The Brignac Bunts | The Process Report

The Brignac Bunts

Handling the development of younger players is one of Joe Maddon’s finer points as a manager. It’s a necessity, true, but still an area Maddon excels at. Perhaps that’s why I’m a bit mystified as to his treatment of Reid Brignac. Placing Brignac in a platoon with Elliot Johnson I get—if I had my druthers, Johnson would not be a player receiving regular plate appearances—the bunting, though, is wearing on me.

Perhaps Maddon feels Brignac’s confidence has dropped and he needs any success—even the remote sliver of success that comes from a successful sac bunt—to pull him from the rut, but that seems a bit melodramatic after 70-something plate appearances. After all, Brignac had a poor stretch or two last season. In June, he hit .219/.296/.266 and struck out more than a quarter of the time. In August, he hit .176/.194/.176. Yeah, his bat has been atrocious this season, but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last, but the bunting is certainly an unwanted addition to his offensive game.

In reality, it’s not the act of bunting, but the situations. Brignac does have the ability to beat a few out for hits (as he recently did), so not all is lost when he goes to drop one down, however two situations stick out to me as questionable. Asking a guy who has poor plate discipline to bunt twice when he finally gets up 2-0 on a wild pitcher seems wasteful. Naturally, Brignac fouled both attempts off and evened the count for Francisco Liriano, who walked him anyways. Then, last night, having Brignac bunt with Casey Kotchman on second (Brignac had already shown bunt, but pulled back), nobody out, and down three in the fifth against a good pitcher is a little bizarre too. Then again, there is an explanation.

If Brignac were to continue his current rate of production—and he won’t, but this is a point I feel the need to make—then yes, bunting every time up isn’t a horrible strategy. It’s like with Dioner Navarro. Once you got the feeling something bad was going to happen, then you at least want the runners to advance with the out. For Maddon to seemingly take this approach a month into the season with Brignac is all kinds of concerning.

And of course Brignac is not in today’s starting lineup against Kyle Drabek, a right-handed pitcher. Sean Rodriguez is. Maybe it is a confidence or injury issue. Hopefully. Otherwise, I’m not entirely certain the bunts will help Brignac’s development.

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