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To bunt, or not to bunt? That is the question.


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While a lot of the angst over the bunt against the shift the other day focused on Berrios's none no hitter, the unwritten rules of the game, and Dozier's somewhat confusing statement (see attached) on the bunt in that situation, the actual question of bunting against the shift remains.

 

I always wondered, why not? At the same time I heard pundits like Dan Gladden question it, because you give up the chance for an extra base hit. Supposedly. In theory Danno is correct, in practice it's not that clear. The shift's intent is to prelude not only the extra base hit, but any base hit.

 

The shift is effective in keeping runners off base, and of course producing outs. But it also has what I consider an insidious effect on the game in a more general and negative way. And, to preclude the "sports evolve" discussion I will stipulate that discussion is valid, and frankly true. The question is: Is that change always for the better?

 

For me, the negative impacts the shift has produced are the lessening of the impact a premier defensive player brings to the game. Shortstops no longer are responsible for large areas of real estate, and in many cases neither are center fielders. If you have a "pocket man" your outfielders need less range, and if you are one of three players on one side of the IF, it severely changes your coverage area. Basically, you become a team of hitters, not baseball players.

 

There is of course a second side of this issue. Hitters. You want to eliminate the shift? Go the other way. In theory it's a no brainer. But in the context of that other side of the game, an emphasis on slugging, and a deemphasis on strike outs, it's hard to imagine enough hitters with the talent to perfect opposite field hitting and a power stroke at the same time. In general it's one or the other. Shifting also impacts baserunning, making what used to be no steal scenarios very plausible i.e., stealing third with two outs. It's no longer a cut and dried no-no.

 

It will be interesting to see how the game evolves around this issue. The most obvious deterrent to over shifting is the bunt, but I am sure there will be more to follow. While I hope some day to see the shifts become far less severe and less prevelant, I have no desire to see it done via rule change. There's been enough of that as is.

 

Here is a take on this issue from Ed Thoma's Baseball Outsider blog that I found interesting on the topic.

 

http://fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com/

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I think it's simple - if you're at the plate your number one goal is to not make an out.  If bunting against a shift helps you do that, regardless of the context of the game, then you should do it.  

 

It's on the pitcher and the defense to get you out. Not for you to rollover and give in to them.

 

 It's not incumbent upon your opponent to make you feel good about yourself.  Their job is to win by getting you out and avoiding outs.  Your job is the same.  Let the chips fall where they may after that.

Edited by TheLeviathan
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I think it's simple - if you're at the plate your number one goal is to not make an out.  If bunting against a shift helps you do that, regardless of the context of the game, then you should do it.  

 

It's on the pitcher and the defense to get you out. Not for you to rollover and give in to them.

All of this.  All of this hailing back to old school ways in the game need to die.

 

Most of the unwritten rules are pretty ridiculous.  So many of them are there to supposedly avoid hurting the feelings of someone (usually the pitcher) when they fail.  Here's an idea, don't fail, but when you do, be a man and accept responsibility instead of looking for a way to deflect blame off your mess-up because someone broke an unwritten rule.

 

Don't want people to bunt when you shift, don't shift.  Don't want people to watch their home run or flip a bat when they hit a HR, don't give up the home run. Neither action of the batter means they should have to get hit by a 90 plus fastball. I mean seriously, a pitcher fails, a batter celebrates, and then he gets hit?

 

BTW, ever notice pitchers can do whatever they want to celebrate on the mound and somehow that's NOT against unwritten rules?

Edited by jimmer
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In general, I think LH hitters are going to start dropping down bunts more and more often.  It doesn't take a good bunt by a LH hitter to beat the shift.  Just hard and fair, and you're on first base.  It doesn't take a great deal of skill to learn to do that, either.  Just have to swallow a little pride, maybe.  

 

I can understand an argument against it with two out. Depending on who it is (someone without power), I might still encourage it.

 

It's an interesting discussion, perhaps we can stay away from turning it into yet another ***** fest about unwritten rules.

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In general, I think LH hitters are going to start dropping down bunts more and more often. It doesn't take a good bunt by a LH hitter to beat the shift. Just hard and fair, and you're on first base. It doesn't take a great deal of skill to learn to do that, either. Just have to swallow a little pride, maybe.

 

I can understand an argument against it with two out. Depending on who it is (someone without power), I might still encourage it.

 

It's an interesting discussion, perhaps we can stay away from turning it into yet another ***** fest about unwritten rules.

As they should, IMO. It's a great way to debunk the extreme shift strategy coaches implement against certain players.

 

I would hope players are able to swallow their pride if it means their batting average, OBP, and OPS increase by bunting.

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As they should, IMO. It's a great way to debunk the extreme shift strategy coaches implement against certain players.

I would hope players are able to swallow their pride if it means their batting average, OBP, and OPS increase by bunting.

 

I think we're seeing a new generation of players that is willing to embrace the simplicity and fun of the game.  I hope it pays off for baseball like I think it will.  

 

The outcry against Dozier's remarks are a good sign of that IMO.  

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It's an interesting discussion, perhaps we can stay away from turning it into yet another ***** fest about unwritten rules.

So in another thread when someone doesn't like Dozier's comments about the bunt, it's okay to make a post defending Dozier's comments and defending unwritten rules in general by saying you like unwritten rules they 'keep the game closer to what you like to see', but when someone mentions they don't like the unwritten rules in a thread created about an unwritten rule broken, you say you don't want the thread to be turned into slamming unwritten rules? Only your point of view on unwritten rules is allowed to be posted?

Edited by jimmer
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As they should, IMO. It's a great way to debunk the extreme shift strategy coaches implement against certain players.

I would hope players are able to swallow their pride if it means their batting average, OBP, and OPS increase by bunting.

I doubt Rod Carew ever felt it was ‘swallowing his pride ‘ to play smart baseball.

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I think we're seeing a new generation of players that is willing to embrace the simplicity and fun of the game.  I hope it pays off for baseball like I think it will.  

 

The outcry against Dozier's remarks are a good sign of that IMO.  

When you see the game played in central and south america countries, they play the game with passion and they have a lot of fun.  As more and more players from those countries make the majors, the more fun you'll see.  I like it. I like it cause it's a game.  It's not study hall in a library with a librarian telling you to shush.

Edited by jimmer
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From an article on ESPN

 

'So let's talk about Minnesota Twins star Brian Dozier, who took Stupid Unwritten Rules to a new level this weekend. Dozier is, in his words, "getting hammered" for his complaint against the Baltimore Orioles, which he should be if you consider the point of "unwritten rules" to be enforcing a rational code of play that exists for the good of the sport. Dozier's claims, in that interpretation, do not stand up, not even a little bit.

 

But that's the wrong way to think about unwritten rules. Unwritten rules are a scam that players run on each other to trick their opponents into acting against their own self-interests. They are stupid, of course, but more than that, they're brilliant, on multiple levels, and they seem to work -- and ever since I realized this, I've been a lot less annoyed.'

 

And more:

 

'"When they didn't hold our runner on [earlier in the blowout], they conceded to the fact they didn't want us to steal, so we didn't steal," Dozier explained. "We could have very easily stolen and put up more runs, so therefore in return, you don't bunt. That's what everybody is missing in this whole thing."

In other words: We weren't trying, so he shouldn't have tried.'

 

Of course, Dozier's logic prima facie was bad: The Twins kept throwing breaking balls, they kept positioning their defenders in elaborate shifts and so on -- so they were still trying. Intuiting some fluid and ambiguous code about how much to try is a lot to ask of players who are merely attempting to play baseball well, for money, in front of a large audience. Complaining about this -- as other Twins did, as well -- is comically sensitive. So most will hammer Dozier.

 

But Dozier's goal isn't, I'd argue, to get Chance Sisco to respect the game. It's to get Sisco -- and other Twins opponents -- to go easy on the Twins. It's to get them to not try extra hard to come back when they're trailing by seven runs. It's to get them to not force Dozier and his teammates to run any harder than they have to. It's to get them to be afraid of offending, embarrassing or tricking the Twins. (Or, alternately, to get them to be afraid of offending, embarrassing or tricking veterans, such as Dozier, who use their clout and seniority to steer young players toward certain types of non-threatening behavior.) It's to weaken their opponents or to cause their opponents to weaken themselves -- more complicated than but otherwise consistent with every other baseball strategy.'

 

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/23005962/brian-dozier-take-baseball-unwritten-rules-silly-brilliant-same

 

 

Edited by jimmer
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I have a ton of opinions on unwritten rules, for another day. And btw I love to discuss those rules. And in retrospect maybe I should have left Dozier and the unstolen base out or the OP. I am more interested in what teams will do to combat what is becoming a plethora of shifts. They used to be reserved for big power pull hitters, or so it seemed. Now it causes almost more discussion when their isn't one. The other question is, what if not bunts, are the options?

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So in another thread when someone doesn't like Dozier's comments about the bunt, it's okay to make a post defending Dozier's comments and defending unwritten rules in general by saying you like unwritten rules they 'keep the game closer to what you like to see', but when someone mentions they don't like the unwritten rules in a thread created about an unwritten rule broken, you say you don't want the thread to be turned into slamming unwritten rules? Only your point of view on unwritten rules is allowed to be posted?

The other thread is about Dozier's comments.

 

This thread is about bunting as a strategy in response to shifts.

 

In my opinion.

 

 

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I think we're seeing a new generation of players that is willing to embrace the simplicity and fun of the game. I hope it pays off for baseball like I think it will.

 

The outcry against Dozier's remarks are a good sign of that IMO.

I hope so. As I read through this thread, Joey Gallo of the Rangers popped in my mind. He plays against an extreme shift where maybe 1 player is on the left side of the field. Because he's swinging away, he's a .210 hitter with a ton of power.

 

I don't see why he wouldn't bunt way more often to raise that BA to .250 at least.

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Baseball is still the only sport where the defense controls the ball.  As long as that continues I say long live the shift.

 

From the offensive side of the game I say long live the bunt.  My job as a hitter is to get on base and/or not make an out.  It's actually a little astonishing MLB hitters don't bunt more against the shift.  If you don't want to bunt learn to go the other way with the ball.  

 

Hit em' where they ain't...

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I remember that was exactly where coaches wanted you to hit the ball when I played. Now it's just a routine grounder to the SS, or in extreme cases, the 3B.

It's only a routine grounder if a player has shown a proclivity to hit the ball there.  

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The other thread is about Dozier's comments.

 

This thread is about bunting as a strategy in response to shifts.

 

In my opinion.

So you're saying we should "shift" to another thread?  I'm not going bunt on this subject any longer but punt on the subject altogether. :)

 

Edited by twinssporto
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Baseball is still the only sport where the defense controls the ball.  As long as that continues I say long live the shift.

 

From the offensive side of the game I say long live the bunt.  My job as a hitter is to get on base and/or not make an out.  It's actually a little astonishing MLB hitters don't bunt more against the shift.  If you don't want to bunt learn to go the other way with the ball.  

 

Hit em' where they ain't...

I think most teams don't bunt more for a couple reasons.  Its very hard to properly bunt for a hit and they just don't practice it enough.

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I think most teams don't bunt more for a couple reasons.  Its very hard to properly bunt for a hit and they just don't practice it enough.

Agreed. But also noted that if one has enough bat control to change change his launch angle, one can learn to hit a 30' wide patch of grass with a bunt.
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I have to believe a LH hitter should be able to average .500 on fair bunts against a shift.  And a foul bunt is simply a strike, not an out.

 

And once again, the bunt doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't even have to be good.

 

It has to be fair, past the pitcher, and not both too hard and directly at the only fielder on that side of the infield.

 

I gotta believe just about every LH hitting major league player can get that bunt down more often than not.  

 

Soooo...why don't they?

 

 

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I have to believe a LH hitter should be able to average .500 on fair bunts against a shift.  And a foul bunt is simply a strike, not an out.

 

And once again, the bunt doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't even have to be good.

 

It has to be fair, past the pitcher, and not both too hard and directly at the only fielder on that side of the infield.

 

I gotta believe just about every LH hitting major league player can get that bunt down more often than not.  

 

Soooo...why don't they?

 

Some team will do it. The game is all about taking advantage of your environment now. With all of their lefties, it'd be great if it was the Twins who started this movement.

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From a Fangraphs article in 2014:

 

'It won’t surprise you to learn there haven’t been all that many bunt attempts against the shift. This is the very reason certain people have been complaining. I came up with just over 200 attempts over two years. Of those attempts, 38% were bunted fair, and 25% of the bunts resulted in the batter reaching base, either on a hit or an error. In other words, one of four attempted bunts put the batter on, but two of three bunts in play worked out, which isn’t a shock. Thing about the overshift is there’s not really anyone in the vicinity to do the fielding.'

Edited by jimmer
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From a Fangraphs article in 2014:

 

'It won’t surprise you to learn there haven’t been all that many bunt attempts against the shift. This is the very reason certain people have been complaining. I came up with just over 200 attempts over two years. Of those attempts, 38% were bunted fair, and 25% of the bunts resulted in the batter reaching base, either on a hit or an error. In other words, one of four attempted bunts put the batter on, but two of three bunts in play worked out, which isn’t a shock. Thing about the overshift is there’s not really anyone in the vicinity to do the fielding.'

 

With the 4 outfielder trend, this will only increase the margin for error for bunters as well.

 

If I'm an analytics guy in a FO, I make working on bunting for my lefties a necessity.  66% success on bunts in play would make for a helluva way to win a batting title.

Edited by TheLeviathan
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With the 4 outfielder trend, this will only increase the margin for error for bunters as well.

 

If I'm an analytics guy in a FO, I make working on bunting for my lefties a necessity. 66% success on bunts in play would make for a helluva way to win a batting title.

and I imagine many of those guys who reached we're very fast players.

 

Some act as if pitchers are going to groove the batters a meatball with a shift on so the bunt will be easy. Curves, changeups, sliders. Those are fun to try and bunt on. Bunting at the MLB level against MLB pitchers is hard especially when you rarely bunt. If it was really easy, teams wouldn't do the shift. The shift is about playing the odds.

Edited by jimmer
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and I imagine many of those guys who reached we're very fast players.

Some act as if pitchers are going to groove the batters a meatball with a shift on so the bunt will be easy. Curves, changeups, sliders. Those are fun to try and bunt on. Bunting at the MLB level against MLB pitchers is hard especially when you rarely bunt. If it was really easy, teams wouldn't do the shift. The shift is about playing the odds.

 

You're right, it probably will be more difficult, but I think you nailed it earlier that teams just don't work on it.  I would also wager that changes quickly with how extreme and frequent shifts are becoming.

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