Game 11: Ausmus, Hunter talk about the bunt

One of the more quietly useful offensive stats to come about in recent years, in my opinion, is the Productive Out. As defined by Elias Sports Bureau, a Productive Out includes advancing a runner with the first out of an inning, scoring a runner with the second out, or when a pitcher lays down a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner with one out. Productive Outs aren’t a necessity for a winning a team, but they can provide a different look at the value of certain hitters.

Torii Hunter led the American League last year in productive outs, according to the Bill James Handbook. Only Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez had more among Major League hitters. When Hunter came to the plate last year with a runner on second and nobody out, he advanced the runner 16 out of 27 times, according to baseball-reference.com. Part of the reason Hunter works batting second in a lineup is his ability to advance a leadoff man with a ground ball to the right side.

Hunter put up all these productive outs without an abundance of sacrifice bunts. He set a career high with three, but they came nine attempts according to STATS. He had three sac bunts in his previous 15 Major League seasons combined. When he did sacrifice, then-manager Jim Leyland took some occasional heat for it.

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning Wednesday night, new Tigers manager Brad Ausmus called on Hunter to bunt. Hunter couldn’t get the bunt down, then grounded into a double play. Thus, instead of getting two runners in scoring position for Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers had a runner on third with two outs for the reigning MVP. He singled in the runner, but didn’t have the tying run to drive in.

Asked about the decision, Ausmus said he discussed it with Hunter.

“I talked to him about it before he went up,” Ausmus said after the game. “He was on board. He’s bunted before. It just didn’t work out that one time. You’re not always going to be successful in your sacrifice bunting. Everyone thinks it’s easy, but when a guy’s throwing 95 miles an hour, it’s not easy.”

Hunter confirmed they talked it over. He didn’t remember the numbers on how rarely he had bunted.

“I might have had one last year, maybe one every 10 years,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but I come to win. If my manager tells me to do something, I should be able to execute it and I didn’t today and that’s probably why we lost.”

Asked if he’d feel better swinging away in such a situation, Hunter said, “Oh yeah, no doubt. I’ve driven in some runs in my career. I always want to be the one at the plate in a clutch situation like that to try and get something done. But it doesn’t matter. I have to do what I have to do to help this ballclub. If I get those guys over and Miguel gets up, I don’t know if they walk him or whatever, but I give him a chance to get two RBIs instead of one.”

Asked if he’d say something like that to his manager, Hunter said no.

“I’m not going to say I want to swing,” he said. “If he wants me to bunt, I’m going to do that. That’s my job. I’m the employee. If he tells me to do something, I’m going to do it. I’m the soldier.”

As far as the strategy behind it, Ausmus acknowledged the possibility that the Indians would have walked Cabrera, loading the bases and taking their chances with Victor Martinez and Austin Jackson. Doing so, however, would have put the go-ahead run on base.

Essentially, Ausmus played to force the decision and set up a potential go-ahead rally instead of a game-tying one.

“I don’t know if [Terry Francona] would have walked Cabrera or not,” Ausmus said. “It would have been the winning run at that point. But if he does walk him, I like the way the two guys behind him are swinging the bat, Victor and Jackson.

“Generally speaking, I don’t know that I would necessarily want to bunt and make a base open for Miggy, especially if he’s swinging the bat and he’s hitting the ball well like he normally does. But in this situation, I felt pretty good with the two guys behind him, and if they decided to walk Cabrera, I felt good about Martinez and Jackson now with the winning run on base.”

Play of the game: Yan Gomes’ go-ahead two-run triple in the second inning looked bigger and bigger as the game went on and Anibal Sanchez. It was the only hit the Indians managed in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position, but it drove in two runs instead of one. In the end, was the difference.

Out of the game: The Indians had a few of them, including strikeouts of Alex Avila and Austin Jackson to end threats with runners in scoring position. But John Axford’s strikeout of Don Kelly on a breaking ball with the tying run on third base and one out was huge, essentially deciding the game. Axford got a player who normally doesn’t chase pitches outside the zone to chase a very good breaking ball that dove out of it. He also retired a guy who came up 14 times last year with a runner on third and less than two outs, and plated the runner eight out of 14 times.

Line of the night: It wasn’t like Max Scherzer’s line from the other night, but it wasn’t far off, Anibal Sanchez striking out eight batters over five innings yet giving up three runs, two earned, on just two hits.

Stat of the night: The Indians and Tigers combined to go 2-for-22 with runners in scoring position, one hit apiece. The Indians’ hit drove in two runs. The Tigers’ hit plated only one.

Print it: “I think after the season, I’ll be able to go to the beach with no t-shirt.” — Miguel Cabrera on the exercises he has to do during the season to keep his core strong following surgery last fall.

17 Comments

That was a tough game to watch, kudos to the fans there, they looked cold. A few positives from last night – Alex getting 2 nice hits last night and pushing the envelope on going for the triple – he seems a bit thicker to me this year but he was running hard. Guys on the Cleveland station said if the outfielder hits the cutoff he was out, but he hit the 2nd cutoff and just made it. Sanchez really struggled at the start but did a great job of getting it under control. I missed the first half of the game but it sounds like there was a crucial error on our part, otherwise we have a tied up ball game. Oh and a third positive – the bull pen.

Yes,Miguel had a E allowing a runner to go on base that would become the second run. Unearned. Of course, he also had the two RBI

true on that, without him they don’t score the 2 – all evens out sometimes. I did not see his first rbi hit but saw the 2nd, glad to see him finding the hole but still not seeing the swing he usually has – we need that bat back big time. I can’t say enough about having VMart swinging well.

Seeing Reed pitch last night made me wonder, have not heard about the allegations about him since right before the last road trip – guessing that got dropped?

Anyone else see the Texas Seattle game last night? Made me laugh hard!!

Didn’t see it why did it make you laugh?

Maybe because Rodney coughed up the game after starting with bases empty and 2 outs.

The decision was poor one. Hunter feasts on fastballs and would have seen them with Miggy on deck and two men already on. I like his answers to the question though. He handles himself pretty well with the press.
All our starters have had some difficulty with the first inning this year.
Who would figure Scherzer AND Sanchez to be winless at this point?
Seems like we have a pretty limp bench once again this year.
Sure would be nice to have a bat with experience and “danger” lurking on it.
How long do we suffer through this concerning shortstop situation?

Brad, life is easy, Hunter is bred to hit not to bunt. Don’t do it again beside your closer is a rollercoaster.

I liked Brad’s decision. It just didn’t work out. It wasn’t expected and if Hunter executes,, all kinds of things could have happened. Yes, I know I’m in the minority on this one. Did I tell ‘ya that I absolutely love Ian Kinsler.
.
I’ll give them another few weeks to see if they can kick things into a higher gear. With this lineup, they might have to start to win games in the 1st inning rather than waiting til the end of the game. I miss I!ggy and wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Tiger uniform again.
..
Go Tigers! Gotta win this one today, boys.

Ian Kinsler 2B, Torii Hunter RF, Miguel Cabrera 1B, Victor Martinez DH, Austin Jackson CF, Nick Castellanos 3B, Alex Avila C, Alex Gonzalez SS, Rajai Davis LF, Justin Verlander P

After a night game , Avila catching. I know, there were two days of rest

Cabrera at least could provide a bat off the bench. Just saying

Can’t criticize Brad for shaking up the lineup today—-that’s for sure.
I’d have Romine in there though. Gonzo should be gonzo.

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Second guessing our rookie Mgr. When Hunter failed to get a Sac Bunt down on his first attempt, what would it have looked like if he brought in Romine, who prob’ly has more familiarity in bunting than Torii? Romine being faster would also work to lessen the chance of what happened to Hunter, hitting into the DP. Even a K would have been preferrable. Its a wonder the genius Gene never thought of it, surprise, surprise. Also, in the ninth, why wasn’t someone up there to squeeze the runner home from 3b with less than 2 outs? I don’t care how hot a bat Don Kelly is supposedly, he is not a viable PH, ever. Mgr can win games, unfortunately they also can lose them.

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