Thursday, September 5, 2013

Buster Olney rips Reds for 'bunt addiction' in extra-inning loss

Anyone who watched the 16-inning affair between the Reds and Cardinals Wednesday night had to have come away scratching their heads at Cincinnati's puzzling insistence to bunt.

All in all, four different Reds hitters in the span of two innings made an attempt to lay down a bunt from the bottom of the 14th inning on. First, Zack Cozart tried to sacrifice pinch-runner Billy Hamilton to second base after Ryan Ludwick led off the inning with a single. Cozart didn't get the bunt down, Hamilton wound up stealing second on a subsequent pitch, and eventually scored on a single. The same scenario happened the night before when Todd Frazier singled in Hamilton after failing to get a bunt down.

The second bunt attempt came when Devin Mesoraco tried to advance Cozart, however, Mesoraco bunted the ball back to the pitcher for a fielder's choice.

In the bottom of the 15th inning, Shin-Soo Choo led off with a single, and advanced safely to second base after the team's RBI leader, Brandon Phillips, acted on us own to bunt him there.

The last bunt attempt was without question the most confusing and frustrating. With Choo leading off third, and two outs, Chris Heisey squared to bunt on a 1-1 count and came up completely empty, leaving Choo hung out to try between third and home.

In the top of the 16th, Cardinals slugger Matt Adams crushed his second go-ahead solo home run in extras, giving St. Louis a 4-3 lead. The Reds couldn't match the run in the home half of the frame and were dealt a heart-breaking defeat.

Afterward, the topic of discussion among Reds fans revolved around the club's repeated attempts to bunt the baseball.

We shouldn't be too surprised that the Reds tried to bunt their way to victory. After all, they do lead the National League in sacrifices, and it isn't even close.

On Thursday, baseball experts chimed in with their opinions on the matter, including ESPN's Buster Olney, who couldn't help but wonder if the outcome of the game wouldn't have been different if the Reds didn't try to bunt so much.

There is not a one-size-fits-all rule about the sacrifice bunt, because not every situation is the same, not every hitter is the same, not every pitcher is the same, not every bunt attempt is the same. The factors in the equations change from pitch to pitch, inning to inning, from game to game. So it probably can’t be said with certainty that any single particular bunt try by the Reds on Wednesday night was a mistake. 

But if you happened to see the last innings of the 16-inning grinder between the Cardinals and Reds and hung on long enough to see the St. Louis players celebrating the final out of a really important victory -- in which Matt Adams became the first player in major league history to club two homers after the 13th inning -- you couldn’t help but think Cincinnati blew it with the bunt along the way. 

I don't always agree with Olney, but I believe he makes a pretty solid case here. Outside of the bewildering bunt attempt by Heisey, the other three attempts could be somewhat justified. The Reds were simply doing what they thought they needed to do in order to win. With that being said, it's hard to fathom why they were so hellbent on laying a bunt down, especially when it hasn't seemed to work out in their favor lately.

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