Wakamatsu Likes To Bunt
As I’m sure you’ve all noticed, the Mariners are bunting more this year, as part of Don Wakamatsu’s effort to get the team to play a different style of offense. With a sub-par lineup, he has less incentive to let guys swing away, and so the team has turned to small ball in the first few weeks of the season.
But we’re not just bunting more than we used to – we’re bunting more than anyone else used to, either. Take a look at the AL Leaderboard for bunts. The Mariners have laid down 13 bunts so far this year, 22% of the entire American League total. The Twins are second with seven bunts. They haven’t always been sacrifice attempts, as we saw with the Gutierrez squeeze last night and the Chavez bunt the day before, but the M’s still lead the league in sac bunts with nine. The Angels are second in the league… with four.
The Mariners are on pace to lay down 191 bunts this year, 133 of which would be sacrifices. Last year, the Twins laid down 182 bunts to lead the league, but only 52 of those were sacrifice bunts, and the second most frequent bunters were the Royals with 106 attempts (and only 32 sac bunts). The Twins center fielder, Carlos Gomez, laid down 73 bunts by himself, and almost all of them were of the bunt-for-a-hit variety. The two bunt happy franchises last year were not moving runners over, but were trying to get themselves on base.
In the American League last year, the average team laid down 34 sacrifice bunts. At their current pace, the M’s will match that sometime in May.
This is small ball on steroids. The Mariners are bunting circles around the rest of the American League. It’s exciting for fans to watch, especially when the team is winning, but it’s not a very good long term offensive strategy. I’ve been impressed by a lot of the things that Wak has done, but if there’s one thing that we’d have to consider something of a concern through 11 games, this is it.