Think about the fundamentals of baseball, and bunting will surely come up.
Bunting is considered one of “the basics,” like fielding a ground ball, throwing, or swinging a bat. But despite it seeming like a useful tool, perhaps the sacrifice bunt’s use is best limited — if not eliminated altogether. A growing number of coaches are starting to adopt this mindset.
“Let’s just put it this way, I don’t like bunting,” Sean McCarthy, a Little League coach in South Boston, said. “I really just can’t see the need for it 99 percent of the time. But then again, I’m a big numbers guy.”
McCarthy subscribes to the new wave of baseball thought. He does not want to trade outs for runs — or an opportunity to score runs. It’s a mindset also used at the top level — and with good reason, McCarthy thinks.
“When anyone gets a few minutes, they should look at a run expectancy table for every single sacrifice bunt scenario,” he said. “And then they should come back and talk to me about sac bunts.
“What bugs me too is we’re talking the scenario you want to happen. You could have a kid try to go for a sac bunt and pop out to the catcher, strike out, or induce a double play. We’re not just talking about the successful sac bunts, but also the unsuccessful one. And trust me, I’ve seen a lot of those too.”
Looking at an MLB runs expectancy table, it is apparent: teams have less of a chance of scoring runs after a successful sacrifice bunt. But not every level is the big leagues, and not every game is played in a vacuum.
“At this level, I still understand why coaches try it,” McCarthy said. “I mean, we all know some teams have a catcher who could airmail it too, which makes it a little more appealing.
“Now if you could do that, you’d probably score more. But at the same time, that’s not doing much for player-development. They won’t be getting those down when they get older and catchers are a little more sound behind the plate.”
When asked when bunting would be appropriate, McCarthy said it is better than a regular out. By that, he meant if there is a weaker or slumping hitter in the lineup, who is capable of bunting, then it might be worth a try. He also mentioned the possibility of using sac bunts in a pitchers’ duel.
“If your guys just aren’t hitting that day, maybe it’s worth getting one of them in scoring position,” he said. “I think everyone knows by now guys tend to hit better with a runner in scoring position.”
Being anti-sacrifice bunt, McCarthy said he is happy when teams try to do it against him.
“I might have to start carrying around thank you cards for the teams who try sac bunts against us,” he said. “They just make my pitcher’s ERA’s look a little better. And I think there’s definitely been times where sac bunts — successful or unsuccessful — have cost a team a win against us.”