Padres Trying To Bunt Their Way To Wins

The Friars are trying to perfect a strategy as old as the game itself

Of all the skills one must possess to be a baseball player, it would seem bunting is among the easiest. All you have to do is take the bat, hold it out, put it on the ball, and make contact. I mean, you’re giving yourself up for an out, for crying out loud!

We will all cry and complain (myself included) when a pitcher fails to sacrifice a runner over, often striking out trying to bunt. But apparently this seemingly innocuous activity is a lot more difficult than it looks.

“Everything in a Big League game is much more difficult than it looks like it is,” says Padres manager Andy Green. “It looks easy out there when they’re doing it.”

As is the case with many things Green says, there is data to back that up.

“I think it’s 43% if I’m not mistaken (he’s not) of sacrifice bunts that are executed early in the season, for the first two months, and it’s close to 60% after that. Clearly there’s an acclimation process and if we can hasten that process we’ll be better than other clubs.”

Let’s put out this disclaimer right now: This is NOT the start of a discussion about whether or not bunting is useful or worthwhile in today’s game. This is simply relaying the facts of the matter and the main fact is during Spring Training the Padres are bunting A LOT.

Green sees bunting as a place where the Padres can have an advantage on the competition. Call it an inequity in the numbers that they’re trying to exploit.

“When you stop and think about it you’re saying effectively 50% of all bunts get down through the season,” says Green. “Something that gets done at a 50% clip by guys at this level is not qualified as easy it just appears like it should be. We want to make it look like it is easy this year.”

If they can do something … anything, at this point … with superiority it would seem to only help them start winning more baseball games, at any time of the season.

“Pitchers are bunting every single day,” says Green. “We started off with light velocity on the pitching machine and now it’s cranked up.”

Yes, the Padres have set up a dedicated bunting station at the Peoria Sports Complex, something they’ve never had before. As Spring Training has gone on the Friars have tried to expedite that acclimation process.

“We’ve seen a lot more (pitches) fouled off now. Guys have to really lock in to be better at it.”

It’s not just the sacrifice bunting game that the Padres are emphasizing. Outfielder Travis Jankowski is among the faster players in the game so he’s been working on bunting for a base hit, which ups the degree of difficulty tenfold. I spent a little time with Travis discussing the finer points of the bunt game. Find out how he’s approaching it in this video:


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