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Bunting... Develop the next Brett Butler

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#1 alskntwnsfn

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:45 AM

Some guys fit a mold right from day one. They are lightning fast but unlikely to ever develop much power. In some cases, like with Ben Revere or Nick Gordon, there's no question about what type of player they need to become to be successful at the major league level and how they can best leverage their skills. I mean even if Revere hits .290 over a 10-year stretch he could be much more valuable if he could add 30 points to his OBP and 10 points to his average via bunting. 

 

Gleeman and Parker made some great points on bunting in this week's podcast, mostly talking about Jordan Schafer. It would be great to hear the coaching staff or the front office explain an in-season training regimen for these guys. Something like:

 

We hired 5 retired minor league pitchers to specifically work with players at all levels on bunting and pitch recognition. At the major league level, the Twins have a plan for player X and Y and they each spend 30 minutes each day having bunting contests. We're hoping this translates to an extra hit or two each week during the season and allows us to do a better job in sacrifice situations. We also have these guys working on pitch recognition to try to increase their ability to draw walks. 

 

My hunch is that Arcia's pre-game routine is pretty similar to Schafer, which would be a waste of his skill set. And with Shafer, he's actually really good at slapping the ball the other way so he should be able to play games with the third baseman where he can pull a bunt back and slap it. Plus, once he's on first he's going to turn it into a double almost every time if he runs on the right pitch. In a perfect world, Shafer would OBP .370, hit leadoff, then set up Mauer and either Arcia or Vargas with lot's of fastballs on the outer half - allowing those guys to guess hit. A player like that could be incredibly valuable playing CF until Buxton arrives, which at this point might be 2016 or maybe even (gulp) never. And same story with Revere, that's what you're looking for from these types of players. But is there a daily commitment to mold these guys into that prototypical leadoff or #2 hitter? There should be. Development isn't a one size fits all program, but it needs to happen every day not just for one month out of the year. 

 

Nick Gordon is the next opportunity to do this. He is 3.5 seconds home to first. That's 80 speed. He bats left handed. Get it done guys! Every day!

 

twinsnickgordonap.jpg

Image Credit: KSTP. 

 

And please, if you're with the Twins media, can we ask some specific questions about pre/post-game routines? What is or is not being done? Explain to your fan base how you're trying to improve. Each player has specific things they need to work on. You still might lose 90 games but at least provide some explanation about what the coaching staff is doing on a daily basis to get better. After the last 3 seasons, they owe us that. 

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#2 Trov

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:36 AM

I could not agree more bunting should be a bigger part of the game.  However, it is not like the Twins are the only team not bunting for hits these days.  It is league wide, and really relates back to when the players are much younger and either never learned how to bunt, or because we live in the era where every player wants to hit the long ball.  Bunting needs to start at a young age, because will only get harder as they get older, but the players that make it to the majors normally are the best hitters on their teams and will not normally bunt because they are hitting in the three hole. 

 

I do not believe this is the Twins not teaching it so much, but in some cases the players not willing to do it.  I hear every year about how Carew coming in to teach certain players how to bunt for hits, and yet they still do not do it during the year. 

 

As for the pregame approach that still comes down to the player ultimately.  The coaches can tell them do things but the player needs to decide to do it.  I remember hearing about edgar martinez for the Seattle hitting a third of the balls to each field.  Think too many of the Twins doing that or even wanting to?  Yes, the coaching staff, which I do not like on the Twins, needs to enforce the bunting in some players more, but the players need to be committed to it more too.


#3 JB_Iowa

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 09:37 AM

Interesting topic and I'm anxious to read what everyone has to say about the Twins routines ... and also their philosophy on bunting.

 

Not to derail this thread but Derek Wetmore had some interesting thoughts on the Santana bunting situation last night in his item #4:  http://www.1500espn....t_Santana082014

 

Manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game that it wasn't a decision to bunt in that spot, but rather "an automatic."

 

"Well, we're losing. We're going to bunt them over and try to get runs in. We've got to get back in the ballgame. That's what you have to do. Danny has to be able to do those things. You want to play in this league, you're a leadoff hitter -- he can hit a home run, yes, and he's hitting .320, yes, but he's got to be able to bunt.

 

"He might bunt and get a base hit. So there is no decision there, that's an automatic, we're bunting him over with Danny Santana. He's got to do that to be able to stay and be a great player like we think he's going to be. And he knows that more than anybody, he's got to do that. That's the job that he's supposed to do."

 

I'll admit that I was only 1/2 paying attention to the game at that point.  What does everyone think?  Was it an "automatic"?


#4 Willihammer

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:04 AM

Gardy considers it such an automatic sacrifice situation that he doesn't even relay a bunt sign? Interesting


#5 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:12 AM

Interesting topic and I'm anxious to read what everyone has to say about the Twins routines ... and also their philosophy on bunting.
 
Not to derail this thread but Derek Wetmore had some interesting thoughts on the Santana bunting situation last night in his item #4:  http://www.1500espn....t_Santana082014
 
Manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game that it wasn't a decision to bunt in that spot, but rather "an automatic."
 
"Well, we're losing. We're going to bunt them over and try to get runs in. We've got to get back in the ballgame. That's what you have to do. Danny has to be able to do those things. You want to play in this league, you're a leadoff hitter -- he can hit a home run, yes, and he's hitting .320, yes, but he's got to be able to bunt.
 
"He might bunt and get a base hit. So there is no decision there, that's an automatic, we're bunting him over with Danny Santana. He's got to do that to be able to stay and be a great player like we think he's going to be. And he knows that more than anybody, he's got to do that. That's the job that he's supposed to do."
 
I'll admit that I was only 1/2 paying attention to the game at that point.  What does everyone think?  Was it an "automatic"?


Wetmore is right on the money. This was baseball managin' right out of the 1980s.

Thanks for posting this.

#6 Shane Wahl

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:19 AM

I agree about bunting for hits. Sacrifices are often silly.

 

I didn't watch the game. What was this Santana situation? And no sign? Further clarification, please!


#7 alskntwnsfn

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:19 AM

I could not agree more bunting should be a bigger part of the game.  However, it is not like the Twins are the only team not bunting for hits these days.  It is league wide, and really relates back to when the players are much younger and either never learned how to bunt, or because we live in the era where every player wants to hit the long ball.  Bunting needs to start at a young age, because will only get harder as they get older, but the players that make it to the majors normally are the best hitters on their teams and will not normally bunt because they are hitting in the three hole. 

 

I do not believe this is the Twins not teaching it so much, but in some cases the players not willing to do it.  I hear every year about how Carew coming in to teach certain players how to bunt for hits, and yet they still do not do it during the year. 

 

As for the pregame approach that still comes down to the player ultimately.  The coaches can tell them do things but the player needs to decide to do it.  I remember hearing about edgar martinez for the Seattle hitting a third of the balls to each field.  Think too many of the Twins doing that or even wanting to?  Yes, the coaching staff, which I do not like on the Twins, needs to enforce the bunting in some players more, but the players need to be committed to it more too.

 

Those are great points, and I would agree. It's on the players as much as the coaches/FO. Maybe we need to have a separate thread about a larger point though, which is:

 

What does the development plan look like for each player and what institutional steps are the Twins taking to execute that? Is there a frank discussion between mgmt and players about, "Look Nick/Jordan/Kennys, this is you, this is where we want you to be - get there and the money will come either from us or somebody else. Let's figure out how to get from point A to point B." 

 

I understand you don't want to pigeon hole every player you draft because they can change so much between age 18/20 to the time they are 25-ish. However, there are a lot of guys who you know are going down a certain track. Again, Nick Gordon. Look at his brother. Focus on making him the best "Dee Gordon" type player he can be. They are probably doing that, but it would be great to know more about the process... especially if you've been a losing team for an extended period with no change in management. 


#8 Shane Wahl

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:22 AM

Ok, I see. That's a dumb spot to bunt. There are all sorts of ways of moving runners over. A hit is also one of them!


#9 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:33 AM

I do not believe this is the Twins not teaching it so much, but in some cases the players not willing to do it.  I hear every year about how Carew coming in to teach certain players how to bunt for hits, and yet they still do not do it during the year.

Agree - most guys don't care to bunt anymore. It's a nice tool for speedy players to have, for sure. As far as sac bunting, I think there's debate on whether it's even efficient to have pitchers bunt though I don't see the pitcher sac bunt going away anytime soon.

#10 B Richard

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 10:44 AM

Interesting you mentioned Nick Gordon. He may have great speed, but he has also been portrayed as a high-contact, gap to gap hitter with room to grow into more power. This is all speculation, but I would most likely prefer to have him swing away rather than bunt. Of course, he is probably athletic enough to make bunting a small yet efficient part of his offensive arsenal


#11 drjim

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:00 AM

I think bunting for hit is harder/more rare because fielding is so much better now. Once someone was able to bunt several times it would be taken away from them. The occasional bunt for a hit that we see seems about optimal.

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#12 DJL44

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:16 AM

I agree that Jordan Schafer is exactly the type of player who needs to learn how to bunt. A fast bench player who can bunt is going to get PH opportunities.


#13 Seth Stohs

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:51 AM

I had no problem with Santana sacrificing last night (though he didn't get it down)... I generally don't like Sac Bunts in the first 6-7 innings. That was in the 7th. I probably wouldn't have called for a bunt there with Santana, but setting up runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out for Dozier and Mauer is hardly a bad thing. 

 

I love when speed guys bunt for hits and agree that there are guys who should absolutely do that.

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#14 jokin

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:19 PM

I agree that Jordan Schafer is exactly the type of player who needs to learn how to bunt. A fast bench player who can bunt is going to get PH opportunities.

 

Based on his inept bunting performance with the Twins thus far, I was somewhat surprised that Shafer. going into this season, had a bunting BA of .426 (23 of 54).  This year his bunting BA is .067 (1 of 15), and he looks as if he's never attempted it before.  Time to go back to some basic fundamental bunt training, as given his horrendous overall hitting against LHP, bunting for average and a higher OBP are really the only way he can hope to stay on a major league roster.

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#15 jokin

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:33 PM

I think bunting for hit is harder/more rare because fielding is so much better now. Once someone was able to bunt several times it would be taken away from them. The occasional bunt for a hit that we see seems about optimal.

 

Dee Gordon has 33 bunts attempted for hits this year, with 15 hits and a .455 BA, which leads the majors.  His bunts for hits make up 6.4% of his PAs, which has added about 12 points to his overall averages, and he's only attempted bunts in 27.5% of games played. Not sure what the exact optimal bunt rate should be for speedsters, but forcing the corner IF guys to play in on the infield grass to "take away" the bunt could prove to be an advantage for a primarily singles/GB/LD-type hitter, and negate some of the superior fielding advantage.

 

For the record, Nick Gordon has zero bunt attempts so far at E-Town, but I'm quite sure he has hitting priorities elsewhere at this point in his career. 


#16 jokin

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:36 PM

Interesting you mentioned Nick Gordon. He may have great speed, but he has also been portrayed as a high-contact, gap to gap hitter with room to grow into more power. This is all speculation, but I would most likely prefer to have him swing away rather than bunt. Of course, he is probably athletic enough to make bunting a small yet efficient part of his offensive arsenal

 

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#17 IowaTwin346

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:59 PM

I wish the Twins had more guys that attempted to lay down a bunt now and then. 

 

But, just because a player is fast does not make it a must for them to bunt.  For instance the kind of hitter that Carlos Gomez has turned into I dont want him laying down a lot of bunts.  However, when he was a Twin I would have loved to see him utilize it more.  He was still developing as a hitter and could have helped him get on base a little more.  I know Carew tried to get him to, but it wasn't something he often did. 

 

Punto was a good example of someone who needs that part of their game.  He isnt a high average guy, but can use it to get on basea few more times a year.  Guys like Schafer need to be able to get a bunt down.  stealing bases is his biggest asset and as a career .224 hitter with a low OBP he needs to do that to get on base more. 

 

Being able to get a bunt down changes how infielders play you slightly.  Bringing a third basemen a few steps opens that 6 hole just a couple extra feet.


#18 USAFChief

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:59 PM

Gardy considers it such an automatic sacrifice situation that he doesn't even relay a bunt sign? Interesting


I might be wrong, but I don't read that quote as "we didn't even give him the sacrifice sign." I read it as "it's automatic we're going to bunt there, I didn't consider not sacrificing."

Whether or not that's good strategy is debatable, of course. In general, I'm not a fan of intentionally making outs, but IMO a reasonable case can be made for a sac in that specific situation.

And I agree with Gardy...if asked, a MLB player should be able to sacrifice.

I also think occasionally dropping down a bunt for a hit is good strategy, unless you're in an RBI situation.

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#19 drjim

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 02:21 PM

Dee Gordon has 33 bunts attempted for hits this year, with 15 hits and a .455 BA, which leads the majors.  His bunts for hits make up 6.4% of his PAs, which has added about 12 points to his overall averages, and he's only attempted bunts in 27.5% of games played. Not sure what the exact optimal bunt rate should be for speedsters, but forcing the corner IF guys to play in on the infield grass to "take away" the bunt could prove to be an advantage for a primarily singles/GB/LD-type hitter, and negate some of the superior fielding advantage.

 

For the record, Nick Gordon has zero bunt attempts so far at E-Town, but I'm quite sure he has hitting priorities elsewhere at this point in his career. 

 

I should watch more Dodgers games. That is also only "successful" bunt attempts, I suspect he had more PA when he tried at least one bunt.

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#20 Willihammer

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 02:45 PM

I might be wrong, but I don't read that quote as "we didn't even give him the sacrifice sign." I read it as "it's automatic we're going to bunt there, I didn't consider not sacrificing."


Fair enough, he probably did give a sign.

I still don't like the use of "automatic." Gardy may be onto fangraphs but has he ever looked at a win expectency matrix? I kinda doubt it. If he did, he wouldn't consider it an automatic decision.

I realize WE doesn't take context into account (like who is due up after the sacrificer), but I think its probably safe to assume its at best a coin flip decision - hardly automatic. Hearing Gardy say that just reinforces the perception that he's both unfamiliar with advancements and dogmatic about playing small ball.

I also think it makes for a convenient excuse if the runs don't score - the player didn't execute.

#21 Boom Boom

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 02:48 PM

Gardy made it sound like there could be no reasonable case made for not bunting in that situation.  I think that's a large part of the heat he's taking on this. 

 

The guy's batting .310 or something and he's been red hot... asking him to bunt almost completely eliminates the possibility that he could hit a double or even a triple, driving in one or two and putting another runner in scoring position.

 

Gardy's big into lefty/righty splits, I understand, but he really should have looked more closely at Rzepcyznski's numbers against right-handed hitters (spoiler alert, they're terrible).  Santana was in a great position to make a big inning out of it.

 

It's been my opinion that 95% of all situations that call for a sac bunt occur in National League parks.  I could get in to the probability of scoring runs via swinging vs. bunting, but other people have done that quite extensively.  In this one situation, Gardy made the wrong choice, and what's worse he made it sound like he'd make that wrong choice 100% of the time.

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#22 SD Buhr

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 03:51 PM

Gardy made it sound like there could be no reasonable case made for not bunting in that situation.  I think that's a large part of the heat he's taking on this. 

 

The guy's batting .310 or something and he's been red hot... asking him to bunt almost completely eliminates the possibility that he could hit a double or even a triple, driving in one or two and putting another runner in scoring position.

 

... Gardy made the wrong choice, and what's worse he made it sound like he'd make that wrong choice 100% of the time.

 

Actually, I think you can remove "almost" from that second paragraph. Asking him to bunt does eliminate doubles or triples. Of course, it "almost" eliminates GIDP, too, which is one reason managers will "almost" always bunt in that situation.

 

I believe he would, indeed, make that choice 100% of the time. While many of us see that as one example of how the game has passed Gardy by and he should be replaced, the thing is, I'd be willing to bet that almost every potential replacement (whether from inside or outside the Twins organization) would do exactly the same thing.

 

There is gradually more open minded thinking seeping in to front offices, but I see far less willingness to set aside long-established conventional "wisdom" among field managers/coaches in the dugouts. If others are seeing more of it, I'd welcome being enlightened.

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#23 DocBauer

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:35 PM

Not sure how many recall this, but when Revere was with us, he proved to be a solid bunted and had it as part of his normal game plan. And I remember a few snarky comments from the opposition about bunting for hits. And I've heard similar reactions a time or two over the past few years in regard to other players and teams.

The bunt can be a very effective weapon, and not just as a sacrifice or bunt hit. But it can also mess with the opposition's pitcher and defense. Play back, I'll surprise you at times. Play up, I'll slap something over your head or past you down the line. Between Carew on a part-time basis and Molitor on a full-time basis, we have a couple excellent resources to draw from. And there are a number of players on the Twins now, and coming up, where bunting well could be a nice weapon, and should be stressed.

Further, the game is transitioning away from the big HR era to more situational hitting, more of the speed and defense with power mixed in game baseball used to be about. I'd rather be ahead of the curve instead of following it, or worse, being behind it.

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#24 Paul Pleiss

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:44 PM

If you like bunting, or if you hate it (E Rolf, I'm looking at you) make sure to check out the new Talk to Contact podcast when it hits the airwaves later today. E Rolf goes on a bunting rant to end all bunting rants.