Earl Weaver hated the bunt and loved the three-run homer. Now THAT, my friends, was a smart man.
This morning, the baseball world is abuzz with the news of legendary longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver's passing on Friday night at the age of 82 after suffering an apparent heart attack while aboard the Orioles' fantasy cruise in the Caribbean.
Weaver's teams won six division titles, four pennants and a world championship while instilling a tremendous amount fear in every umpire in America. Weaver was known for his disdain for giving away outs; Weaver hated bunting and loved the three-run home run, a way of thinking that would make the Earl of Baltimore the ideal manager for the modern-day New York Yankees.
Over the past few years, particularly in the "saber" era, it has been debated that teams all around baseball would be well-served to take a cue from a guy like Weaver, who won 1,480 games, amassed a career .583 winning percentage and is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I won't dive into how small ball vs. the 3-run homer would affect other teams, but I will talk about how it relates to our very own Colorado Rockies.
It's commonly agreed upon that bunting and small ball wouldn't be beneficial in games at Coors Field. Why? Well, anytime you put the bat on the ball there's a pretty good chance it will fall in for a hit; in 2012, the league-average BABIP was .297, a figure that jumped up to .345 in games played at Coors Field (in case you were wondering, that was the highest BABIP in any ballpark in 2012, and it wasn't even close).
Games away from Coors Field represent a matter of debate in terms of the Rockies' offensive strategy. The most common line of thinking seems to be that Colorado is going to make outs on offense anyway, so why not focus on moving runners over in the rare occasion that someone is actually on base? Surprisingly, the Rockies actually laid down more sacrifice bunts at home (43) than they did on the road (31), but they did naturally steal more bases away from Coors Field (55) than inside of it (45).
The explanation for sacrifices is easy: Rockies pitchers had significantly more at-bats with runners on base at home than they did on the road, a statement I'm so sure of that I'm not even going to look up any supporting data. As far as the stolen bases are concerned, Jim Tracy obviously thought that the team needed a spark on the road to get runs, and in all actuality, it probably worked out well: the Rockies' success rate was pretty damn good (55 out of 75) on the road.
Where am I going with this? Well, while attempting to steal bases can be largely beneficial, wasting outs at the plate is a completely different story. Regardless of the fact that Rockies hitters posted a BABIP of just .292 on the road in 2012, the team can ill-afford to waste any sort of opportunity to extend innings offensively, particularly away from Coors Field. Is it always going to result in Weaver's best friend, the three-run homer? No. In fact, it will almost never result in that outcome, not with this team. Still, there are enough good hitters (contact guys such as Jordan Pacheco and Todd Helton, power threats such as Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario, etc.) on the team that some of the opportunities wasted by bunting and other similar garbage will be converted into runs if Walt Weiss decides to use a better approach.
chrischrisman will have more on Earl Weaver's passing, as well as his terrific take on how the legend's lessons should be applied to Weiss' ballclub, shortly. Be sure to stick around for that.
Until then, have a great day, y'all.