Dissecting the sacrifice bunt
I’m already on record as a sacrifice bunt hater, but Tuesday’s baseball game between Brophy and Hamilton was a good example of how my thinking diverges from some local coaches.
The Broncos won, 3-1, and scored a pair of runs in which a sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second base. After the game, Huskies coach Mike Woods talked about how Brophy “executed everything. They got their bunts down. They played a great game.”
Brophy coach Tom Succow explained the importance of the bunt to the team’s turnaround this season.
“We don’t run very well, so we have to get a bunt down, and our kids did a good job of doing that today,” he said. “This year, it’s a little bit more. We got off to a slow start and it’s the only way for us to move runners over.”
Even though the Broncos did win the game, I don’t think the bunts contributed to the victory. Here are the three situations, and I’ll illustrate why I believe Brophy gave away three outs without any benefit:
* The first sacrifice bunt came in the second inning of a scoreless game. Connor Messman singled to open the inning, and No. 5 hitter Nolan Weinstein moved him to second with the sacrifice. After Marion McLean struck out looking, Charlie Coppola hit a double to the right-center field gap, scoring Messman. Christian Maggi struck out looking to end the frame.
End result: While the runner did come around to score, there were two outs in the inning when the RBI double was hit, and Messman would have scored from first anyway.
* In the fifth inning, Christian Maggi led off with a single and was moved over on a sacrifice bunt by No. 9 hitter Jack Hutt. Maggi scored on a double by Ryan Grotjohn to give Brophy a 3-1 lead. Steven Oleksak struck out looking and Ryan Castellani flied out to left field to end the inning. However, Castellani’s ball was over the fence and Huskies left fielder Justin Wylie made a spectacular catch to rob him of a two-run homer.
End result: In my mind, this was the most defensible of the three bunts, as it was put down by the 9-hole hitter late in the game with Brophy clinging to a one-run lead. However, once again the double would have scored Maggi from first base, so in essence, it was another wasted out. Also, if Hutt could have somehow reached with the top of the order coming up, it could have created a much bigger inning to blow the game open.
* In the sixth inning, Messman drew a leadoff walk and again No. 5 hole hitter Weinstein bunted him over. It was successful, but if Hamilton first baseman Cody Bellinger had to do it over, he could have fired to second base and nabbed the lead runner because the bunt was too hard. McLean struck out and Coppola flew out to left field to end the threat.
End result: No runs, an out given away and only one official at-bat in the game for your No. 5 hitter.
I understand the line of thinking behind bunts, especially in a game like this with two superb pitchers on the mound. Runs were at a premium, and two of the base-runners who moved up came around to score.
In this instance, though, giving up 14.2 percent of your outs intentionally just didn’t seem like the right play.