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Sunday, May 09, 2021

Dave Roberts baffled by Angels’ blowout bunt attempt, but play helps Dodgers snap losing skid in wild game

To set the scene: the Angels were down by 13 in the fifth inning when right fielder Taylor Ward came to the plate with a runner on first and one out in the frame. Ward push-bunted the first pitch he saw to the right side of the infield. First baseman Max Muncy, the only fielder located on that side because of the overshift, corralled the ball easily and threw to second base for the force out. The Dodgers, for their part, were less-than-amused by Ward’s attempt at beating the shift.

As SB Nation’s Eric Stephen pointed out, Kershaw could be seen on the television broadcast motioning to the scoreboard while telling his dugout “That’s so stupid.” The broadcast then cut to Roberts, who also appeared to disagree with the bunt call, albeit in terms that were harder to make out through lip reading. Roberts later confirmed as much in his post-game presser, saying, “It’s just not a good baseball play, any way you slice it,” again according to Stephen.

Obviously Ward’s bunt didn’t do the Angels much good—he would be stranded at first base after the next batter, Jose Rojas, popped out to shortstop—but it’s rare to see an opponent so animated over what they deem to be a suboptimal tactical decision. If anything, the Dodgers should’ve been thrilled that Ward made a quick, easy out that kept the blowout moving.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 09, 2021 at 09:56 PM | 33 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, dodgers

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   1. Bhaakon Posted: May 09, 2021 at 10:57 PM (#6017971)
The unwritten rules about cutting out the tedious gamesmanship in a blowout are 100% fine with me. I don't need to see a parade of pinch hitters or relief pitchers jockeying for matchups, endless steal attempts and pickoff throws, 30 seconds between pitches, etc when one team is up but double digits. And a sac bunt is almost always dumb, blowout or not.

But once you run an extreme shift, you lose the ability to complain about a guy trying to bunt for a hit. If you want to argue that the other team needs to stop trying hard, the same goes for you.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2021 at 11:27 PM (#6017973)
I presume he was trying to bunt for a base hit and just didn't get it far enough to Muncy's right. That wouldn't make it a suboptimal tactical decision. Quite the opposite.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: May 09, 2021 at 11:41 PM (#6017974)
Yep, they needed runners, that sounds like a pretty high probability play to me.

Back in the dark ages when Kingman was on the Cubs, he was regularly ripped in the press for not getting runners home from 3rd with <2 outs. One time in that situation, he decided to lay down a bunt toward third. Not a great bunt but, as usual, the 3B was positioned somewhere in Kenosha for his own safety and it was an easy one to beat out. Unfortunately the runner seemed more suprised than anybody and didn't advance. Commence ripping Kingman for stupidly bunting.
   4. Tin Angel Posted: May 10, 2021 at 12:51 AM (#6017976)
I am trying to figure out why on earth the Dodgers would care.
   5. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: May 10, 2021 at 07:19 AM (#6017980)
Down 15 is one of the few times that a single is almost as good as a home run.
   6. DanG Posted: May 10, 2021 at 08:18 AM (#6017986)
And if the bunt attempt distracts the Dodgers' focus from playing baseball, that's also a plus for the Angels.
   7. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 10, 2021 at 08:28 AM (#6017989)
I didn't get the impression Kershaw and Roberts were offended by some violation of unwritten rules, they just thought it was really dumb.

And I'm with SoSH. I think he pretty clearly trying to bunt for a hit, it just didn't work.
   8. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:00 AM (#6017994)
1) One of the oldest cliches in the book is when a team is down by a bunch of runs, and the announcer says, "right now, the team just needs to get some baserunners." This is clearly bunting for a hit, not to sacrifice.
2) If you are going to go into a significant defensive shift, then why wouldn't the other team try to take advantage of that shift? If you are going to keep trying, then your opponent is going to keep trying.
3) And speaking of "trying"...it is the 5th inning of the game. People seem to forget that "baseball" is a sport, but "Major League Baseball" is entertainment. The only reason there are professional leagues, money for legit salaries, TV contracts, companies willing to shell out money for advertising, etc., is because enough people want to watch the product on the field. If teams are basically mailing it in during a game like this in the 5th inning (you have teams this year who have actually used multiple positions players as pitchers in the same game, for example, and teams using position players in the 7th inning of a 10-run game), then should the sport openly talk about some kind of mercy rule?

Double-headers are already being trimmed to 7 innings per game; extra inning games start with a runner in scoring position; the cutlure appears to be quickly changing relating to waving the white flag with position players as pitchers; and teams are more concerned than ever with limiting pitchers' workloads. Would teams be open to a mercy rule? Would fans?
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6017997)
But once you run an extreme shift, you lose the ability to complain about a guy trying to bunt for a hit. If you want to argue that the other team needs to stop trying hard, the same goes for you.

Right. WTF are you still shifting up 13 runs?
   10. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:55 AM (#6017999)
I guess I don't get why you'd stop shifting? This is the big leagues, you keep trying until the game is over. No one's feelings should be hurt. Teams have made large comebacks before.
   11. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:57 AM (#6018000)
Crybabies. Stop shifting. Take Kershaw out of the game if the game is over.

   12. bunyon Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:57 AM (#6018001)
10: Right, but if you get to keep trying, so do they.

I didn't think the reaction was "Gee, that was stupid". Kershaw seemed genuinely angry to me. He seems that way often to me on the mound. He is emotionally engaged in the game.

I would love to see players bunt against the shift more. They should practice it because it's a giant free base just sitting there for a lot of these guys. If you really can hit 40 HR, cool. If you can't, get your ass on base.

It should also be noted that the final margin of this game was 3 runs.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 11:55 AM (#6018022)
I guess I don't get why you'd stop shifting? This is the big leagues, you keep trying until the game is over. No one's feelings should be hurt. Teams have made large comebacks before.

As Bunyon was saying the Dodgers wanted to keep trying, but got angry when the Angels did the same. That's BS. If the game is over and you want the Angels to lie down, you better stop the shifts, and tell your pitchers to just throw strikes.
   14. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 10, 2021 at 12:59 PM (#6018034)
Bunyon in #12 made me just look at the boxscore of this game - this is actually pretty crazy:

- It was 13-0 in the bottom of the 5th, when this bunt occurred. Actually, it was 13-0 entering the bottom of the 6th.
- The final score was...14-11! It was 13-4 after 6 innings; 14-11 after 7 innings; and then the Dodgers put their top set up guy and closer for the final two innings, after f'ing around in the 6th and 7th with the back of their bullpen. They took Kershaw out after 5 innings and 71 pitches.

The way this game went after the 5th inning is insane:
- In the bottom of the 5th, up 8-0, the Dodgers took out Mookie Betts.
- In the top of the 6th, the Angles took out Mike Trout.

So, you went to this intra-city game featuring the two best players in baseball, and by the top of the 6th inning...both players were out of the game. This is insane.

- Also in the top of the 6th, Justin Upton is taken out.
- In the bottom of the 6th, the Dodgers take out Justin Turner, as well as Kershaw.

So now the three biggest names in the game are out by the 6th inning.

- In the top of the 7th, 13-4 Dodgers, they take out Corey Seager.

It is 13-4 entering the bottom of the 7th for the Angels. The first two guy are out. Two outs, nobody on, nine-run deficit. Then...

Error, single, double, single, single, single, home run. Next seven guy up, all scored. 14-11. Inning ends on a strikeout.

The game ends 14-11, but two of the six guys who made an out in those final two innings for the Angels?

The two guys who replaced Trout and Upton.

I don't know what to do with this game, after seeing all this. I think it is crazy that you have a game that stars Trout, Betts, and Kershaw (at least the Angles didn't take out Ohtani) gets less than two-thirds of the way through, and all are out due to "white flag waving". Everybody is giving up on the game - and it ends up being wildly interesting at the end, but the stars are not in the game at the end, when the result was in doubt.

If this was the NBA, this would have been like a Lakers/Clippers game, with Kawhi Leonard vs Lebron James & Anthony Davis, "Battle of Los Angeles", promoted for several days on TV, lots of hype, etc. This Dodgers/Angels game had none of that. Also, if the NBA game was a blowout in the first half, and the teams took their stars out, and then it got close late in the third quarter...LeBron, Kawhi, and Athony would have been put back in the game.

Same thing with the NFL: The quarterback is going to play until at least the beginning of the 4th quarter, no matter what the score is. And if it got crazy after they came out, they'd put the starter back in (I saw this with Tom Brady multiple times over the years).

And worst of all, the NBA and NFL carry far greater chances of injury on a given play or game than MLB. Because there is no game clock, crazy sh*t like the Angels scoring 11 runs *after taking out their best player* can happen, but when you take out Betts or Trout, you can't bring them back in. So the idea that Dave Roberts, after a game in which the Angels came close to winning, would say anything snarky about the strategy or effort level of the other team, is almost as bizarre as this game was.
   15. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 01:03 PM (#6018036)
I'm a biased Angels fan, so take my comments with a grain of salt if you'd like, but this strikes me as petty and shortsighted on the Dodgers' part.

Of course he was bunting for a hit against the shift, and it makes sense for any number of reasons. First, this is Taylor Ward, who is simply trying to stay in the big leagues. If he can show that he can get on base consistently with smart play, that can only help his cause. Second, this makes much more sense in a blowout than in a close game. If this is something Ward has been working on, you'd rather him hone his bunting skill in a low leverage situation. Third, and most importantly, if the Dodgers are shifting in a blowout (i.e. implementing what they consider optimal defensive tactics), it makes no sense to be upset when their opponent employs tactics as countermeasures. As others have said, if the Dodgers are trying, there should be no issue with the Angels trying, and trying to come back from a 13-run deficit (which the Angels almost did, by the way - the game ended up 14 - 11) involves getting as many baserunners on as possible.

Personally, I agree with Bunyon - I want to see more bunts against the shift. They're fun to see, and hopefully they'll force teams to reconsider their shifting strategies.
   16. sunday silence (again) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 01:45 PM (#6018043)
Didnt someone score all the way from first base on a shift/bunt a day or two ago?
   17. Snowboy Posted: May 10, 2021 at 02:06 PM (#6018048)
Yeah Gleyber Torres vs HOU. link
   18. bunyon Posted: May 10, 2021 at 02:24 PM (#6018050)
17: That's hilarious.
   19. SoSH U at work Posted: May 10, 2021 at 03:00 PM (#6018060)

Didnt someone score all the way from first base on a shift/bunt a day or two ago?

Everyone's favorite also did that once, with no shift required.
   20. vortex of dissipation Posted: May 10, 2021 at 03:01 PM (#6018061)
Didnt someone score all the way from first base on a shift/bunt a day or two ago?


In 1970, Willie Mays scored from first base on a bunt against the shift by Willie McCovey. This is Jon Miller's recollection:

“Mays got on first base with two down and they went into the big shift for McCovey as they often did,” Miller said. “Willie went ahead and laid down a bunt down the third base side and he bunted it hard enough that it went right down the line past third base and into left field and Mays scored from first on a bunt. McCovey ended up with a double. To this day, it was the most outstanding thing I’ve ever seen in a baseball game.”

He's got it right, except that there was only one out - May 3, 1970, in the first inning against the Phillies. Here's the box score and play-by-play. I wish there was video of this...
   21. Rally Posted: May 10, 2021 at 03:36 PM (#6018078)
The game ends 14-11, but two of the six guys who made an out in those final two innings for the Angels?

The two guys who replaced Trout and Upton.


That's mitigated to some extent that the guys who replaced them each reached base twice and scored 2 runs before they made those late outs. Sure, you'd rather take your chances with Mike Trout than Jon Jay, but even Trout is not likely to better a 2 for 3 effort. As far as Upton goes, he may have a lot more power but he's an out machine. If you want to keep a rally going, the replacement is probably an even bet or a slight improvement.
   22. Rally Posted: May 10, 2021 at 03:38 PM (#6018080)
I think the more amazing thing was that the Angels got only 4 innings from their starter yesterday, he left with a 2-1 lead, and the bullpen actually was able to hold it despite no more scoring.
   23. Hombre Brotani Posted: May 10, 2021 at 04:32 PM (#6018111)
I think the more amazing thing was that the Angels got only 4 innings from their starter yesterday
That 4 IP, 1-run outing was Quintana's second-best outing all year. In six starts, he's only had four 1-2-3 innings. That seems insanely low.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 10, 2021 at 04:37 PM (#6018113)
That 4 IP, 1-run outing was Quintana's second-best outing all year. In six starts, he's only had four 1-2-3 innings. That seems insanely low.

It's hard to put up a 9.00 ERA if you're getting 1-2-3 innings.
   25. BillWallace Posted: May 10, 2021 at 07:19 PM (#6018142)
Good write-up Steve B. Agreed with all.
   26. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 10, 2021 at 07:38 PM (#6018148)
I didn't get the impression Kershaw and Roberts were offended by some violation of unwritten rules, they just thought it was really dumb.
I suspect Roberts was just backing up his star pitcher, who was irritated (without justification) that someone dared to bunt on him.
   27. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 10, 2021 at 07:50 PM (#6018151)
That's mitigated to some extent that the guys who replaced them each reached base twice and scored 2 runs before they made those late outs. Sure, you'd rather take your chances with Mike Trout than Jon Jay, but even Trout is not likely to better a 2 for 3 effort. As far as Upton goes, he may have a lot more power but he's an out machine. If you want to keep a rally going, the replacement is probably an even bet or a slight improvement.


It's true that the replacements ended up contributing to the comeback, but my larger point of the whole thing is that baseball's entertainment value is under serious assault by the confluence of a number of factors - including some that the sport could address. On paper, are there, say, 20 regular-season games this year that will have more marquee value than one where Mookie Betts and Mike Trout are playing each other, Shohei Ohtani is in the game, and Clayton Kershaw is a starting pitcher? And Betts, Trout, and Kershaw are all gone by the 6th inning? MLB keeps throwing up all over its feet, as it relates to public relations, marketing, and competing with the NFL and NBA.
   28. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 10, 2021 at 09:50 PM (#6018179)
Years ago the Sox were getting squished. They pulled Nomar from the game (I said it was years ago). Well, wouldn’t you know they came back and in the ninth the tie run came up and it was Donnie Sadler or someone like that who was promptly retired to end the game. The interesting part of it is that Jimy Williams had gotten tossed but then got suspended because he admitted he made the call from the clubhouse to lift Nomar because he didn’t want the acting manager to get the heat.
   29. The Duke Posted: May 10, 2021 at 10:33 PM (#6018189)
Shouldn’t the Dodgers just worry about winning a game once in a while. They shouldn’t preen when they are playing .500 ball.
   30. depletion Posted: May 10, 2021 at 10:41 PM (#6018191)
Back in the dark ages when Kingman was on the Cubs, he was regularly ripped in the press for not getting runners home from 3rd with <2 outs. One time in that situation, he decided to lay down a bunt toward third.

I remember Kingman being thought of as a pretty good bunter during his time(s) with the Mets. And, yes, the third baseman was out over the Long Island Sound, which made bunting a decent percentage play.
   31. I Knew A Guy Who Knew A Guy Who Knew Rey Ordonez Posted: May 11, 2021 at 12:31 PM (#6018265)
Years ago the Sox were getting squished. They pulled Nomar from the game (I said it was years ago). Well, wouldn’t you know they came back and in the ninth the tie run came up and it was Donnie Sadler or someone like that who was promptly retired to end the game. The interesting part of it is that Jimy Williams had gotten tossed but then got suspended because he admitted he made the call from the clubhouse to lift Nomar because he didn’t want the acting manager to get the heat.


Would it be this game?
   32. GregD Posted: May 11, 2021 at 12:36 PM (#6018266)
Kingman is such a fascinating player. He seemed out of step with his era when he played....but would be more out of step today given his reluctance to walk. So he's a weird slugger who couldn't play much in this era. Think he had the reputation as a reasonably fast guy when he was young who was a star wide receiver in high school and pitched into college. Had a justifiably terrible defensive reputation by the later years but was a surprisingly adequate third baseman as a younger man. He didn't get fat, just didn't seem to give a #### in the field. I knew a guy who followed the Giants who thought Kingman was one of their greatest prospects, which can't be true. But he could hit the ball nine miles when he connected. The only guy ahead of him on the career AB per HR list who faced a comparable hitting environment would be Harmon Killebrew
   33. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: May 11, 2021 at 01:10 PM (#6018272)
31 - That looks right. Fits the basic elements of my story with a few old guy gets details wrong thrown in for good measure.

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