2013 MLB Draft Prep: Moving Up The Runners

Jonathan Gray Hit The Century Mark This Weekend - Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE

Some people hate bunting, as it ruins big innings. Do players bunt too much?

There is a fifteen-minute stretch of baseball I wish we could find on YouTube. I'm sure Bud's people would let it stay on for at least a decade. Maybe longer. Maybe until he retires. Here is the boxscore, but don't look yet, not until after you read this play-by-play.

The Mets led the Cubs by 3½ games in late July 1984, but the Cubs were looking like a solid team, in it for the long haul. On this nationally-televised Saturday game in Shea Stadium, extra base hits by Leon Durham and Ryne Sandberg had staked the Cubs to a 3-2 lead into the home seventh. With one out in the Mets seventh, Bob Dernier dropped a routine fly by Mike Fitzgerald to score a run. After Rick Sutcliffe walked the next hitter, he was pulled for Lee Smith, a closer entering in the seventh inning. (Yes, they did that in those days. Often.)

Bad things tended to happen in Flushing Meadows to the Cubs. I was dreading what would happen next, but a liner to Durham became an inning ending double play, and the Cubs came to bat in the eighth. Sandberg led off with a single and moved up on a wild pitch. Gary Matthews singled Sandberg to third, and Durham's single put runners at first and second. You make the call. Up a run in the eighth, Henry Cotto came in to run for Matthews with Keith Moreland stepping to the plate. Bunt? Swing away? Hit and run?

Moreland bunted, and Mets pitcher Doug Sisk airmailed a throw to first while slipping on his wallet. The Cubs won the game 11-4 on the strength of an eight-run eighth inning. After that game, much of my stress for the regular season was gone. The Cubs could win in Shea.

***

How much should players bunt? In college, I think bunts are called far too often. Obviously, the "numbers" indicate bunting is usually a horrible idea. But, do the numbers go far enough? The premise is, you are assuming a bunt will move up the runners and add an out. How accurate is that assumption? Part of bunting so much in college is that defense can be shaky. Even before mentioning Matt Garza, you've already thought of a string of butchered bunt plays. I grew up watching Rod Carew, who could bunt so well, he could leg it out on a bad-knee day.

Has anyone ever run a comprehensive bunt study? What percentage of the time does the defense screw up? You'd have to stagger the results between pitchers, bad bunting hitters, good bunting hitters, and the like. Bunting to move the runner up is usually bad strategy. That said, in the above situation, not only did the bunt help win the game, it helped break the Mets' resolve.

I think bunting should be a practice in the minors for all players. Not all the time, mind you. But if Jorge Soler is going to be a complete big leaguer, it might be wise to have him bunt eight or ten times per year in games in the minor leagues. If he gets it done, he proves a point. If he requests time, and asks the third base coach why he was just asked to bunt, he gets included in a trade for an ace-style pitcher. The goal in the NL Central ought to be to win games. At some point, Soler or Starlin Castro might be in a bunting situation. A pre-season tourney doesn't make you a solid bunter. No, I'm not calling for Castro to move runners along very often. But if there are no outs, moving the runner up by any means possible can be a good thing.

***

That dull thud you may have just heard was Ryne Stanek's value hitting the floor. Stanek isn't considered injured, but unless he starts running the table with good outings against Southeastern Conference foes, he'll soon be out of the first ten. If he hasn't already. Stanek didn't survive the fifth in an Arkansas win, and may be looking more like a reliever type now, though I'm not hearing chatter to that extent yet.

UNLV took advantage of a three-error inning to defeat Mark Appel and Stanford 3-2, but Appel fanned 15 over seven innings. I'll mention Stanek still, but even as an Appel doubter (on ball-movement) his numbers are impressive.

After two weeks off due to weather delays, Indiana State's Sean Manaea had a solid start against a ranked Mercer team, winning a 10-2 decision. Manaea fanned eight and walked two over six innings.

One to add to your list is included this week. You knew it would happen. In Oklahoma's 4-0 win over UCLA, Jonathan Gray was the buzz this weekend by being clocked at 100 miles per hour on his fastball. I doubt he leaps past the other two pitchers, but he merits mention here.

New Mexico's DJ Peterson had a big double-header against UC Riverside on Saturday. In the opener, he was 5-for-5 with two homers. In the nightcap, he walked five times, homering the other trip. He might not survive the first round.

Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier oppose each other in a high school game this upcoming week. No word on a webcast, but expect pictures and videos next week either way. The pair expected to go in or around the top five picks live five miles from each other in Georgia. Frazier is more polished, Meadows is more raw, with higher upside. I lean toward preferring the lefty-hitting Meadows, though solid arguments exist for both.

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