NY Sports Dog: You Have to Bunt There

Monday, April 20, 2009

You Have to Bunt There

John Harper has an excellent piece in the NY Daily News this morning in which he argues that we shouldn't get on Jerry for not bunting yesterday. It's an excellent piece, but I vehemently disagree with him.

Harper sets it up as follows:

So here they were, trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, after Jeff Suppan and his 12.91 ERA had frustrated them for six innings. Perhaps the memory of Game 7 of the NLCS in 2006 paralyzes the Mets at the mere sight of Suppan, but in any case, by this point they'd already missed several opportunities for big innings.

Only now, with Suppan gone, they'd put runners on first and second with no outs, in part because Sheffield still seems to intimidate pitchers. Sheffield had scorched a couple of fastballs earlier in the game, and so with a runner on first, Brewers reliever Todd Coffey seemed to want no part of challenging him, walking him instead.

"You can see they still pitch him carefully," David Wright said of Sheffield. "He's still got a lightning-quick bat, and if it's a big situation, they're going to pitch accordingly."

The walk set up Manuel's decision. On the one hand, with Tatis coming to the plate, it seemed to be a no-brainer. Tatis was playing second base for the first time in years because, with Sheffield's arrival, Manuel has had to get creative to find at-bats for him.

So the obvious move seemed to be to pinch-hit Luis Castillo, an excellent bunter who could sacrifice the runners to second and third and give the Mets a high-percentage chance of at least tying the game.

Yes, the obvious move there is to bunt. You have a team struggling to score runs, 2 on and no outs, you're down by one, and you have JJ Putz and Frankie Rodriguez in your bullpen.

Moreover, you have arguably the best bunter in the game in your dugout in Luis Castillo, and oh by the way, the guy that's due up, Tatis, is playing second base that day, so you might want Luis in for defense anyway.

In my opinion it was the ONLY call to make.

Again, Harper sees it otherwise and adds:
On the other hand, in a part-time role, Tatis was one of the Mets' best clutch hitters last season, hitting .392 with runners in scoring position. Indeed, there is a feeling among Mets people that if Tatis hadn't separated his shoulder in mid-September last season, the ballclub would have avoided another collapse and made the playoffs.
Excuse me? September collapse? Huh? And that has what to do with yesterday's game?

Yes, this is the real "fake" argument people are bringing up--that somehow a September collapse from the last two seasons should influence a Baseball 101 decision in April.

The only thing the Mets were worried about yesterday was scoring runs--they had a chance to plate the tying run with a simple bunt, and Jerry Manuel whiffed.

Tatis, as we all know, struck out on 3 pitches. This allowed the infield to play back with the runners still on first and second.

Omir Santos scorched a linedrive to third that was caught, and Beltran was doubled off second since he was running on the play.

I like Jerry--support him big time--but I'm also not afraid to call him out when he's dead wrong.

Jerry, you were dead wrong.
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kranepool society said...

Dave, J-Man had to show Tatis he stil l had faith in him to let him know he is still a guy he can count on. If Tatis gets a hit there Manuel is genius if he doesn't he gets killed.

Fundimentally the bunt is the call but Manuel is looking at the big picture here I think.

Dave Singer said...

If it was earlier in the game I would agree.

But the fact is in the 8th inning, you have to bunt, especially given that:

You probably want Castillo in for Defense anyway.

Tatis hasn't had many at-bats this year.

You have an incredible 1-2 punch in your BP.

If you tie it, the meat of the order will get up in the 9th.

AlexSVK said...

In addition to all excellent points by Dave:

- I do not quite see why the decision to BUNT by Castillo undermines Tatis' confidence. [It would be a different story if Castillo was asked to pinch HIT for Tatis.]

- Jerry could show confidence in Tatis by starting him next game instead of Murphy or Wright. [In fact, Jerry already dropped the ball here, because he should have found a place for one start for Tatis sooner than 2 weeks into the season.]

Dave Doyle said...

I'll preface my comment by saying that I'm not a big fan of the sacrifice bunt in general, unless it's a pitcher bunting that can't hit at all. That being said, I agree with Harper. I like the odds of Tatis hitting away with two men on base. As Harper pointed out, he had a killer season last year with men in scoring position.

Grip it and rip it, Tatis! It didn't work out this time but I liked the move at the time.

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