Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Dead Art of the Bunt


TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Craig McGraw of Middletown, DE, who correctly found it was Wayne Causey who led the A's in many offensive categories including BA. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION:   Only twice during full seasons did Nellie Fox not lay down at least 10 sacrifice bunts. How many did he have in his MVP season? 
ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: 
Wayne Causey led the 1964 A's in many offensive categories including BA.

The art of the Sacrifice Bunt has become a lost art in major league baseball. The last time a big league player had at least 20 Sac Bunts was 2009. That pales in comparison to the "golden" days of baseball when even sluggers gave themselves up by laying down a bunt. Believe it or not one of the most bizarre statistics in baseball came in 1927 when Lou Gehrig showed his true worth as a New York Yankee.

Playing for the greatest team of all time Gehrig hit .373, 52 doubles, 18 triples, 47 home runs, 173 RBI, 218 hits, 149 Runs Scored, 109 Walks, only 84 K's, a .765 Slugging Percentage and led the majors in Total Bases with 447. Yet, he still had time to lay down 21 Sacrifice Bunts!!! The questions is with lead-off man Earl Combs batting .356 and Babe Ruth hitting .356 with 60 home runs; who was Gehrig sacrificing for? Amazing.

But this is a column about the 1960s and the top mark of the 60s was set by Houston shortstop Sonny Jackson in 1966. Jackson, a notorious singles hitter, would have his best year in "66, batting .292. It was his rookie season and his 27 bunts lead the majors. However, his total sacrifice bunts that season was nearly half his career number of 57. He never laid down more than eight after that.

The previous season the Dodgers first baseman, Wes Parker led the league with 19. Parker actually had SH's in double figures four times in the decade and he more than once hit at least 10 homers. Aside from the 1968-1969 seasons when Phil Niekro and Jim Merritt led the majors, hitters rather than pitchers were first in the SH stats.

Nellie Fox did it twice with 15 in 1961 and 20 in 1964. He used a big barrel bat which certainly made it easier to lay the ball down. Fox had at least 10 in 14 different seasons ending with 208 for his career. Fox and Maury Wills top all players from the 1960s in SHs (Fox with 72 in the decade, Wills with 90). In the modern era only Tom Glavine (216) and Ozzie Smith (214) have higher all-time numbers. Campy Campaneris had 199 but only 27 were in the 1960s. He led the majors with 40 SHs in 1977. 

The all-tme leader is Eddie Collins with 512 far ahead of second place Jake Daubert with 392. Gehrig by the way finished with 106, six times laying down at least 10 bunts. Ironically, Fox played his final seasons in Houston, alongside Jackson. Maybe it rubbed off or maybe Fox gave the young Jackson some well defined tips.

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