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.”
Bob Klapisch of The New York Times reports that free agent starter Gerrit Cole has a seven-year, $245 million contract offer on the table from the Yankees. As Klapisch also notes, the deal would set a record for total value and average annual value for a pitcher, besting Zack Greinke‘s $34.4 million AAV and David Price‘s $217 million total.
While it is possible that Cole signs before the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday, clients of Scott Boras have tended to sign later in the offseason, so this may be a protracted process with today’s report as a jumping-off point. Both the Yankees’ and Angels’ front offices have received clearance from ownership to break the bank to sign Cole.
Cole, 29, could not have timed having a career year any better. During the regular season, he led all of baseball with 326 strikeouts and led the American League with a 2.50 ERA while also posting a 20-5 record and walking only 48 batters across 212 1/3 innings. He performed brilliantly in the playoffs as well, holding the opposition to seven runs on 21 hits and 11 walks with 47 strikeouts over 36 2/3 innings of work as the Astros narrowly missed out on winning another championship.
Cole is entering his age-29 season, so a deal of at least seven years would take him well into his mid-30’s. Teams, especially lately, have been hesitant to commit to pitchers, but as the Nationals showed with Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin, sometimes it leads to a championship.
For what it’s worth, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports says the Yankees haven’t made a formal offer to Cole yet, though the club plans to make one this week. During this time of year, both sides — front office personnel and player agents — leak details to the press to help establish leverage. What we can generally take from this is that the Yankees are hot for Cole and he’s going to get a record-setting contract from some team, even if it’s not the Yankees.