The bunting is officially out of control

The first instance came in the bottom of the 8th, with Derek Jeter batting and Brett Gardner on 1st. Now, in general, playing for one run here doesn’t really bother me that much. It would have been the go ahead run with just three outs remaining for the Royals, and the Yankees had Mariano Rivera ready to pitch the 9th. I’d take those odds too. And while bunting a runner to second is usually a bad move because it reduces your run expectancy, in this case you had an extreme groundball hitter at the plate, so it can definitely be argued that the slightly reduced run expectancy is made up for by taking the GIDP off of the table.

But here’s the thing, Brett Gardner is on first base! The Brett Gardner who’s stolen 91 bases in 110 attempts in his career, an 82.7% success rate. Yes, he’s just 5 for 10 this year, but if you had to put your money on it, would you rather bet on the sample size of 110 attempts or just his most recent 10 tries? You have to let Gardner attempt to steal the base there, and then maybe you bunt him to 3rd if you want to play for one run. That should be obvious.

But the much worse decision, and honestly, maybe the worst bunt call of the season, came in the bottom of the 10th. With the Yankees trailing 3-2the Royals brought in Joakim Soria, who proceeded to walk Russell Martin on four straight pitches, none of which was anywhere near the strikezone. Brett Gardner then came to the plate, and took to first two pitches of his at bat for balls. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s six straight balls and no strikes out of the pen for Soria. So what does Gardner do on the 2-0 pitch? He bunts. On a 2-0 pitch. When the opposing pitcher has yet to throw a strike. In what world does anyone think that’s good baseball? He fouled that pitch off, took another ball, and then bunted a 3-1 pitch to move Martin up. Yes, a 3-1 pitch. After trying to bunt a 2-0 pitch in the same at bat. Let that sink in.

And, for what it’s worth, both of the pitches Gardner made contact with were borderline pitches up and away, either one of which might have been called a ball by the home plate umpire, especially considering how much difficulty Soria was having hitting the zone.

Frankly, we’ve reached the point where someone has to pull rank on Girardi here. It’s not just the bunts in general, it’s the stubborn insistence on the bunts in situations where it’s not appropriate. It’s the continued use of the bunt every time Martin gets on first ahead of Gardner, which pretty much negates any chance of Gardner getting on first without an error. It’s the refusal to admit Gardner simply can’t bunt for a hit at will (or at all, for that matter). It’s gotten totally out of control, and there’s absolutely no logical explanation for most of it. It reached the point of self-parody last night, and someone upstairs is going to have to step in and order Girardi to knock it off.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

12 thoughts on “The bunting is officially out of control

  1. Ryan

    Are Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez friends? They both did manage in Florida after all. They both have an unquestionable fondness for bunting.

  2. Brett Gardner just squared to bunt again!

  3. jay_robertson

    Look on the bright side – maybe Joe's just taking your advice. You say he shouldn't bunt in an OBVIOUS bunting situation. So – if that's the case, what's wrong with bunting in a situation where NO ONE would ever expect it?

    <kinda tongue in cheek – but you have to admit – either one premise or the other is in error>

    • BrienJackson

      That only makes sense if you assume that ANY time no one would expect a bunt you should, which is pretty obviously not true. No one would expect you to bunt with the bases loaded, no one out, and Cano at the plate, but it doesn't stand to reason that that makes bunting in that spot a good idea, does it?

      • jay_robertson

        sounds like Joe's dream bunting scenario. :D

        I dunno – everyone says he's bunting too often, but – it isn't like the bats are just tearing it up when they hit away either – didn't we strand something like a dozen last nite?

        I'm not making the big bucks – but I'll give him a pass and say he's trying to at least advance someone. better than a strikeout or a dp. assuming (of course) that the yeoman Yankees can actually lay down a successful sac bunt…

  4. RRR

    The problem is bigger than the bunting. Girardi will always do what his book says, independent of the game situation. The same thing that makes him call for the bunt in bizarre situations, is what makes him pull "hot" pitchers from the game to stick with a script, or stay on a "rest" cycle regardless of off days and game importance. His robotic responses managed the team out of first place last year (continuous use of Gaudin?) and lost the home field advantage for the playoffs.
    Girardi seems like a nice guy, but he is an average (at best) manager sticking to the script because he's outgunned in improv situations. It was embarrassing to watch him try to manage against Showalter during the O's series.

  5. David

    Ah, see, I'd turned away from the TV and missed that Gardner squared-up for the 2-0 pitch; I'd thought he just fouled it off, took ball three and then tried to surprise everyone by bunting on 3-1 for a hit. Everyone can safely ignore my comment in the recap thread from last night then! D'oh!

  6. Mike T

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but stranded runners/LOB is supposed to be one of those things like BABIP where you don't really have control over it, right? But doesn't it make sense that after a certain point, all the gratuitous and abundant bunting increases your offense's strand rate/LOB since you are mostly bunting with runners on base, thereby leaving the guys behind the bunter with less chances to knock guys in with RISP (in effect decreasing your run expectancy).

    • BrienJackson

      Probably so, yes. Though I'm not sure it really happens enough to have a huge effect on LOB%.

  7. Tom

    Let's face it…. the only way this gets addressed is to see a long semi-continuous string of failed bunt attempts and runners being stranded such that Girardi realizes it might not be a sound strategy to give away outs

    Granderson cashing in one of the bunts with that game tying single is only going to inspire Girardi to bunt more. I bet he thinks that was a smart play since and doesn't realize he potentially gave away a W by not letting Gardner at least put the ball in play 3-1 (in the event he wouldn't have walked)

    It's the same thing with The Formula (TM)…. seeing that work right out of the gate and hearing the talking heads at ESPN and other places talking about 6 inning games with Joba/Sori/Mo only inspired Girardi to yank pitchers after 6 innings and be a slave to that formula… now that it has failed a couple of times and guys are getting worn out, he's at least starting to be a little more flexible with the bullpen and letting starters go deeper in close games.

    Sadly I think this only changes if Jeter and Gardner bunt a bunch more into the air. And Swsher continues with his bunt 2 foul and then strikeout once you fall behind 0-2 or 1-2 approach. Sadly with Cervelli likely to get more playing time with fewer off days we will see him bunting (and he's actually decent at it).

  8. Joram Arentved

    God is totally out of control, on that money issue, a univ. contradiction that even 'His 'Good'' News has no obligation, whatsoever that I can explain, let alone to myself, any labor suggestions, please? Greetings, 'J.A.,' Ifoundittout@yahoo.com.

  9. oduadilen

    good…. enough said.

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