I might be alone on this, but one of the few pleasant surprises of the 2011 season is seeing Don Mattingly control the clubhouse, control the media, and manage the game decently.
After deserved mocking for visiting the mound twice in one interim managerial stint in 2010 and then running out of pitchers during the off-season Arizona Fall League, I think he has done well this year when looking at the big picture.
However, by far the weakest part of his game is managing situations, where he has shown an odd propensity for bunts, which obviously frustrate me to no end.
Last night was a perfect example, as he struck twice, bunting late in a tied game when the odds didn’t make sense and neither did the situation.
Twice he took the bat out of the hands of the hottest hitter on the team (James Loney), which of course led the Braves to make the easy decision to put the best hitter (Matt Kemp) on base.
Even if I throw the “hot hand” concept out of the window and assume Loney is just the same poor hitter (likely correct), there’s little argument that he’s not accustomed to bunting, and so Mattingly was still taking a gigantic risk by making him do so.
In the top of the 8th, with 0 outs and a runner on 1st, there’s an average of 0.85 runs scored and a 57% chance of winning. Assuming the bunt goes perfectly (big assumption), with 1 out and a runner on 2nd, there’s an average of 0.65 runs scored and a 54% chance of winning.
In the top of the 10th, with 0 outs and a runner on 2nd, there’s an average of 1.06 runs scored and a 67% chance of winning. Again assuming the perfect bunt, with 1 out and a runner on 3rd, there’s an average of 0.90 runs scored and a 61% chance of winning.
Add to that the context provided above, and it makes even less sense than it does on paper. Just terrible.
In general, bunting is a bad idea, and probably 99% of the time it’s used strategically incorrect, so Mattingly’s love for it is fundamentally disturbing.
The games don’t mean much now, but I cringe to think how upset I would be if the games were in the middle of a pennant race or in the playoffs, as I can’t help but imagine this will come back to haunt the team when it matters most.
Mattingly has shown the ability to adapt and learn as a manager thus far, and although we know he doesn’t care for sabermetric principles (runs are the best!), I’m hoping he can eventually show restraint with this bunting fetish.