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Dissecting the sacrifice bunt

Posted by on April 10, 2013 – 11:49 am

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.

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  • Coach J says:

    Mr. Odegard,

    You are under the assumption that those runners would have scored from 1st…even after the coaches said that the Brophy players “do not run very well.” If they those runners are on 2nd base…they will score without question.

    Also, if the runner is on 2nd base, they have 90 less feet to cover to score a run. A “regular” base hit could possibly score the runner or the possiblity of an error by an infielder could also help the runner cross the plate. That would not happen if the runner was still on 1st base.

    Coaches cannot predict the future, so they have no idea that the next hitter is going to hit a shot in the gap.

    When watching a baseball game between two great programs, please sit back and enjoy. These two head coaches (as well as almost all other baseball coaches) know what their teams are capable of since they see them at practice everyday. The sacrafice bunt is a huge part of the game…and for Brophy…it helped them knock of the #1 team in the state.

  • Coach R says:

    Coach J is absolutely correct. This was the correct thing to do, especially since you have two kids on the hill that both throw well. Remember the name of the bunt, “sacrifice” bunt. This means you are giving up something for the greater good of the team. (A concept that is slowly fading away in today’s sports with the win at all costs and inflate the stats attitude of club sports, but that is for another discussion.)

    Each time, this play worked. Coach Succow knows his players and the game. This was absolutely the right call. What if he didn’t bunt, and each time the hitter rolls into a double play (remember players don’t run very well). Then both times the following hitter doubles with no one on and 2 outs and is stranded at 2nd.

    The funny thing about this article Odegard is that you question one of the most successful and most respected coaches in Arizona, after he wins and beats the #1 team in the state. It now seems obvious that you do not understand this game and how it is played.

    Maybe your next article should be about, how playing as a team, listening to your coach and sacrificing personal glory for your tem success often leads to big victory.

  • Coach Z says:

    Nicely Said Coach J!

  • joefish says:

    Does anyone know what percent of sac bunt attempts are successful in moving the runner over, and what percent of those runners actually score?

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