Lost Art of Bunting

Our little league recently tried a new strategy to encourage all hitters to pay closer attention to the strike zone and weaker hitters to have a better chance of getting on base…

I am a big believer in “base hits” win ballgames!

Unfortunately, our team has struck out 59 times in seven games. Breakdown per game: 13, 4, 6, 6, 10, 12 & 8.


MLB Traditional Methodology

Many coaches are in favor of giving up an out by bunting a runner over to second or even third base. I believe this is a bunting strategy that should be determined by a number of factors.

  1. Is it a close game
  2. Is it late in the game
  3. Can the runner steal second instead of being bunted over
  4. How well can the hitter bunt
  5. What is the batting average and on base percentage of the hitter

It really doesn’t make any sense to me, to have a batter at the plate with a high on base percentage or batting average and have him make an out just to move a runner over one base, especially
third.

I may give you in a very close game where one run will win it to
bunt a man over to third with no outs, then have a squeeze bunt if the next hitter is a capable man who can get the job done.

In Pony baseball, the chances seem to be better in favor of attempting
a steal, but again factors such as the runners ability to get a good jump and the catcher’s arm come into play.

In most situations, bunting a runner over early in the game just doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you are fairly sure it will
be a close game.

There is also something to be said for scoring the first run giving your team a psychological advantage. But before you bunt a man over consider who is coming up: are the chances favorable he can get
the job done with a base hit or fly ball, or is the hitter weak and bunting is probably the best option for him?

Even so, you’ve got to consider who is coming up after him whether they can
be counted on to get a hit or fly ball.
Here is one bunting strategy that works almost every time.

Runner on third, or runners on any other base. Less than two outs. The batter at the plate is an average or less hitter,
with weaker hitters coming up behind him….and you really want
to get a run in.

The batter bunts the ball down on the ground towards the third baseman. Have the runner on third follow the third baseman down the line, staying back from him 10 feet or so.

When the player throws to first for the out, you’ve got yourself an easy run. Do remember, if the shortstop is playing heads up ball and the third baseman is in the game, there may be an out at third, depends on how far the second base runner is advanced and how far the ball is bunted. But the chances of this happening are fairly slim, the odds are in the offenses favor.

There really are no hard and fast rules that are absolute, but the one thing I’m not in favor of early in the game is to
bunt a man over with decent hitters at the plate.

Even though everyone should be able to lay down a bunt if called upon, the better hitters in the lineup usually have little bunting experience in the game and so as a general rule are not really
that good at bunting simply because in most games in their past, they hit and didn’t have to bunt.

Remember what Earl Waver said: “If you play for one run, that’s usually all you’ll get.” Read more


Reading the pitcher

In this bunting strategy – recognize a pitcher’s weakness and exploit it for more bunt hits.

Bunting for a hit is an extremely valuable skill, and can even be the deciding factor in a close game when hits and runs are scarce.

Baseball players are creatures of habit!

Most people – and pitchers in particular – are creatures of habit. You can use this to your advantage.

How many times have you seen a ground ball hit back to the pitcher? He usually reacts in one of two ways: Take his time and make a nice throw to first base for the out, or secure the ball start running over to first base and give an underhand flip. As insignificant as this play seems it may tell us a few things about the pitcher and his mindset. This can be extremely important if you can and are willing to bunt.

Typically pitchers work on bunt plays where the baseball is bunted right back to them or towards third base where they can pick it up and throw it to first base. The whole thing becomes very instinctive and doesn’t require much thought or variation on the pitcher’s part.

So how can this help you out?

This can tell you if you should try to bunt against this particular pitcher.

(1) There’s a good chance you’ll be able to predict how he will handle that same scenario in the future

(2) You’ll have a clue as to what type of play is difficult for the pitcher (i.e. if this is a weakness for him) and then you can use this to your advantage.

Will he make a throw to first, or try to run and flip it?

Now lets go back to our pitcher and how he handles a throw to first base on a come backer.

If the pitcher throws the ball to 1st base, it’s a clue that he may be fairly athletic and feels comfortable in throwing a ball outside of his normal pitching motion. In this case, bunting may not be the best option.

However, if a pitcher runs it over towards first base and under hand flips it, there is probably a reason for that. It could be that he not confident in his throwing ability. Maybe he has thrown balls passed the first baseman in the past and now this is his go to move, or perhaps throwing to bases is something he doesn’t practice and doesn’t feel comfortable with. Either way, it can indicate a weakness you can take advantage of by bunting for a hit.

Taking advantage of the pitcher’s weakness

You can force the pitcher to make an athletic throw by laying a soft bunt down the first base line.

This is not a standard push bunt, you want to make sure it’s hard enough where the catcher can’t get it and the ONLY person that can make a play is the pitcher.

A pitcher who isn’t too confident in making an athletic throw will have difficulties with this play.

He has to get to the ball quickly, so his momentum not going in the direction of first base. Then he needs to make a throw to the first baseman without hitting the runner or throwing it into right field.

Since this isn’t a play that is practiced often, and it is a very difficult play, you will quickly tell how athletic the opposing pitcher is and if bunting may be a way for your team to scratch across a few runs.

The reason I picked this type of bunt strategy is because a bunt down the third base line is a play that happens so fast for the pitcher that he doesn’t have time to think about it. This tends to be an easier throw for him to make. Also, pitcher’s practice fielding this bunt often.

Of course, just because a pitcher runs and under hand flips a ball to first base on a come backer doesn’t guarantee that he is uncomfortable making an athletic throw. But paying attention and seeing this as a potential way to attack the pitcher may help you get to a pitcher that is tough to score runs against.


No More Easy Outs

Alfonso Soriano studied Willie Randolph, the Yankees’ third-base coach, as he touched his cap, his nose, his ear, his arm and his belt, and somewhere in Randolph’s rapid collection of movements was a sign for Soriano to bunt. This happened three different times while the Yankees played the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park last month. Each time, Soriano looked inept as he failed to produce a sacrifice.

When Soriano was reminded of his failures, he offered a facial expression that made it seem as if he had gulped salt water. Then Soriano added revealing words to his already revealing actions.

”Bunting?” Soriano said. ”No. Sometimes when they ask me to bunt, I bunt it straight to the pitcher. I’ll be really mad if I make an easy out. I’m not really comfortable bunting. If I could put it down the line, O.K. It’s very important, but I’d rather hit the ball.”

Soriano made his comments while sitting near his locker at Yankee Stadium, but the words could have been spoken by almost any position player in any major league clubhouse. For other than a small percentage of adept bunters, the ability to deaden a pitched ball with a bat while simultaneously placing it away from the charging opposition is not considered a critical talent. Remember, baseball stages a home run derby at the All-Star Game, not a bunting contest.

”It’s not a glorious or a glamorous thing,” Mets pitcher Tom Glavine said. ”Other than starting pitchers and a handful of leadoff guys, players don’t do it. It’s lost its prominence.”

Baseball’s evolution has included smaller parks, bigger players, livelier balls and thicker contracts, but not necessarily heftier paychecks for a player who can bunt for a hit or to advance a runner. And just as influential, there are statistically attuned executives who dispute the traditional notion that bunting builds rallies, and they have data to support their theories.

Those general managers, like Oakland’s Billy Beane, Toronto’s J. P. Ricciardi and Boston’s Theo Epstein, are the current equivalents of Earl Weaver, who despised using the bunt as manager of the Baltimore Orioles across 17 seasons. The general managers have statisticians who support their belief that they should resist it. Read more

 

Cubs & Indians

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Who breaks their World Series curse first: Cubs or Indians?

It will be, no matter the outcome, a historic World Series, because whichever team wins, there will be black-and-white footage shown before the champagne has dried.

The Chicago Cubs, as we all know, haven’t won the World Series since 1908, a season in which they hit 19 home runs all season. That team has a seemingly mythical characters, such as Three Finger Brown, Orval Overall and Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Finally! The Cubs’ six darkest days leads to their brightest

Can you believe it? The Cubs are headed to the World Series. Let’s examine just how much almost-clinching heartache led Chicago to this moment.

Is this the Cubs’ year? Will the Indians’ run continue in the Fall Classic? We’ve got you covered for every pitch of the 2016 postseason.

And then there are the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, the second-longest current championship drought in baseball. That team had Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Gene Bearden in the rotation, and — this seems impossible today — those Indians had Lou Boudreau as a player/manager, a role he had for 10 years, winning the American League MVP as a shortstop in 1948.

It’s 1908 versus 1948. It’s about ending a drought. It’s about two teams with great stories to tell. This will be fabulous.

Here are five questions.

(1) How good is the Indians’ bullpen?

It is terrific and, more importantly, it is different than any other bullpen. Tribe relievers posted a 1.64 ERA in eight postseason games. In Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, the Indians became the only team in history to win a postseason game in which no pitcher went as many as two innings. In the clinching Game 5, the Indians became the only team in postseason history to throw a shutout in a game in which the starter didn’t pitch five innings.

The incredible Andrew Miller starred again in Game 5, as he did through the whole postseason, posting this line: 11⅔ innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 21 strikeouts, 2 walks. No pitcher — starter or reliever — struck out more batters in his first nine innings of any postseason than Miller’s 20 this year. He was the first reliever ever to strike out five batters in back-to-back appearances in the postseason. In the ALCS against Toronto, Miller struck out 56 percent of the batters he faced; no one in postseason history has had a strikeout rate like that. But what makes him so great — and the Indians so dangerous — is the way he is used. In Game 1 of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox, he was summoned in the fifth inning and pitched in three different innings. In the crucial Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, instead of handing the ball to closer Cody Allen, Miller pitched the final 1⅓ innings for the save. In the clinching Game 5 of the ALCS, he pitched 2⅔ scoreless innings and brought the game to Allen, who also has been brilliant in this postseason.

The record for most innings by a reliever in one postseason is 18⅔ by Frankie Rodriguez with the 2002 Angels and Tug McGraw with the 1973 Mets. Miller is going to break that record — and a few others — in the World Series.

(2) How set up is the Cubs’ rotation?

Jon Lester and Javier Baez of the Cubs were co-MVPs in the National League Championship Series. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It is in good shape. By winning the final three games of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers, the Cubs not only get some rest before the World Series, but they have their starters aligned relatively well. Most important, Jon Lester will start Game 1. He has a 0.86 ERA in this postseason, including a marvelous performance in the crucial Game 5 of the NLCS in Los Angeles, going seven innings and allowing just one run. He now has a 2.50 career ERA in 17 postseason starts.

Since 1969, the only pitchers (10 or more starts) with a lower ERA are Madison Bumgarner and Curt Schilling.

Jake Arrieta likely will start Game 2, but he labored in September (4.40 ERA) and in two starts in this postseason (4.91 ERA). But Arrieta in Game 2 will allow the Cubs to push Kyle Hendricks back to Game 3 at home, where he posted a 1.32 ERA this season. Hendricks, who led the NL in ERA in 2016, was sensational in the clinching Game 6 at Wrigley, allowing two hits and no runs in 7⅓ innings.

(3) What is the status of the Indians’ rotation?

Somehow, the Indians made it this far without any contribution in the postseason from Carlos Carrasco (broken pinky) or Danny Salazar (tightness in his forearm), making them the first team since the 1970 Reds to go to the World Series with zero playoff appearances from two pitchers who started at least 25 games with an ERA under 4.00 during the regular season. But now, there’s a chance Salazar will be ready for the World Series. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9, so there will be rust, but he still will be a boost to the rotation. His stuff, when right, is spectacular. Closer Allen said Salazar “is the most gifted pitcher I’ve ever been around.”

Trevor Bauer, who sliced his right pinky in a drone accident on Oct. 14 and bled all over the mound in his start in Game 3 of the ALCS, said he will be able to pitch as often as possible in the World Series. We’ll see about that. It’s possible we’ll see Ryan Merritt, whose 4⅓ scoreless innings in Game 5 — the second start and fifth appearance of his major league career — were stunning. There are uncertainties in the Cleveland rotation, but it’s certain that Corey Kluber will start Game 1, and surely he will be ready to try going on short rest again in this series. In 18⅓ innings in this postseason, Kluber has a 0.98 ERA. His breaking ball is from hell. Josh Tomlin likely will start Game 2. After that, it’s up in the air, but it has been for the whole postseason — and here are the Indians, in the World Series.

(4) What are we to make of the Cubs’ offense?

No worries now. Still, like every other team in the major leagues in this all-or-nothing era of baseball, the Cubs’ lineup can be pitched to, if a really good pitcher locates well. In the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Cubs averaged 7.75 runs and had 21 extra-base hits in the four victories, including pounding Clayton Kershaw in the clinching Game 6, a 5-0 shutout.

But the Cubs were shut out (with only one extra base hit) in their two losses, the first time they had been shut out in back-to-back games since May 2014. It took a bunt single by cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist leading off the fourth inning of Game 4 to get the Cubs going, and it took a couple of cheap hits in Game 5 to keep it going.

But now, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell are out of their funks, NLCS co-MVP Javier Baez (13 hits in this postseason) has arrived and Willson Contreras is swinging so well that the Cubs look like the team that scored the second-most runs in the NL this year. Ten different Cubs, including all three catchers (the first time ever to have three catchers hit home runs in one postseason), have hit home runs in this postseason. And only hours before Game 6 of the NLCS, Cubs president Theo Epstein said there is at least a chance that Kyle Schwarber, who tore ligaments in left knee in the third game of the season and hasn’t played since, might be ready to play in the World Series. If so, it would be as a designated hitter or a bat off the bench. It is intriguing.

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(5) What about the managers?

Indians manager Terry “Tito” Francona is looking for his third World Series title. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

The Indians’ Terry “Tito” Francona has been masterful in this postseason. He has known exactly when to take his starter out, what reliever to bring in and when to take that reliever out. He did a great job this season of getting run production, despite not having his best outfielder, Michael Brantley, for most of the season and having to mix and match at several positions. Should Francona win the World Series, it would be his third ring, and it would mean a spot in the Hall of Fame — because he would have ended an 86-year drought in Boston and a 67-year drought in Cleveland.

But Francona might be on his way to the Hall anyway, with his three pennants, 1,381 wins and a .533 winning percentage, plus an 8-0 record in the World Series. Francona’s secret is his communication skills — his touch and feel with people, especially his players. Every player has a button, and Francona always knows where it is and when to push it. In spring training every year, he calls his players into his office, one by one, to talk. In the case of Bauer, who has had some communication issues, he called him in all the time, just to talk. Apparently, it worked. Francona will jump on a player privately if he gets out of line, but he also is one of the best at making players comfortable and relaxed so they can play their best.

The Cubs’ Joe Maddon is an expert at that, as well. He once pulled a bunch of his Rays players out of the batting cage and took them in the clubhouse to watch a magician work, another case of Maddon valuing time away from the game as good, not bad. His calm hand and great communication skills are two reasons the Cubs have been able to handle the pressures that comes with extraordinarily high expectations from the first day of spring training.

And no one is going to outfox Maddon in the running of a game. He and Francona have managed against each other 133 times in their careers; Maddon has a 69-64 advantage, including 5-3 in the postseason. Now they’ll get four, five, six or seven more shots at it.

The pick: Cubs in seven.  Read more


The 2016 World Series is set, and no matter who wins, it will be a celebration a long time in the making.

The Chicago Cubs are considered the team of destiny as they try to win their first championship since 1908. On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians haven’t won a title since 1948, and their fans will be just as excited about the possibility of a win.

Both teams will come out with a lot of energy to provide fans with the best possible matchup on the sport’s biggest stage. Here is what you need to know about the upcoming battle.


When it comes to the Cubs, it’s hard not to talk about history. Not only has it been more than 100 years since the last World Series win, but the organization hadn’t even won the pennant since 1945.

After the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series, that was just about all anyone could talk about.

“To stand on that platform afterwards,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, “and you’re looking at the ballpark and the fans and the ‘W’ flags everywhere. I think about the fans, and their parents, and their grandparents, and great-grandparents, and everything else that’s been going on here for a while.”

However, it’s important to remember that the current squad stands on its own as an elite team. The players aren’t necessarily carrying history with them; they won 103 games with a lot of talent in just about every part of the roster.

The starting pitching has been great all year, especially Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks. The duo has allowed just five earned runs in 37.1 innings this postseason, including just total three runs in four starts in the NLCS.  Read more


 

Click here to watch video of Game 1

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World Series Game 7: For Cubs and Indians, It All Comes Down to This

In baseball’s 37th winner-take-all World Series game, the Cleveland Indians will host the Chicago Cubs, a team that had the best record in baseball this season and is now trying to be the first team since 1985 to win a championship after trailing in the series three games to one.

A master of understatement, Indians manager Terry Francona summed up Game 7 in an interview before the game by saying “I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a really important game, and we’ll be really excited to play.” Read more


 

World Series: Seven thoughts on Game 7 between the Cubs and the Indians

Cleveland has Corey Kluber and a rested bullpen. Chicago’s bats have finally broken out. Both teams will hope to end a lengthy championship drought. Here’s what to expect in the last baseball game of 2016.

After winning a 3–2 squeaker at Wrigley Field in Game 5 on Sunday, the Cubs took Game 6 with a 9–3 rout, setting up the 38th World Series Game 7 in baseball history and the third in the past six years. Here are some thoughts on the last game of the 2016 season.

(1) History class

Chicago is not only trying to win its first championship since 1908 and the third in franchise history but also trying to become the sixth team to win a best-of-seven World Series by overcoming a 3–1 deficit, after the 1925 Pirates (over the Senators), the ’58 Yankees (over the Braves), the ’68 Tigers (over the Cardinals), the ’79 Pirates (over the Orioles) and the ’85 Royals (over the Cardinals).

(2) The Kluber Plan

Corey Kluber has already put together a postseason for the ages, striking out 35 batters and allowing just three runs in 30 1/3 innings over five starts. His 0.89 ERA is the eighth-lowest mark among pitchers with at least 25 postseason innings dating back to the inception of the World Series in 1903, and he ranks third in the 48 years of the division play era.

(3) The book on the Professor

Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks matriculated at Dartmouth, and he’s as gifted on the mound as he is smart off it. After winning the NL ERA title during the regular season (2.13), he has pitched to a 1.31 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings over four postseason starts. That said, Chicago manager Joe Maddon has used a quick hook with Hendricks, letting him go past 5 1/3 innings only in the NLCS clincher, when he threw 7 1/3 innings against the Dodgers with a 5–0 lead. Despite having yet to allow a run, Hendricks lasted just 4 1/3 innings in Game 3 because he had yielded six hits and two walks and left the bases loaded for reliever Justin Grimm, who escaped the jam by inducing a ground-ball double play from Francisco Lindor.

(4) The curious case of Aroldis Chapman

The big question for the Cubs’ bullpen is the state of Aroldis Chapman’s arm and ankle. Maddon called upon his closer in Game 6 with two outs and two on in the seventh inning and a five-run lead, because he apparently no longer trusts any of his other options. Chapman needed just two pitches to get Lindor on a replay-aided groundout to first, but he had to sprint to the bag on the play and subsequently rolled his right ankle, prompting a visit from the training staff. He returned for the eighth and, even after Chicago stretched its lead to 9–2, was on the mound for the start of the ninth, running his pitch count to 20 before departing after he walked Brandon Guyer.

(5) Cleveland’s ‘pen is mighty rested

There was some good news for the Indians in the wake of Tuesday night’s defeat: None of Cleveland’s top three relievers—Cody Allen, Andrew Miller or Bryan Shaw—even warmed up, let alone got into the game. Miller and Allen should be able to combine for four innings of work in Game 7 if manager Terry Francona so desires. Kluber, Miller and Allen have combined for 59 of the team’s 124 postseason innings (47.5%) and will likely push that figure back above 50%, win or lose. So far, they’ve yielded just four runs among them for a 0.61 ERA, striking out 86 (13.1 per nine, or 26% of all batters faced).

(6) Chicago hit parade

The Cubs’ cold bats have heated up, to say the least. After starting the series 1-for-15, Kris Bryant is now 5-for-7 with a pair of homers since then. Addison Russell, who began the postseason 1-for-24, is 12-for-37 with three homers and two doubles starting with Game 4 of the NLCS. Anthony Rizzo, who opened October with a 1-for-23 skid, is 16-for-39 with three homers (including one late in Game 6) and five doubles since NLCS Game 3. Meanwhile, Kyle Schwarber, who was back in the lineup with the DH back in play, went 1-for-3 with a walk in Game 6 and has now reached base in seven of his 14 plate appearances.

(7) Davis on defense

Cleveland’s outfield defense has been a rough spot at times in this series, as was particularly evident in Game 6. In the first inning, Russell hit a catchable fly ball that fell between rightfielder Lonnie Chisenhall and centerfielder Tyler Naquin because of miscommunication, allowing two runs to score and giving Chicago a 3–0 lead. During the season, the Indians’ outfielders tied for 20th in the majors with -11 Defensive Runs Saved, and three players who combined for +8 DRS—Michael Brantley, Abe Almonte and Marlon Byrd—aren’t on the World Series roster.  Read more