Statistically speaking, most bunts don’t make tactical sense. Especially first inning bunts when you have no idea if the game is gonna be tough for scoring runs and the like. Really, on page 1 of the Sabermetric Handbook it says “Don’t Bunt in The First Inning You Moron!” At least I’m pretty sure it does.
But Ned Yost loves bunting like a fat kid loves cake and he and the Royals have been bunting to beat the band this postseason, and it has worked for them almost every time. It just worked for them again in the first inning of today’s ALCS Game 4.
Alcides Escobar reached on a single and than Nori Aoki was hit by a pitch. Runners on first and second, no outs — IN THE FIRST INNING — and Ned Yost calls on his number three hitter, Lorenzo Cain to bunt. In the first inning. Number three hitter, mind you. In the first inning, if I didn’t mention that. Cain bunts and the runners move up to second and third. In the first inning.
So of course, the next guy up, Eric Hosmer, hits into fielder’s choice to first. First baseman Steve Pearce decides to go home with it, the play is botched by Caleb Joseph and Escobar scores. As Escobar slides he kicks the ball away, allowing Aoki to come around and score too. The Royals take a 2-0 lead.
That bunt makes every baseball tactician not named Ned Yost cry blood. Yet neither of those two runs score if Ned Yost doesn’t call for that bunt. We may cry and wail about it. We may rent our garments and plead, beg and demand that Ned Yost stop bunting, especially in the first dang inning.
But Ned will look down and whisper: “No.”