There are three primary benefits of spring training. One, all the players get to get ready for the regular season. Two, Arizona and Florida get to have people want to go there on purpose. Three, it’s like a two-minute warning for writers. It’s irrelevant, transitional baseball that reminds writers they’re running out of time to look back on the previous season. Right now, I can still get away with a post about stuff that happened in 2013. A month from now that’d be a waste of everyone’s time. So here’s a review of last season’s bunt doubles. If this doesn’t interest you, that’s fine, and soon enough we’ll have plenty of other posts about projections of the future that will turn out looking lousy in retrospect.
Here’s a fun fact for you: last year, there were more bunt doubles around baseball than Astros wins. That isn’t true, but here’s a fun fact that is true: last year, from September 13 onward, there were more bunt doubles around baseball than Astros wins. Two years ago, Quintin Berry bunted for a double for his first major-league hit. Juan Pierre also had a slap-bunt double, and that was it for the season. Last year, there were three legitimate bunt doubles. And to make things even more interesting, all three were different in structure and sequence. Below you’ll find .gifs, screenshots, and attempted explanations. Nothing here has been doctored, except for the players, who have probably been to the doctor.
BUNT DOUBLE NO. 1
In this game, Gerardo Parra bunted for a double, which is extremely rare. Later in this game, Gerardo Parra was called out running to first on batter interference, which is also very rare. This game went to 15 innings, which is rare, and there were blown saves on home runs in both the 13th and the 14th, which is rare. The Mets lost, which is common.
With a runner on first, this was done by design. Check out the infield alignment that Parra would be hitting into:
There was a hole there, and Parra believed he could bunt into it. He might not have believed he could bunt this much into it. Parra bunted a pitch at the letters and it came off the bat like a line drive. It squeezed all the way through to the outfield grass and Parra was thinking about extra bases almost right out of the box:
The unusual thing about this bunt double is that it is a double off of a bunt. But the other unusual thing is that the defense didn’t really do anything to allow it to happen. There was no mistake made, and there was no extreme shift. The ball didn’t take a funny bounce by anybody. Parra just bunted for a perfectly legitimate double that happened to not go particularly far from the infield. I can’t recall seeing a bunt struck with such force. In his previous at-bat, Parra swung away and hit a line drive that was caught on the fly. Let the record show that, last year, Parra was credited with a pair of infield doubles. Gerardo Parra might hit an infield homer before Ben Revere hits a regular homer.
BUNT DOUBLE NO. 2
I mentioned that, last year, there were three bunt doubles. The other two featured bunts of the first pitch. This was a bunt of the second pitch, after Cano swung away and fouled the first pitch off. Interestingly or not interestingly, after fouling off the first pitch, Cano took a few practice swings like normal, then called for time-out. Then he stepped back in and put the bunt down, obviously for the purpose of taking advantage of the shift. What was the purpose of the time-out? When did Cano make the decision to try a bunt? If Cano had literally said out loud “I am going to bunt”, would the Red Sox have done anything about it?
About that shift:
That should give you a sense of how much space there was. From here it’s as if the Red Sox just forgot to play two infielders. Looking at this picture, you might wonder why we don’t see more bunt doubles. The answer is because batters are too afraid to bunt, because batters are too afraid to practice their bunts, because batters want to bat, at least the sorts of batters who cause other infields to shift against them. There are a whole lot of extreme shifts in baseball. This is how you can beat them literally every time, if you’re trained enough. Baseball players are idiots for not bunting more often. Sometimes people complain I don’t have enough strong opinions. This is one of them. Bunt more, idiots. If you don’t know how to bunt well enough, learn, idiots. If you can hit, then you can bunt, and, you can hit.
The last time Robinson Cano put a bunt in play, he doubled. The previous time he put a bunt in play, he singled. He has two fair bunts over the last two seasons. I’ll say this for Cano — no matter how much people get on him for not running hard, this double wasn’t automatic. He read this well immediately off the bat. It was actually the first of three doubles he’d hit in the game. Here’s where the other two wound up:
They all look the same in the box score, unless the box score includes play-by-play that denotes batted-ball type. Then two look like line drives and the other looks like a bunt.
Just for fun, here’s the Red Sox broadcast right before Cano squared around:
Orsillo: He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year and most think the Yankees will bring him back.
Eckersley: Oh, I can’t imagine, they can’t lose this guy. This — they’ll give him the house.
It can be real big to get that hustle extra base. In Cano’s case, it was the difference between standing on first with two down, and standing in scoring position. Cano got to second, and that set up an Alfonso Soriano swinging strikeout to end the top of the first. So that time the extra base was not real big.
BUNT DOUBLE NO. 3
This one kills me, it just absolutely kills me. Gerardo Parra bunted into the hole and legged out a double without the defense doing anything wrong. Robinson Cano took the bunt hit the shifted defense was giving him, and because he bunted so well he got an extra base. Robinson Cano bunted for a double away from the shift. Nate McLouth bunted for a double into the shift.
Given all the space in between the infielders, you could understand a perfect, soft bunt single. Nate McLouth bunted the ball through that. It seems the biggest problem is that the Rays infielders remembered to identify the baseball, but they neglected to do more than that:
Wright: There’s the baseball!
Beckham: The baseball is right there!
Rodriguez: Right there! That is the baseball!
Wright: We are all in agreement!
Rodriguez: That is a baseball
The problem was this: Rodriguez came off the bag in making an attempt to field the bunt. Beckham saw that and responded by running over to cover. But, Wright was also going over to cover, and Beckham was the support in the hole, so there were two guys moving toward first and no guys moving toward the baseball. You’d think the Rays would be better trained for this. In fairness, it isn’t often you come across a bunt double into the shift. In fairness, maybe that’s because defenses are better trained for this. Unlike Parra and Cano, McLouth didn’t even have to slide.
The batter before McLouth was Matt Wieters. He led off with a double and got thrown out at third. This might’ve been just the teams trading stupid. McLouth didn’t score in the inning. The inning before, Manny Machado sustained his injury at first base. Now I’m just remembering that visual and I don’t want to think about this baseball game anymore.
Last season, there were three bunt doubles, each of them different but each of them inarguably bunt doubles. FanGraphs has no record of a year with more bunt doubles. One was pulled almost like a line drive. One was put down against an infield shift. One was put down into an infield shift. Will this coming season feature more than three bunt doubles? You’d figure the odds would be good, with infield shifting on the rise, but players need to actually bunt against those shifts in order for wish fulfillment. Any day now, guys. They’re practically giving you singles. Sometimes doubles.
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.