Look over last year’s league bunting statistics and you might find yourself raising your eyebrows. You see a .393 batting average and you figure people should just bunt like all of the time. Of course, that ignores all the sacrifice bunts, and the failed bunt attempts, and most importantly the game-theoryness of it all, but there were nearly 600 bunt hits. That’s a lot of bunt hits. What might draw your eye is that there were 586 bunt singles. What might draw your eye next is that there were two bunt doubles. We have this statistic called ISO, and it’s slugging percentage minus batting average, and last year the league ISO on bunts was not .000. This is a strange thing to know.
What is a bunt double? We’ve all joked about bunt doubles and triples and homers, but few have probably ever seen a real bunt extra-base hit. It seems imperative that we review last year’s two, and we’ll even separate them, for reasons you’ll shortly come to understand. What we find is a true bunt double, and something of an honorable mention. Prepare yourself to read a little about Juan Pierre and Quintin Berry.
Bunter: Juan Pierre
Pitcher: Carlos Zambrano
Date: June 3
This goes down in the record as a bunt attempt. I don’t know how else it could be classified. But I’m separating it for reasons you can see with your own eyes — this is more of a butcher boy or slash bunt than a conventional bunt. Pierre shows bunt, then pulls back a little and takes a chop swing, sending the ball past a relatively unconcerned Hanley Ramirez. It turns into a stand-up, uncontested two-base hit. As Pierre pulls into second, Omar Infante looks visibly defeated.
This was Pierre’s third career bunt double, with one in 2004 and another in 2007. One came on the first pitch of a game. When you’re working on a shutout, it has to be absolutely infuriating to allow a double like this. Thankfully Carlos Zambrano has an established track record of always being able to keep his cool. You wouldn’t expect Zambrano to come undone after something like this at all. In truth, Zambrano struck out the next two batters to end the inning, but I didn’t have to tell you that. If I said the Phillies went on to have a big inning, you would’ve believed me. Why would I lie about something like that?
Said the Phillies’ broadcast of the play:
I don’t remember seeing Juan Pierre ever do that, not that he’s been in Philadelphia, but over the years, he’s not that kind of guy.
Said the Marlins’ broadcast of the play:
We’ve seen him do that so many times, try to slap it out toward short or just slap it by the third baseman.
All right. Juan Pierre, bunt double, sort of.
Bunter: Quintin Berry
Pitcher: Zach McAllister
Date: May 23
And here we have a true bunt double, and last season’s only true bunt double. Obstruction gets called on Jason Kipnis, as Berry runs into him on his way down to second, and Berry is given a double in the scorebook and he was easily safe at second anyway. Berry bunted the ball over the head of one of the game’s premier defensive first basemen, and he bunted the ball under the glove of one of the game’s not-yet-premier second basemen. That, plus speed, plus aggressiveness, is how this turns into extra bases:
In the next at bat, Andy Dirks doubled on a line drive that Shin-Soo Choo misplayed. Later on, Dirks scored and Prince Fielder reached on a botched fielder’s choice by Asdrubal Cabrera. It was not the greatest defensive inning the Indians put together in 2012. It was the only inning in this game in which the Indians allowed runs, and they won 4-2. There’s no shame provided you’re still victorious, even if someone gets to .giffing you several months later on.
But never mind the rest of the inning. Let’s go back to the Berry bunt double. There’s another thing about that.
Berry was drafted in the fifth round in 2006. He didn’t reach triple-A until 2011, and even then in triple-A he played just four games. In 2012, Berry became a triple-A regular, but he was 27 and considered a non-prospect. He wound up getting promoted to the majors because Austin Jackson was hurt and Ryan Raburn was on the bereavement list. On May 23, Berry made his major-league debut, batting leadoff for what would eventually be a playoff team. Berry grounded out in his first at bat. He grounded out in his second at bat. He doubled in his third at bat, on a bunt, for the first big-league hit of his career. Quintin Berry is probably — probably — the only player ever to have his first big-league hit be a bunt for extra bases.
After the fact, the Tigers’ announcers joked that it would become a line drive or a gapper in Berry’s head over time. I disagree. I think Berry will remember the double for being exactly what it was. Almost anybody can hit a line drive to the gap. Far fewer people can bunt for two bases, and that makes for a way better story. By stretching the truth, Berry would only make his story worse. No one else has got Quintin Berry’s story to tell.
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