Saunders and Bunting
Last night, Michael Saunders laid down another perfect bunt, getting himself on base for the sixth time this season by bunting for a hit. He’s now tied for the team lead in bunt hits with Ichiro, and he’s only been on the roster for about a month. It’s not like he’s collecting these hits through sheer volume, either – he’s just been successful in reaching base six of the eight times he’s put a bunt down.
Saunders is a good bunter, there’s little doubt about that. He’s also fast and left-handed, which gives him an advantage in getting down the line before the fielder can get the ball to first base. Being able to drop one down for a hit is a nice weapon for him to have.
However, the M’s aren’t grooming him to be another Endy Chavez. He had 30 extra base hits and a .234 ISO in Triple-A when they called him up. There’s power in his bat, even if we haven’t seen it at the major league level yet. This is where my concern comes in. The whole point of having him up here right now is to attempt to evaluate his ability to help the team win next year as the club’s regular left fielder. He’s not going to help the M’s if he doesn’t drive the ball with some regularity, and he can’t do that if he’s bunting once every ten times he comes up to bat.
I’d like to see Wak tell him that he’s proven his point, showed he can get a bunt down, and that they can now trust him to handle himself in a situation if necessary. But, for the rest of the year, they’d like him to try to get the ball into the outfield, and he can feel free to put a ball or two in the stands if he wishes. He needs to learn how to work counts at the big league level, get himself into situations where he can expect a fastball and turn on it. Every time he lays down a bunt, it’s one less opportunity for him to learn how to hit big league pitching.
Being a good bunter is a nice bonus, but his value to the team will come through racking up doubles in the gap. More swings, less bunting please.