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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ted Williams bunts: why almost exclusively at home?

Ted Williams had at least eleven non-sac documented bunt hits in the regular season.  Ten were at home.  Williams bunted in only one regular season road game.

Bunts are plate appearances that end with a bunt as documented in play-by-play data in baseball-reference.com.

In his only World Series Williams tried one bunt, a single in game three ... at home in Boston

Why did Williams bunt almost exclusively at home?

I mentioned the bunts in the previous post:

Did Ted Williams try to beat the shift? He bunted at least 14 times: .917 BA.  Tuesday, September 2, 2014

All but one of the 14 bunts were at home.  In 1950 Williams bunted in Yankee Stadium against Vic Raschi; Boston won 4-2.  Of the documented bunts Williams did not bunt against a pitcher more than once.

Yankees 6 (Hiller, Marshall, Raschi, Grim, Terry, Maas)
Indians 3 (Brown, Klieman, Bell)
Tigers 2 (Seats (lefty), Trucks)
White Sox 2 (Gumpert, Pierce (lefty))
Senators 1 (Wynn)
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Now we'll look for patterns in the small sample of 13 regular season games.  I'm excluding the first documented game because it is obviously a sacrifice situation: 11th inning, two on, no outs.  None of the others are.

Click this link to view a spreadsheet with the data, some of which is also presented below.

finalfinal
DateResultInnOutsRunnerslocBosOppPitcherTPlaceTeamBosOppAttendance
7/18/1940sac11012-??810Tom SeatsLhomeDetroit8105,800
5/5/1942single60---3B102Clint BrownRhomeCleveland13310,104
7/29/1947single92---3B15Ed KliemanRhomeCleveland1530,957
9/9/1947single121--3B00Virgil TrucksRhomeDetroit538,795
9/20/1947sac911--P-1B26Early WynnRhomeWashington3611,168
7/6/1948single31---3B20Frank HillerRhomeYankees2131,735
6/29/1949single22---3B41Cuddles MarshallRhomeYankees7929,563
7/8/1950single60---3B22Vic RaschiRroadYankees4241,579
6/22/1951single31---3B13Randy GumpertRhomeChicago6533,035
8/20/1954single101--3B00Bob GrimRhomeYankees4330,174
8/6/1956out60---P-1B14Ralph TerryRhomeYankees3435,923
8/22/1956single42---3B32Billy PierceLhomeChicago3610,118
9/24/1958single12---3B03Duke MaasRhomeYankees578,865
7/24/1960single10---3B23Gary BellRhomeCleveland10630,415
10/9/1946single32---3B30Murry DicksonRhomeCardinals4034,500


All the bunts were toward third.  The two fielded by pitchers could have also been toward third.  The one at the bottom is in game 3 of the 1946 World Series and is not included in the summary stats.

Here are his overall numbers in those games:


HRHR
TimeBOPABH2B3BHRBosOppDateTeam
3:12442007/18/1940Detroit
2:1335311105/5/1942Cleveland
2:43441027/29/1947Cleveland
2:03443109/9/1947Detroit
2:09430009/20/1947Washington
2:02343007/6/1948Yankees
3:053531126/29/1949Yankees
2:20331107/8/1950Yankees
2:274321116/22/1951Chicago
2:402331018/20/1954Yankees
2:47321108/6/1956Yankees
2:47342018/22/1956Chicago
2:493321229/24/1958Yankees
2:34331117/24/1960Cleveland
TimeBOPABH2B3BHR
1:54311010/9/1946Cardinals

In the 13 regular season games used in summary data below, other players hit 18 home runs;  Williams hit one: 1942 against Cleveland.  Eight homers were hit by other Red Sox and opposing players hit ten homers.  This suggests that the lack of home runs by Williams was not due to playing conditions.  Nor was it due to the lack of at bats (AB) because of his bunting.  Excluding the bunts, Williams still had 33 AB in those 13 games.

Nor was it because of his bunting in all but one game in Fenway Park in Boston.  Williams HR rates were not that different home v. road.


BABOPABH2B3BHR
excluding first.543462551
bunting.9171211
not bunting.424331451


AB/HR not bunt33
AB/HR career14.8
AB/HR car home15.7
AB/HR car road14.0
SLG not bunt.697
SLG car home.652
SLG car road.615


Ted Williams Baseball Digest, back cover,
May 1949 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The five doubles made up for the lack of homers in his slugging average (SLG).  Had Williams hit one more homer his rate would be much closer to his career, about 16.5.

Did Williams feel more comfortable bunting in front of his home fans?  Maybe even feel that he would get a scoring break if he made an out and the home town writer would give him the benefit of the doubt as may have happened when Williams got credit for a sacrifice Saturday, September 20, 1947 with his team down FOUR runs in the 9th, one out and a runner on first.  There's no way Williams was trying to sacrifice.

However, this explanation is tenuous in that Williams feuded with Boston fans and Boston sports writers.

A few comments on some of the games:

Tuesday, July 29, 1947 - By the time that Williams got his bunt single against Ed Klieman with two outs in 9th, Bob Feller had been removed.  Feller starting the game probably accounts for the attendance of nearly 31,000.  Boston was down 5-1, the final score.

Tuesday, May 5, 1942 - Williams was 3 for 5, including the bunt single, double, home run.  Lou Boudreau managed Cleveland and used a shift on Williams some of the time.  Williams bunted in the 6th with his team leading 10-2.  Odd.  Boston won 13-3 before 10,104 fans.

Wednesday, June 29, 1949 - Managers: Joe McCarthy Red Sox; Casey Stengel Yankees.  Yanks won 9-7.  This was the famous series when Joe DiMaggio climbed out of a sick bed and played his first games of the season: June 28, 29, 30 and they were against the Red Sox in Boston.  Joe D. led a Yankee sweep as he personally wrecked the joint: 9 RBI, 5 for 11, including four homers, two in the game in which Williams had a bunt single in the second, Boston leading 4-1.  The Yankees won the final two games in 1949 at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox to come from behind and win the pennant by one game.

Saturday, July 8, 1950 - In Yankee Stadium Vern Stephens homered off Raschi right after Williams bunted for a single.  That broke a 2-2 tie.  Boston won 4-2.

Sunday, July 24, 1960 - In his final season at age 42 Williams bunted once: game one of a doubleheader before 30,415 Red Sox fans.  His single came after the previous batter, Gary Geiger, had homered.  Boston was down 3-2 but won 10-6.

Friday, August 20, 1954 - Mentioned only because the Boston manager was Lou Boudreau, who had created the special shift against Ted Williams when Boudreau managed Cleveland.  30,174 saw Williams bunt for a single in the first inning with a runner on first base, a sacrifice situation.  Boudreau had Williams batting second in the batting order.  Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-3.

Boudreau played with Cleveland 1938-1950 and also managed the team 1942-1950.  He joined Boston in 1951 and played 82 games, then four in 1952.  Boudreau became the Boston manager 1952-1954.

Boudreau then managed the Kansas City As 1955 through 103 games in 1957. Later the Cubs for most of 1960.

Williams and Boudreau were teammates in 1951.  Then Boudreau became player-manager in 1952.  Williams was then on active duty with the Marines in the Korean War and played only six games in 1952 and 37 in 1953.  By the time he played 117 games in 1954, Boudreau was in his third and last season as manager.  Did Williams return have anything to do with the departure of Boudreau?

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.
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Boudreau shifted on Mantle in 1956.  Did Boudreau shift on Williams when Boudreau managed Kansas City?

It's unclear whether the shift was deployed by Boudreau or anyone else for the plate appearances when Williams bunted.  It's also unclear whether Williams ever bunted against a shift, Boudreau's extreme or a more conventional.

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