July 11, 2014

Blown bunt coverage, kinda, leads to 5-8 forceout

Never seen one of these before, but thanks to a mental error by Cards' third baseman, Matt Carpenter, we get to analyze an error that technically, turned out not to be an error.

But you could call it a blown bunt coverage ... no, wait ... not really, I guess, because the Cards did secure an out.

Whatever, let's analyze.

(Nobody out.)

With Pirates' base runners Pedro Alvarez second base and Jordy Mercer on first base (you don't wanna know how they both got on; too painful to Cards' fans), Bucs pitcher pops a bunt toward the third base side in an obvious sacrifice attempt.

(No infield fly rule, BTW, on an attempted bunt.)

Cards' third baseman, Carpenter, charges, appears to be readying for a basket catch, then, at the last moment, pulls his glove away and lets the ball drop to the infield turf. The base runners, barely advancing so as to be sure they won't get doubled off, then bolt for the next respective base.

Here's where it gets weird. The bunt coverage, quite standard for base runners on first and second, finds the Cards shortstop covering third, where if there's a strong possibility of a force out of the lead base runner, he is there to receive a throw. The second baseman covers first base as the first baseman is charging on bunt coverage.

Carpenter scoops the fallen bunt and first to second base! Nobody covering!

Nobody covering?

Nope. Not on this bunt coverage, as per design, because the lead base runner would be heading to third base, and that is what needs covered by the shortstop, as stated. No reason for the second baseman to cover second base, as the priority is forcing out the base runner at third base. Should the chances of getting the lead base runner out at third base evaporate, the defense settles to throw out the bunter-runner at first base. The second baseman covering first base allows the first baseman to charge, giving the defense the best possible coverage, with the third baseman, pitcher, first baseman, and catcher to cover the typical bunting target areas in shallow fair infield territory.

Carpenter may thought he could get an easy double play without a chance of the base runner heading to third base to come around and score, since he would've gotten off to a slow start from second base because of Carpenter's deke on the fake catch.

Problem is, as we have reviewed from basic bunt coverage, that there's no middle infielder remotely close to second base.

The weirdness continues, as center fielder, Jon Jay, is totally heads up and racing in toward second base, utilizing some kind of ESP (without the "N") to somehow know to back up second base. In any event, Jay does so, fielding Carp's throw on the first hop, and sprinting to second base, stepping on the bag to force out Mercer.

Add a base-on-balls and a passed ball and yadda, yadda, yadda, the Buccos tally up four runs, and the odd thing about it was, due to Jay's super-timely backup/base coverage, Carpenter's mental lapse wasn't the thing that actually caused the sixth inning bleed-out.

The rare (hell, unheard of) 5-8 force out, however, did give us the chance to review basic bunt coverage with base runners on first and second.

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