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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Williamsport Sun-Gazette: To bunt or not to bunt?

Moneyball comes to the Little League WS.

Not every team utilizes it, but the strategy most often is found in Little League Baseball. And the Little League World Series is no exception.

“You better believe we are going to bunt,” Texas manager Jack Wideman said before the start of the tournament. “If there are runners on first or second base with less than two outs we are going to bunt.”

Not every team buys into the strategy, though. In the wake of Michael Lewis’ book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” many coaches and players have given bunting a second thought.

“We aren’t going to bunt with one out because I think outs are harder to get than anything,” Connecticut manager Bill Meury said before the World Series started. “We won’t give them an out in order to get a runner to second base.”

The book, which focuses around the Oakland Athletics and the team’s use of Sabermetrics - the analysis of baseball using objective evidence such as statistics - has brought the art of bunting into new light and has created criticism from coaches and players at every level of play.

Repoz Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:46 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: little league, sabermetrics

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   1. RMc's desperate, often sordid world Posted: August 23, 2012 at 07:23 AM (#4215527)
“You better believe we are going to bunt,”

Are there Japanese girls pitching?
   2. John DiFool2 Posted: August 23, 2012 at 08:58 AM (#4215570)
What is the average # of runs scored per game in the LLWS? If it is around 3, bunting might make sense, esp. if you have some young phenom throwing 75 MPH heat on the mound.
   3. boteman is not here 'til October Posted: August 23, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4215583)
Is it fair to apply Major League results to Little League play? Maybe bunting is the best for these kids?
   4. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM (#4215651)
It's not fair to apply Little League results to Little League World Series play. It's pretty unlikely that any of the kids you see in Williamsport would ever be asked to bunt before they get to their state tournaments.
   5. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: August 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4215674)
A bun...t?

Maybe bunting is the best for these kids?

Wouldn't it be a useful baseball skill to learn? I mean, little league is about developing skills, right?
   6. McCoy Posted: August 23, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4215701)
When I was a kid you weren't allowed to bunt.
   7. jacjacatk Posted: August 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4215721)
On 60' base paths with typical 12/13 year old fielders, a good quick bunter is probably going to do better than trying to actually get a hit off some of the better pitchers. Of course, that's if he's trying to actually get on, rather than sacrifice. The real problem is the number of youth coaches who think moving a runner over with less than 2 outs is some sort of magic run-generating strategy. Around here, 12/13 is 70'/80' basepaths and 50'/54' mounds, and you're mostly playing on crappy dirt infields against pitchers who don't throw as hard as the studs in the LLWS, so bunting rarely makes sense vs just trying to hit it hard and let the poor field conditions/defense help you out, yet we still see it a lot in "sacrifice situations".
   8. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 23, 2012 at 12:18 PM (#4215805)
Most of the players in the LLWS have already played travel ball on 70', 80', or even 90' diamonds.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4215815)

What is the average # of runs scored per game in the LLWS? If it is around 3, bunting might make sense, esp. if you have some young phenom throwing 75 MPH heat on the mound.


Yea, I don't really have a problem bunting if its a low scoring game in a must-win game scenario. Just like Dave Roberts steal in the ALCS, bunts and steals can be useful strategies if deployed very rarely and at the right moment.

I also have to wonder about the hitting disparities among players. Some of these players may be pretty crummy hitters in comparison to the other players, on the team insetad for their glove, so to get them to bunt would be like asking the pitcher to bunt in an NL game.
   10. PepTech Posted: August 23, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4215981)
must-win game scenario


These tourneys can bring out the worst, sometimes, in sportsmanship. One can often be involved in a (say) 9-0 game in the fourth where the winning team is clearly far superior to some collection of scrubs from a lesser league, and they "pour it on" by stealing home to end it on a mercy rule. Everybody in the stands knew there was no way the other team would ever score a run, let alone 10, but the "winners" want to get off the field and preserve pitchcounts for the next game, so it's all fine. The losing kids mostly don't get to bat twice.
   11. Ron J2 Posted: August 23, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4216042)
#3 Szym has pointed out that an awful lot of what is now stathead conventional wisdom only applies at the highest level.

No idea what the error rate on a bunt in LLWS is but it's certain to be higher than it is in the majors. It's almost certainly a viable play if the kid is a good bunter.
   12. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: August 23, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4216122)
No idea what the error rate on a bunt in LLWS is but it's certain to be higher than it is in the majors. It's almost certainly a viable play if the kid is a good bunter.

Yep. And in LL that isn't LLWS-level, ever so much more so.
When I coached Little League, I had all the kids learn how to bunt. If nothing else, it's a great in-between step for kids who tend to bail out because they're afraid of the ball.
   13. Steve Treder Posted: August 23, 2012 at 07:54 PM (#4216335)
When I coached Little League, I had all the kids learn how to bunt. If nothing else, it's a great in-between step for kids who tend to bail out because they're afraid of the ball.

Learning to bunt is a terrific way to learn to just watch the ball and meet it with the bat. It's a lot like just catching it, receiving it (with the "give" that a good bunter displays) with the meat end of the bat instead of with the glove. It helps to teach pitch recognition and strike zone judgment.
   14. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: August 23, 2012 at 09:01 PM (#4216381)
Learning to bunt is a terrific way to learn to just watch the ball and meet it with the bat.


My son's HS hitting career completely turned around on when he was asked to bunt in a big spot early in his sophomore season (tie game, late innings, first and second nobody out, top of the order on-deck). He tentatively fouled off the first two pitches. Coach kept the bunt on. Three real good takes later, he got a beauty down and not only advanced the runners but nearly beat it out. It was like he learned how to see the ball in that one PA.

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