Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why are the Cardinals still bunting?

Remember earlier when I said that Matheny hasn’t made many wise moves?  This is the sort of thing I’m talking about.

7th inning and you’re up a run, 0 out and a runner at first (David Freese for the record).  The Dodgers go to a lefty to counteract Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso coming up.  Matheny pinch hits Pete Kozma for Skip Schumaker.  Kozma, for the record, was a very reviled and derided first round pick in 2007.  He plays SS and fields his position well, and was probably going to replace Skip for defensive purposes later in the game anyways.  He’s not a great hitter by any stretch, but he’s on a decent streak right now (7/20 for the month), and he is probably a safer bet against the lefty coming in than Schumaker.


He tries to drop down a bunt.  Not once, but twice.  Fouls both off.  Winds up lining into a DP.  While I’m not nearly as upset at the end result as you’d think, I’m just upset at the methods that it came to.  I have a few reasons why.  Care to indulge me?  Why thank you!  You’re so sweet.  Remind me to buy you chocolates for your next birthday.  Anyways, here we go:

1) If you’re going to pinch hit, you should go up there to hit.  Not burn an out intentionally.  If you were going to do that, why not let Skip try there?  It changes nothing really, both ways are close to wasting an out, and Skip probably would have hit it on the ground (if he did at all) and potentially at least would have resulted in a runner on base somewhere.

2) If you were planning to waste an out, at least put Beltran up in that spot.  He has some power and his bat looks lately like it is returning to life.  If Beltran could have put you in a position to score multiple runs with the one AB he is probably going to get, might as well do it when you first get the chance.

3) The pitcher is fresh into the game and I think you’re more likely to get at a reliever when he is first inserted and trying to find the strike zone and gauge his stuff, especially early in the count.

4) The team as a whole, position players and pitchers included, have looked terrible at bunting this year, and I don’t think this is the time to be trying to bunt often.  If they want to bunt, they need to do a lot more bunting drills.  I would rather that time be used to increase their ability to hit for power, but if Mike is going to pull an Ozzie Guillen and try for small ball all the time, at least practice it more.

It wouldn’t be as bad if it was the first time in the same game that he tried something like this.  First two men reach in the 6th (score was tied at this point), Matt Carpenter facing a tiring Joe Blanton.  Matt Carpenter is a left handed hitter, who in utility plus play (not really an everyday guy but not a bench rider either) is hitting 303/368/496 for a tidy 135 OPS+ entering play.  He doesn’t make an out at a very good 36.8% of the time.  And, in a big spot with Holliday and Craig coming up behind him, he calls for the bunt TWICE.  Again, both failed and Carpenter ended up striking out.  Holliday hit into a forceout, so now with 2 outs and 2 on (only one in scoring position), Craig had to come through with a hit to score.  Of course he did because Allen Craig is an awesome hitter, but trying to take the bat out of Carpenter’s hands like that seemed to be a bad idea from the go.  In 310 PA in the bigs, Carpenter has never had a sac hit.  This didn’t seem like a good time to get his first.

All in all, two spots in a crucial game against the Dodgers that could have been used to set up for a big inning were ruined because Matheny had to play small ball.  It’s called small for a reason, you don’t score many runs.  I really hope they start swinging the bats like they should soon.  This team is too talented on offense to be relying on those tactics.

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