The Kansas City Royals don’t have as much power as the Detroit Tigers do, but they might find a small advantage by bunting against them in 2012.
That sounds like sabermetric sacrilege, but there might be something to it for manager Ned Yost.
Here’s the thing about bunting: In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it started to go out of style in Major League Baseball. Some reasons for that are legitimate. For example, some teams began to learn that sacrifice bunts are usually counter-productive unless they’re used in a game-ending situation. In addition, many players aren’t particularly good at laying down bunts.
The Royals never really bought into the hype and have surpassed the league average for sacrifice bunts 10 times since the 2000 season, apparently thinking that giving away outs was the solution for sub-par lineups. However, the team provided some interesting bunting memories during those years, some good and some frustrating.
Former second baseman Carlos Febles was generally a disappointment, but was an outstanding bunter because he knew what he was doing. I loved watching Febles square around, even if it was for an ill-advised sacrifice early in a game. The barrel of the bat was always in fair territory – a geometric must to avoid fouling the ball off – and he seemed to be able to deaden the ball perfectly in the grass.
I started to think about bunting today after Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that the team’s former first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, will move across the diamond and play third base on a regular basis following the signing of Prince Fielder. Despite coming to the majors as a third baseman for the Marlins in 2003, Cabrera is probably no longer even a passable defender at third base.
That opens up an interesting possibility for the Royals, who have some players who can run and could use the bunt as a weapon against the Tigers in 2012. The Royals should open up a bench spot for speedy outfielder Jarrod Dyson all season, but even if they choose to carry 12 pitchers for the majority of the year, the team should use Dyson as an on-base threat by testing Cabrera’s agility on bunts down the third base line.
It might not work. Leyland might see that Cabrera isn’t well-suited for third base by opening day, making all of this a moot point. But as long as the slugger is manning the hot corner, Dyson should have a job on the 25-man roster.