The bases loaded bunt

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

When you think of the sacrifice bunt, you think about weak hitting middle infielders with runners on first and second with nobody out. Sometimes, things are a little less predictable.

Generally speaking, baseball fans and analysts who welcome advanced statistics have a less favorable opinion of sacrifice bunting than those who favor traditional statistics. We vary in how much we abhor the practice of giving up an out to advance a runner, and some will rightly argue that there are circumstances in which laying down a sacrifice bunt makes sense.

When you have a weak hitter at the plate and runners on first and second and no outs, you can definitely get on board with a bunt. When the bases are loaded with one out, a sacrifice bunt makes less sense. Curiously, during the 2013 season Baseball-Reference identifies four such bases loaded bunts (all with one out).

Despite, Baseball-Reference's seeming omniscience, they characterize a sacrifice bunt attempt as any bunt attempt that occurs with runners on base and fewer than two outs. It seems outrageous that we'd see an actual sacrifice attempt with the bases loaded. These are squeeze bunts or bunts for a hit gone wrong, one would assume. Let's investigate.

Marwin Gonzalez, April 13 - Top 7, Ahead 3-1

Bunt0001_2

This one is simple. On the previous offering, Gonzalez took a pitch outside. Here, they Astros put on a squeeze. He gave himself up to score a run, which is something about which few people could argue.

Alcides Escobar, June 17 - Top 9, Ahead 2-1

Bunt0002_1_medium

It's not entirely clear what Escobar was doing here. He, like Gonzalez, took the first pitch of the at bat away, but then he lays down a bunt that didn't seem to accomplish much. Based on his body language, it appears to be a bunt for a hit, but if that was the plan it was extremely poorly executed. If it was a safety squeeze, it was also quite poorly executed. Turns out, this one was on the runner, from Dick Kaegal's recap at MLB.com.

The Royals tried to catch the Indians off guard with a suicide squeeze but instead Cain, the runner at third base, was caught off guard. He didn't hear the verbal sign for squeeze play from third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez. So when Alcides Escobar bunted, Cain was surprised, enabling third baseman John McDonald to field the bunt and force him out at the plate.

Jarrod Dyson, August 27 - Top 8, Ahead 1-0

Bunt0003_1_medium

Dyson appears to legitimately be bunting for a hit. He is lightning fast and dropped down a terrific bunt, so again, no complaint here. The camera angle doesn't show the baserunner very well, but he appears to be reacting to the bunt rather than coming on the pitch when you look at the replay.

Bunt0004_1_medium

Logan Schafer, September 17 - Bottom 9, Tied 3-3

Bunt0005_1_medium

Schafer looks at a ball and a strike and then lays down a walk off squeeze. No complaint here, especially because the value of that run was really obvious.

I didn't really expect to find anything terribly egregious. A number of managers bunt too often, but they don't sacrifice with the bases loaded. This is less about strategy and more about wondering why teams don't deploy this tactic a little more often. It seems surprising that we only had four such bunts in 2013 despite the fact that it was a smashing success twice and a solid outcome a third time. Only Escobar really messes it up, and that's because the runner missed the sign. It probably would have worked otherwise.

With the bases loaded and one out, teams aren't typically looking for a bunt. Much like trying to beat the shift, teams might be able to deploy the bunt quite effectively here. If nothing else, doing it on occasion would keep the other team honest, drawing their corner infielders in and out of position.

You probably won't find many of these in 2014 (only 21 non-pitchers have done so since 2008), but as teams look for little chances to get ahead, bunting with the bases loaded might be a small way for teams to get a leg up.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, a contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.

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