Photo courtesy of Terry Foote
It’s funny, no topic more so than bunting divides Blue Jay fans more than anything else. Bunting, a topic for debate which has yet again reared it’s ugly little head after Devon Travis failed to lay down a bunt yesterday at a crucial point in Toronto’s game against Atlanta.
The situation was tailor made for a bunt. With the Blue Jays down 6-5 in the bottom of the 8th inning, and runners on 1st and 2nd with no out. Some will argue that Travis was swinging a hot bat, having already hit two doubles in the game, and should have just been allowed to swing away. The thing is, being down just one run, all Toronto cares about at that moment is the lead runner and tying the game up. The Blue Jays can worry about getting the go-ahead run and winning the game later, but at that particular time in the game, it was simply about scoring that all-important tying run.
In my opinion, the Blue Jays were right to play the odds and attempt to bunt. Any big league player worth his salt has got to be able to lay down a bunt, especially a 2nd baseman like Travis who doesn’t possess a crazy amount of power. If people are complaining that Travis isn’t a good bunter, well he better learn quick because he’s exactly the kind of player a ball team will ask to bunt in that kind of situation.
Toronto’s success with the long ball in recent years (specifically 2015) has created a problem of sorts because now many people assume that the Blue Jays best chance to score runs is by hitting the ball out of the park. This might have been the case when Toronto hit a league leading 232 home runs in 2015, but that was then and this is now. The 2015 team had the luxury of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion hitting 2-3-4, with each of them on top of their game and healthy for the majority of the season. Always trying for the big hit isn’t a sustainable way for an offense to manufacture runs…if anything, the 2016 Blue Jays proved that as they far too often swung for the fences, only to strikeout.
When a team hits home runs, it’s a bonus. What players can’t forget is that a good portion of their offense will come from moving runners over one or two bags at a time by playing fundamentally sound baseball. And that includes being able to lay down a bunt when there’s runners on 1st and 2nd with no out and your team needing just one run to tie the game. Perhaps John Gibbons needs to have a better understanding of who’s at the plate when he asks them to bunt…or, perhaps every player on the Blue Jays (with the exception of the big boppers) needs to be able and ready to bunt when the situation calls for it. Until that happens however, this is likely to be a topic for debate for some time yet.