There are four headlines in my Google Reader talking about an incredibly inconsequential bunt from Wednesday:
- SOX'S VENTURA STANDS BY BUNTS
- VENTURA MAINTAINS BUNT CALL WAS RIGHT DECISION
- VENTURA DEFENDS DECISION TO BUNT WITH DE AZA
- WHITE SOX' VENTURA STANDS BY THE SACRIFICE
(There are five, if you count Larry weighing in on what sabermetric-based theory says about the bunt, due to the aforementioned hullabaloo.)
I can't believe this is one story, much less four of them. The bunt had zero impact during or after the situation. Ventura used one of his better bunters, not Paul Konerko. I could think of managerial reasons to mix it up (De Aza struggling, wanting to test Keppinger in situations that call for an adept bat-handler, diversifying the offense in a lower-leverage situation). I normally crinkle my nose at bunt attempts when they don't help, and while I can understand objections, this one didn't set off any alarms in my head.
Best I can tell, there was nothing separating this bunt from the rest -- except for the fact that a nameless reporter heard complaints from nameless sabermetrically inclined folks. That alone isn't news. The more dogmatic among us will throw blood on a manager for every out surrendered, regardless of circumstances, but "People who decry every bunt decry bunt" can be used every day.
It's interesting reading the accounts from two different beat writers occupying the same room. Here's Mark Gonzales:
So a simple statement from a reporter involving sabermetricians' disdain of the sacrifice bunt for giving up an out drew a strong but amusing reply from the White Sox manager before Thursday's game.
"Well, they're not sitting in my seat, either," Ventura smiled. "There are a lot of those guys, but they're not in this dugout.
"It's a different feel when you're a player or a manager than it is just to write numbers down on paper."
And here's Dan Hayes:
Robin Ventura didn’t make any declarations against sabermetrics on Thursday morning. He hasn’t issued any challenges or hurled any insults.
But when informed sabermatricians called into question his decision on Wednesday to surrender an out when he asked Alejandro De Aza to bunt with two on and no outs, Ventura defended his decision.
One reporter goes out of his way to work scouts into stories; the other will regularly cite FanGraphs. The combination of vague references and filters concerns me for future situations.
Ventura will eventually force bunt attempts where they don't belong, because everybody does. And if it's like the Oakland game last year, he may force them en masse. It could blow up in his face and take the Sox out of an important run-scoring situation. It could cost them the game.
That's when it's a good time to have hackles raised about a bunt. Will the same questions be asked, or will Ventura's "It's different in the chair" answer be applied forward without objection?
I think/hope Ventura would be held accountable accordingly, but there's a history of beat writers showing willful ignorance of sabermetrics/advanced statistics, and introducing concepts only so the parties involved can rag on them, so it's difficult to determine how honorable the intentions are.
In non-bunting news
*John Danks had an effective outing against minor leaguers in extended spring training, allowing one run over five innings while throwing 77 pitches. That doesn't really mean much without velocity reports, but he got pasted by White Sox minor leaguers at the end of normal spring training, so ... progress?
*Conor Gillaspie appears to be the go-to guy at first base in defensive replacement situations, and he says he's comfortable there, even though he doesn't exactly possess a wealth of experience there. One particular hang-up:
"Double plays are kind of the tough thing at first base. With the runner right there, with runners on first and second, you have to play behind him and learn to stay out of his way when he’s getting a secondary [lead off the bag].’’