Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Did Ted Williams try to beat the shift? He bunted at least 14 times: .917 BA.

Ted Williams had only five sacrifice bunts, three in his rookie season, which are not documented, and one in 1940, one in 1947 with his team down four in the bottom of the ninth.

Williams also bunted for singles in 11 of 12 attempts; the direction of one single is not indicated but the other ten were toward third base.  Williams batting average (BA) bunting was .917.  Not all of his plate appearances (PA) are documented, so this is incomplete.  PA documentation:
1939: none
1940, 1941, 1942, 1946: some
1947: more
1948: most; after that almost all PA are documented.

"2,911 plays are missing play-by-play details" - baseball-reference.com

Field location is known for about 550 batted balls, of which these were hit to the left side:
50 left
48 left center
3 shortstop
1 third/short

1940 Bowman Play Ball card
via Wikimedia Commons
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)

His lone non-sac out was in 1956 when he was one for two bunting.  Mickey Mantle beat Williams in BA that season by adding ten points to his BA bunting: 12 for 20.  Mantle had a triple crown in 1956: 52 HR, 130 RBI, .353 BA (Williams .345).  Removing bunts for both:
Williams 137/398=.3442
Mantle 176/513=.343

Williams was one for one in 1949 when George Kell overtook him on the final day in BA and deprived Williams of his third triple crown.  Williams bunted for hits in both his triple crown seasons:
1942: 1 for 1
1947: 2 for 2, plus a sac bunt that should have counted as an AB, which would have made it 2 for 3.

SABR bio
Lou Boudreau
This article was written by Ralph Berger.

In 1942, the Cleveland Indians chose their slow-footed, hard-hitting, slick-fielding 24-year-old shortstop Lou Boudreau to become player-manager of the ballclub...

With all the stars now returned to baseball in 1946, the fans turned out en masse. As usual Ted Williams was tearing up the league. The Indians went into Boston on July 14, for a doubleheader. In the opening game Boudreau went 5-for-5 with four doubles and a homer. Williams went 4-for-5 with three homers, all to right field. The Tribe lost the game, 11-10. Between games Boudreau came up with the famous Williams shift. When Williams came to bat with the bases empty, Boudreau yelled, "Yo," and all the fielders shifted to the right side of the field. Williams laughed, got back in the box, and promptly grounded out to Boudreau, playing in the second baseman's position. It wasn’t the first time a shift had been employed, but against a star of Ted Williams’ magnitude, it captured attention...

Though the Williams shift was a success, its origins are unclear. In Great Baseball Feats, Facts and Firsts, David Nemec says it was used against another player named Williams, Ken Williams of the St. Louis Browns. Rob Neyer argues that the shift was used some years earlier, against Cy Williams of the Phillies. And finally, Glenn Stout, editor of Great American Sportswriting, says that Jimmie Dykes, manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1941, was the first to use a shift against Ted Williams. In any case, left-handed-hitting Williamses seem to have cornered the market on shifts.

We have two times suggested for when a team may have started to shift against Ted Williams:
- July 14, 1946 in Boston by Lou Boudreau, manager of the Cleveland Indians
- 1941 by Jimmy Dykes, manager of the Chicago White Sox.

How about this:

Tuesday, May 5, 1942, Fenway Park
Attendance: 10,104, Time of Game: 2:13
Red Sox 13, Indians 3

Bottom of the 6th, Red Sox Batting, Ahead 10-2, Indians' Clint Brown facing 3-4-5
BOS T. Williams against C. Brown Single to 3B/Bunt

Right hander Clint Brown pitched in the AL from 1928 to 1942; he was 38 when Williams bunted on him.

That was Boudreau's first season managing Cleveland.  Did Boudreau employ the shift with Williams leading off and Boston leading by 8?  Beats me.  Why would Williams bunt, especially in that situation?  If done today, it might be interpreted by some as a breach of some unwritten protocol.  It does suggest that Williams may not have been as stubborn as he is usually presented and may have bunted and/or hit to left more than we think.

July 18, 1940 with no outs Williams had a sacrifice bunt off lefty Tom Seats of Detroit in the bottom of the 11th advancing runners to second and third.

July 29, 1947 bunt single to 3B off Ed Klieman of Cleveland; bottom 9th, two outs, down 5-1.

Sept. 9, 1947 bunt single to 3B off Virgil Trucks of Detroit, bottom 1st, two out, advancing Dom DiMaggio to second; 0-0.

Sept. 20, 1947 one out sacrifice bunt P-1B against Early Wynn of Washington advancing Johnny Pesky to second; down 6-2 bottom 9th.  Why was Williams credited with a sac?

July 6, 1948 1st inning: Single to LF; Pesky to 2B; bunt single to 3B off Yankee Frank Hiller,  bottom 3, one out, leading 2-0.  Aug. 8, 1948 Triple (LF-CF) off Hiller; Dom DiMaggio Scores.

June 29, 1949 Single to 3B/Bunt, off Yankee Cuddles Marshall  bottom 2, two outs, ahead 4-1

Another possible bunt that needs to be verified: I'm reading a book based on notebooks Red Rolfe kept while managing the Tigers.  He notes in this game in 1949-http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1949/B07160DET1949.htm
that Ted Williams bunted against the shift and beat out a single in the fourth (we (retrosheet.org) don't currently show it as a bunt.)

Cliff Blau

July 8, 1950 Single to 3B/Bunt, off Yankee Vic Raschi, 2-2, top 6; Only bunt on road.

July 22, 1951 Single to 3B/Bunt, White Sox Randy Gumpert, down 3-1, bottom 3

Aug. 20, 1954 Single to 3B/Bunt; Billy Goodman to 2B off Yankee Bob Grim, no out, 0-0, bottom 1. Williams batted second.  Really.

Aug. 6, 1956 Bunt groundout P-1B off Yankee Ralph Terry, no out, bottom 6, down 4-1

Aug. 22, 1956 Single to 3B/Bunt off White Sox lefty Billy Pierce, two out, bottom 4, leading 3-2

Sept. 24, 1958 Single/Bunt off Yankee Duke Maas, two out, bottom 1, down 3-0

July 24, 1960 Single to 3B/Bunt off Indian Gary Bell, no out, bottom 1, down 3-2

Somebody tell Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira:

Real men bunt ... and hit homers.  Monday, May 12, 2014

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.

Ted Williams bunts: why almost exclusively at home?  Wednesday, September 3, 2014

1 comment:

Cliff Blau said...

Williams also bunted for a hit in the 1946 World Series.

The thing with Boudreau's shift is that it was more radical than the ordinary shift. The left fielder was the only player on the left side as the four infielders and the center and right fielders were all on the right side. No body shifts like that any more.