Whether it is Terry Francona calling for the bunts or Francisco Lindor doing it on his own, something needs to give, because this absurd amount of sacrifice bunts is going to start costing the Indians runs and games at a time when they cannot afford to give away any.
There was a time in 2015 when maybe bunting late in a tied, low-scoring game would have made sense. But that time was April or June when the Indians were one of the worst offenses in the league, not now when they are one of the hottest. Instead of letting his superstar shortstop hit, Francona is handcuffing him by forcing him to bunt almost every single time Jason Kipnis gets a double with zero outs in front of him. Not only does this take the bat completely out of Lindor’s hands, but it also effectively wipes out the double.
The old adage "get him, get him over, get him out" does not apply when your team’s best hitters get a double, then your team’s third best batter comes up in the next at bat. At that point, let the hitters hit and get him over with his own talent, instead of forcing a small ball mentality. Hell, second base is already scoring position. A hard-hit single that finds any kind of a gap could be enough to score Kipnis. Can Lindor do that in any given at-bat? Oh, I don’t know, maybe. He is after all hitting .365 since the All-Star break, with 40% of his balls in play finding open ground. But no, let’s make him bunt.
To ensure this post is more than just radio call-in show style ranting (although three paragraphs in I may have already jumped the shark on that one), let’s look at every single one of Lindor’s league-leading 11 sacrifice bunts his season, how they turned out, and more importantly, if they were the right decision.
June 22: Indians 2, Tigers 3. Runner on second, no outs. Third inning.
Well, lookie here. This was not a leadoff double by Kipnis, unlike many of these bunts, but still the same scenario. The Indians offense was rolling against Detroit Tigers starter Kyle Ryan in the inning, but Lindor’s bunt brought it all to a screeching halt. He successfully bunted Kipnis over to third, and Kipnis then scored on a Brantley single, but it was also a ball that Kipnis probably could have scored from second on. Not to mention the fact that Lindor could have got on base himself instead of giving away an out.
July 5: Indians 2, Pirates 0. Runner on second, no outs. Third inning.
Same scenario, same outcome. Kipnis was pushed over to third, Lindor gave up an out, and Michael Brantley hit a single that Kipnis could have scored from second on. This time it was a line drive single to left field.
August 3: Indians 0, Angels 0. Runner on first, no outs. First inning.
Sigh. The second batter of the game and Lindor bunted Jose Ramirez, who walked to leadoff the game, to second base. At least this time Brantley’s single scored a runner from second instead of needlessly getting him in from third, so this bunt would almost make sense if it were later in a closely contested game. But in the first inning? No.
August 5: Indians 3, Angels 1. Runner on first, no outs. Eighth inning.
This is the first bunt attempt where it did not even score a run home. Lindor bunted Ramirez to second base, but Lonnie Chisenhall followed that with a pop fly and Brantley grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Now if only they had one more out to play with in the inning, maybe they could have actually scored? Weird how that works.
August 7: Indians 0, Twins 0. Runner on second, no outs. First inning.
First inning, leadoff batter doubles? Why bother trying to hit when you can bunt and go sit on that warm, comfy bench? Oh, and Jose Ramirez did not end up scoring because he was thrown out at home and Brantley was thrown out at first. Happy days.
August 8: Indians 0, Twins 1. Runner on first, no outs. First inning.
Hey, I mean, if you don’t think you can score two runs off the Minnesota Twins maybe bunting here was the right choice? You better tie that score up ASAP!
The Indians won this game 17-4.
August 12: Indians 0, Yankees 0. Runner on first, no outs. First inning.
August 13: Indians 0, Yankees 4. Runners on first and second. Third inning.
You are already down by four in the third inning, might as well not even try at this point, right? Two runs eventually did score, on a Brantley sac fly and a Santana single, but the thought process that giving away an out in the third inning when you are down by four is mind-blowing.
August 17: Indians 0, Red Sox 0. Runner on second, no outs. First inning.
Here is one where Lindor managed to actually make it on base, thanks to an error on the part of Brock Holt. He was caught stealing in the next at-bat; no one scored.
August 25: Indians 0, Brewers 1. Runner on second, no outs. First inning.
The epitome of a wasted bunt. Lindor advanced Kipnis to second, as per usual, but Carlos Santana followed it with a double. Instead of Lindor potentially being on first with Kipnis on second where both of them could score, only Kipnis scored. Another case where he would have scored from second anyway.
August 30: Indians 0, Angels 0. Runner on second, no outs. First inning.
Copy and paste the previous bunt’s outcome, but replace Santana with Brantley. Wasted out, followed by an extra base hit that could have scored from a double.
Granted, the Indians won almost all of these games and the bunt did not negatively affect the outcome, but that is not the point. The point is that bunting in these situations is so obviously the wrong move, and it happens so often, that it’s baffling why it keeps happening.
If Terry Francona is indeed calling for all these bunts, it obviously falls on him. But even if this is Lindor making the call on his own, the onus still falls on Francona to stop his rookie shortstop from throwing so many outs away, especially in the first inning. At a time of the season where the Indians cannot afford to lose even one game, it’s only a matter of time before one of these ill-advised bunts do just that.