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Monday, May 12, 2014

Real men bunt ... and hit homers.

Individual power and speed on offense are often measured in home runs (HR) and stolen bases (SB).  In today's game a prime example is Mike Trout: after 1,655 plate appearances (PA), 69 HR, 90 SB (led in 2012 with 49).

After leading the National League in HR with 51 in 1955 Willie Mays led in SB each of the next four seasons; also in caught stealing in 1956 and 1957.  Mays later led in HR with 49, 47, 52; 660 career.

1901 to 2014, (requiring HR>=40 and SB>=30), sorted by greatest Stolen Bases:


Rk Player SB HR Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Alex Rodriguez 46 42 1998 22 SEA AL 161 748 686 123 213 35 5 124 45 0 121 10 3 4 12 13 .310 .360 .560 .919 *6/D
2 Alfonso Soriano 41 46 2006 30 WSN NL 159 728 647 119 179 41 2 95 67 16 160 9 2 3 3 17 .277 .351 .560 .911 *7/H
3 Barry Bonds 40 42 1996 31 SFG NL 158 675 517 122 159 27 3 129 151 30 76 1 0 6 11 7 .308 .461 .615 1.076 *7/H8
4 Jose Canseco 40 42 1988 23 OAK AL 158 705 610 120 187 34 0 124 78 10 128 10 1 6 15 16 .307 .391 .569 .959 *9D/H
5 Barry Bonds 37 40 1997 32 SFG NL 159 690 532 123 155 26 5 101 145 34 87 8 0 5 13 8 .291 .446 .585 1.031 *7
6 Larry Walker 33 49 1997 30 COL NL 153 664 568 143 208 46 4 130 78 14 90 14 0 4 15 8 .366 .452 .720 1.172 *9/3H8D
7 Ellis Burks 32 40 1996 31 COL NL 156 685 613 142 211 45 8 128 61 2 114 6 3 2 19 6 .344 .408 .639 1.047 *78/H
8 Jeff Bagwell 31 43 1997 29 HOU NL 162 717 566 109 162 40 2 135 127 27 122 16 0 8 10 10 .286 .425 .592 1.017 *3/HD
9 Hank Aaron 31 44 1963 29 MLN NL 161 714 631 121 201 29 4 130 78 18 94 0 0 5 11 5 .319 .391 .586 .977 *9
10 Ryan Braun 30 41 2012 28 MIL NL 154 677 598 108 191 36 3 112 63 15 128 11 0 5 12 7 .319 .391 .595 .987 *7/DH
11 Jeff Bagwell 30 42 1999 31 HOU NL 162 729 562 143 171 35 0 126 149 16 127 11 0 7 18 11 .304 .454 .591 1.045 *3/HD
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/12/2014.

However, these speedy home run hitters rarely bunted to reach base.

I've mentioned several times that Mickey Mantle achieved his triple crown in 1956 by bunting: 12 for 20, which raised his batting average (BA) from .343 to .353.  Ted Williams finished second with .345.  Mantle also hit 52 HR.

Shift on Mickey Mantle.  Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lou Boudreau deployed his shift on both Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  The shift on Williams is fairly well known but its use against Mantle was brief and so mostly forgotten.  Mantle was a switch hitter with great speed who often bunted in his early seasons...

Click this link to view a lot of details about Mantle's bunts, including bunt hits and homers in the same game.
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Mantle was generally bunting against the traditional defensive alignment, not the shift.

Would The Three Stooges bunt against the shift?  Monday, May 5, 2014

This question is meant to emphasize just how dumb batters are.  Last I heard batters in 2014 were 12 for 17 bunting against the shift.  That's 17 bunts for all batters ...
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Batters are dumber than usual this season, hitting into the shift most of the time.  Monday, April 7, 2014

For many years pitchers have said that batters are dumb.

The big innovation in 2014 is that just about every team is using the shift a lot.  The shift is placing fielders, usually infielders, where the batter tends to hit the ball...

So how have batters responded?  They haven't.  The few to address it have indicated that they do not want to change what they prefer doing.  I'd have thought that they prefer getting hits but apparently only their way...

But here's the thing.  These batters don't even need to change how they swing.  Don't swing at all.  Bunt.  Bunt for a hit.  Bunt for a double.  It's almost a sure hit and if the hit is for two bases the batter pads both his on base average and his slugging average and thus his OPS (on base plus slugging).
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Let's consider Mantle's 1956 season.  Bunting v. overall:
BA: .600  .353
On Base: .600  .464
SLG: .600  .705
OPS: 1.200  1.169
HR: 0  52

Even in his triple crown season The Mick could not match his bunting success by swinging away.

In eight games in 1956 Mantle bunted for a hit and also homered.

Maris and Mantle
Baseball Digest October 1961
via Wikimedia Commons
In 1961 Mantle and Roger Maris chased the season home run record of 60 hit by Babe Ruth in 1927.  Mantle bunted five times: 4 for 4 plus a sacrifice.  Home runs in 1961: Maris 61, Mantle 54.

Saturday, September 2, 1961, , Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 50,261, Time of Game: 2:02

Yankee killer Frank Lary had a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning.  Maris led off with a double to center and advanced to third on a passed ball with Mantle batting.  Mantle then bunted against Lary and made the first out (4-3) but Maris scored to tie the game 2-2.  Mantle got a sacrifice and RBI.

Maris homered off Larry in the 6th and again in the 8th with one on off lefty Hank Aguirre; that gave Maris 53 HR.  Yanks won 7-2 to take a three game lead over second place Detroit.

Saturday, May 5, 1956, Yankee Stadium I
Attendance: 12,773, Time of Game: 2:20
Yankees 5, Athletics 2
Mantle's PA by inning:
1 - against Lou Kretlow, Yanks up 1-0: fly out to left
3 - against Kretlow, Yanks up 1-0: HR, Billy Martin scores
5 - against Kretlow, Yanks up 3-0, one out: bunt single
7 - against Moe Burtschy, Yanks up 3-2, one out: HR; Yogi Berra up next also homered
Bunt single, two homers in one game, number 8 & 9 for the season after 16 games.

Monday, June 22, 1959, Municipal Stadium, Kansas City
Attendance: 21,451, Time of Game: 2:49
Yankees 11, Athletics 6 (Maris hit 2 doubles playing for KC)
Mantle's PA by inning:
1 - against Ray Herbert, 2 out: HR (LF-CF)
4 - against Herbert, leading off, Yanks up 1-0: Bunt Groundout: P unassisted
5 - against Herbert, one out Yanks up 4-2: triple to CF; Tony Kubek and Hector Lopez score; Herbert removed; Mantle scores on SF by Norm Siebern
7- against Bob Grim, Yanks up 7-6: HR Kubek and Lopez score
8 - against Murry Dickson, one out, Kubek on second, Yanks up 11-6: Lineout: RF
Unsuccessful bunt attempt, two homers and a triple; 6 RBI, 3 runs scored.

Finally, the original tape measure home run game, the ultimate in homering and bunting in the same game:
Friday, April 17, 1953, Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC
Attendance: 4,206, Time of Game: 2:27
Yankees 7, Senators 3
Mantle's PA by inning:
2 - against lefty Chuck Stobbs, leading off batting cleanup, 0-0: walk
3 - against Stobbs, 2 out, Berra on first Yanks up 1-0 on Martin's homer off Stobbs: Groundout: 3B-1B
5 - against Stobbs, 2 out, Berra on first Yanks up 2-1: HR "measured" at 565 feet, which is probably exaggerated but helped establish the Mantle legend
8 - against Julio Moreno, leading off, Yanks up 4-2: walk
9 - against Moreno, one out, Yanks up 7-3: bunt single to second

Washington fans must have thought this guy came from another planet.

career bunting for Mantle: 87 for 165:
BA: .527
On Base: .527
SLG: .527
OPS: .1.054

And Mantle's bunts were almost exclusively against non-shift defenses.  When he retired after the 1968 season Mickey Mantle was number three in career home runs, behind only Ruth and Mays.  That despite 179 PA, including sacrifices, which ended with bunts.

Today players will not try to bunt for hits against the shift.

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