"It was a bad baseball play that happened to work out," Perez said afterward. "I don't want to say it was bush league. But you never see that. Ninety-nine percent of hitters in that situation would rather win the game with a hit, not a bunt."Okay, so Howie Kendrick's bunt was not "bush league," at least according to noted expert Chris Perez. However, when you say, "I don't want to say it was bush league," this is much akin to Kanye West saying, "I'ma let you finish," which of course means, "I'ma not gonna let you finish." Perez is going out of his way to say the play was not bush, which means that he totally believes the play was bush.
What defines a play as "bush?"
Reggie Jackson hip-checking a throw to first is bush. Dustin Pedroia trying to slap the ball out of Victor Martinez' glove running to first is bush. These are cheap plays of questionable legality, certainly something that speaks poorly to the integrity of the player.
Bunting does not qualify.
You see, the basic principle of baseball is to strike a pitched ball with your bat in such a manner as to be able to run to first base before a fielder can either catch the ball or throw the ball to first base. That's it. The entire point of the game is to hit the ball and not be out.
So let's think about this for a moment. When teams play the Williams Shift on players like Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, or David Ortiz, how many times do you hear a commentator talk about how every so often the slugger should "take the free base" and bunt in the direction of third base? (This ignores the possibility that Travis Hafner has no bloody idea how to bunt a ball in the direction of third base. He might be excellent at this. He might be Jhonny Peralta at this. I have no idea. But I doubt Travis Hafner has laid down a lot of bunts to the left side in his career. I certainly didn't want him to do it when he could hit, long ago.)
Why do corner infielders play closer to the plate when Juan Pierre or Mike Bourn or Brett Gardner come to the plate? Because they have no power and lots of speed. This means that striking the ball in such a way as to roll slowly gives them at least as much chance to get on base as swinging away. The defense tries to take away what the hitter does well. It is the principle of the Williams Shift, and it is the principle of the Podsednik Plotz.
Travis Hafner once hit a double that may have travelled 100 feet. Fooled on a pitch against the shift, he dribbled the ball down the third base line. The third baseman, standing where the shortstop normally plays, had to sprint to get to the ball in short left field. The left fielder had a very long run to get to the ball. And Travis Hafner was able to run to second base before either player could get the ball there. It may or may not have been intentional. It most certainly was not "bush."
Far from being a "bad baseball play," Howie Kendrick's bunt may have been the headiest, most intelligent baseball play you'll see this month. The entire Cleveland infield was playing back. The only POSSIBLE threats to Kendrick's plan were:
- Badly bunting the ball (too hard to an infielder, or too soft for Marson to jump on)
- Chris Perez
Here is what Chris Perez did when Kendrick showed bunt:
Here is what Chris Perez did after Kendrick laid down the bunt:
Watched it go by.
You know what, I changed my mind. That WAS a bad baseball play, maybe even bush.
By Chris Perez.