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The Fascination With Bunting Has to End

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The Fascination With Bunting Has to End

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There's something satisfying about watching a team play far from their best and still pull out a convincing 8-4 win over their closest divisional rivals.

It is less satisfying watching the same team try their best to make sure that convincing win never happens. Thanks to Elvis Andrus and Ron Washington, the Rangers pulled off both these things in the same game.

Andrus tried two sacrifice bunts on Monday night in situations that call for line dancing as much as they call for bunting. The idea, according to Washington, was to get runners in scoring position for Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. 

"I had my two big hitters coming up in Josh and Michael and I wanted to give them a shot to swing the bat with as many runners in scoring position as possible," Washington said. "It just so happened to work out perfectly. If Elvis hadn't been up there, it might have been different."

Here's the thing, Wash: Hitters like Hamilton, Young and Nelson Cruz don't need you to get the runner over to third with one out to get them home. That's for teams without thunder in the middle of the lineup or for moments in the game when getting one run will make all the difference in the world. That was not the case on Monday night.

Andrus' first bunt came with the Rangers down one in the third inning and Ian Kinsler on second. It worked, assuming you consider trading an out for a fairly meaningless base working. One run does not make a significant difference at that point in the game and Andrus' bunt actually made the Rangers less likely to win the game according to Baseball Reference because Kinsler wasn't much more likely to score from third as he was from second. Clearly a bunt is not the right call in those circumstances.

The second bunt, with two on and none out in the fifth, was even worse. With the aforementioned thunder waiting in the wings, that's a place to go for the jugular not to nickel and dime your way through an inning. It wound up being a big inning because Hisanori Takahashi airmailed the throw to first after fielding the bunt, but it wasn't the intended outcome of Washington's decision.

But, wait, what about the fact that the Angels made an error because the Rangers forced the pitcher to field the ball and make a throw? Surely that must make it a better move, right? 

There's something to be said for making the defense earn their outs. If you're going to wax rhapsodic about a throwing error, though, you'd best hold your tongue the next time a hitter pops up to the infield in a key at-bat. After all, there's a chance the fielder will make an error.

Forget about the fact that the Angels couldn't make a play on Andrus for a moment and just focus on the fact that the Rangers were playing for one run in the fifth inning of a game they were already winning. Are they that much likelier to win if they are up 3-1 in the fifth or if they put up a crooked number and force the Angels to come a long way back with a substandard offense against a deep bullpen?

Those are rhetorical questions, but here's one that isn't. Why is Andrus batting second in the lineup, a spot normally reserved for people you want to see swinging the bat, when you'd rather he make an out than swing the bat in a one-run game in the fifth inning? 

There's a romantic notion about bunting that's been ingrained in certain men who play, manage and follow the game that has survived for ages despite voluminous evidence against its effectiveness. It's almost reminiscent of politics, the only other place where you can argue in favor of things that have been proven not to work and find people who think you are singing nothing but the truth.

In neither case does it make for a better world. We can't do much about the political climate, but we can urge the Rangers to do the right thing for the country and for baseball by punting the bunt once and for all.

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