I stayed up late and watched the last Twins' game till its conclusion Wednesday night. That was the one in which they prevailed, 2 to 1 over the Indians, in sixteen innings. Neither team scored till the fourteenth inning, when, after Edwin Encarnacion gave the Indians the lead with a solo homer in the top half of the inning, Miguel Sano retied it for the Twins with one of his own in the bottom half. The Twins then won in the sixteenth: a single by Eddie Rosario, an error on a double play ball off the bat of Logan Morrison, and another single by Ryan LaMarre. LaMarre has been a nice story so far for the Twins. I don't think he could have been expected to make the roster, but he had the highest batting average of any Twin during spring training, and now he's batting .583 (7-for-12) in the regular season. Earlier in the game he had struck out with the winning run on third base and one out, but he bounced back and got a couple of hits after that, including the game-winner. I am surprised now to see that he's 6-1, 210 pounds. Put that in your spot memory in case you ever see him standing next to Miguel Sano.
The exciting part of a game like that one is all the scoring threats that in the end fail to generate a single run. Three times in extra innings--or maybe one was in the eighth or ninth inning, I can't remember for sure--the Indians failed to score after getting their lead-off batter to second base with no outs. In each instance, the second batter tried to bunt the runner over to third base, but the attempted sacrifice was never successfully executed and the Twins escaped each time without allowing a run. This failure was the predictable occasion for disquisitions from ESPN's announcers on the sorry state of fundamental skills possessed by the modern big-leaguer. They carried on and on and eventually I conceived of some complaints of my own. For example, does it make very much sense to call for a sacrifice bunt in the situation the Indians were in? The calculation is obviously that you have a much better chance of scoring a run with a runner on third and one out, compared to a runner on second and no outs. Is that really true? I'm sure a sabermetrician could answer, but even if more runners score from third with one out than from second with none, the chance of a failed sacrifice has to enter into the calculation, too: instead of giving up an out to move along a runner, you might just give up an out--that's what the Indians did three times on Wednesday. Moreover, they were the visiting team, so, as Sano proved in the fourteenth inning, one run wasn't for them necessarily decisive. Maybe a runner on third with one out is more likely to score than a runner on second with no outs, but, if you want to score more than once, it's plain which scenario is preferable.
Finally, if it's so obvious that these guys can't bunt, why insist that they try? Teach them first. You're trying to win the game, right? So don't ask a bad bunter to bunt. I can understand why they might be bad bunters. Every one of them has until they got to the major leagues been one of the top hitters on every team they've been on, and you don't ask your best hitters to bunt. It reminds me of a friend of mine who went to medical school and, on his first day at the hospital, became a big joke with the nurses on account of his abject horror at the prospect of having to draw blood from a patient. He had a lot going for him but why did they suppose he'd be able to draw blood?
Unless the guy can bunt, swing away. It might be the best strategy for a good bunter, too.