Yankees when down by two runs, all by weak hitters other than two by Derek Jeter (both in 2004). Others have said you can't compare what Torre did in the regular season since these are more like postseason games, where you're more inclined to scratch and claw for one or two runs rather than wait for the big inning.
So I looked it up on the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index: In the past 10 postseasons, there have been 11 sacrifice bunts when trailing by two runs. Six of those were by pitchers -- including the biggest of those, Kyle Lohse pinch-hitting in the bottom of the 10th in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series -- and the others were by Willy Taveras, Nick Punto, Chone Figgins, Brooks Conrad and Freddy Sanchez. In the cases of Taveras and Figgins, you're also talking about two of the best bunters in recent years, guys with the speed to potentially beat out any bunt.
Still, while the decision to bunt in that down-by-two situation is certainly rare, it's not necessarily a move that's never used by managers.