Update: one thing I missed was Buster Posey yelling “three!’ with the ball on the ground. So blame him too! Bad suggestion!
In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Giants, the Nationals could manage just a single run in 18 innings. In Game 3, the Nationals scored twice that many runs on what was intended to be a sacrifice bunt by Wilson Ramos. Behold, Madison Bumgarner, ever aggressive:
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If I’ve done this right, that was the fifth multi-run bunt of 2014, and the first since the end of August. All five of them have scored two runners. Here are the videos, and they go about as you’d expect.
The Bumgarner error lifted the Nationals’ odds of winning from 65% to 88%. Interestingly, had Bumgarner taken the out that was being given to him, the Nationals’ win expectancy would’ve remained 65%. Instead Bumgarner tried to get the lead runner, and that would’ve been an important out — the Nationals’ odds would’ve been dropped to about 57%. Sometimes, it definitely makes sense to play the bunt aggressively, if you think you have a chance. The problem isn’t just that Bumgarner made a bad throw; it’s that he made a bad decision in the first place. You throw to third in that situation if you have a decent shot of getting the runner. Bumgarner had no shot, by the time he was in throwing position.
This isn’t a great picture, but it’s the best I could get and it tells you enough:
With the ball still, I don’t know, 15 feet away, the runner’s arrived at third base. We’re talking about fractions of a second, so it’s not like the runner was safe by a mile, but Bumgarner’s odds were way too low to justify the attempt. The ball was bunted toward first base, and Bumgarner should’ve thrown toward first base, and he certainly realizes that now. He probably realized it right after the ball was out of his hand. Aggressiveness got the best of him in a stressful situation and the Nationals never looked back once the ball flew by Pablo Sandoval.
If it’s any consolation to Madison Bumgarner, the Giants didn’t lose because of the error — they mostly lost because they couldn’t score runs. But the game’s biggest play came about because of a bad decision, and now Bumgarner will have to watch from the bench as his team tries to finish off the Nationals without him. The Nationals wanted to give the Giants an out. The Giants gave the Nationals two runs. Sometimes baseball teams are way too polite.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.
How much of that decision to throw to third comes down to it being the easier throw for a lefty from that position?
A large part of the decision to throw to third comes from Posey yelling “three”.