Sunday, April 17, 2005
"The strain of leading an army which could not always win under a Supreme Commander who insisted that it always do brought about renewed heart attacks for Field Marshal von Brauchitsch, and by the time Zhukov's counteroffensive began he was determined to step down as commander in chief." - William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Rech
What brings this description of a certain dictator's leadership style to mind? Oh, nothing. Nothing at all.
Did you happen to see the Phillies-Braves game on ESPN on Sunday night? Quick recap, bottom of the 10th inning, Braves ahead 1-0. David Bell draws a leadoff walk. Mike Lieberthal attempts to bunt, but the Braves pitcher, rather than oblige him, walks him. 1st and 2nd, no out. Kenny Lofton bunts, the pitcher had a play at 3rd base, but threw the ball into left field, tying run scored, 1st and 2nd, still no out. Jimmy Rollins came up, bunted, and reached base safely, bases loaded, no out. Finally Placido Polanco came up and got the game winning hit.
3 batters in a row bunted or attempted to bunt, and all it got the Phillies was 2 runs and no outs.
The problem with the "Moneyball" analysis of bunting is that it assumes that the defense will turn the bunt into an out. Sometimes you have to force the defence to execute. As baserunners stack up the pressure mounts, errors occur... Last night's game proved that there can be a time and a place for bunting...
Don't forget the A's won the night before when an attempted sacrifice bunt was thrown into the right field bullpen area by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim American Association of Automobiles (LAAAAAA) pitcher, allowing the only run to score in the bottom of the 10th.
Well, if there's any time to bunt, it's the bottom of a tied game in the 9th inning or later, when you know your target is one run. Moneyball (and Earl Weaver) cast aspersions on bunts early in games that kill rallies.
It's true that bunts can cause the pitcher to screw up, but fielders can make errors on plays too.
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