Jarrod Dyson’s Bunt During Perfect Game Creates Controversy
If you have never had the pleasure of watching Jarrod Dyson run around a baseball diamond, take the time to look at this list of his top 10 moments as a Kansas City Royal. The man can flat out fly. Dyson is momentarily once again in the national spotlight because of his speed, but this time around he is hearing jeers and boos for utilizing his blinding wheels. On Wednesday night the Detroit Tigers were on the road facing Dyson’s Seattle Mariners. Justin Verlander was on the mound for the Tigers and he was in rare form, even for him. Verlander had retired each of the first 16 men he had faced, holding on to a possible perfect game with one out in the 6th inning while facing Dyson. Dyson (batting left-handed) dropped down a sensational drag bunt just out of the reach of the right-handed tossing Verlander. Once it got by the big pitcher, there was no chance for anybody else to make a play. Infield single for Dyson. Perfect Game over. The issue at hand is was it appropriate for Dyson to drop down a bunt while Verlander was in the midst of a perfect game?There are some conditionals to parse through, but in this instance, there was not a single thing wrong with Dyson’s bunt to break up the prefect game.
Does Timing Matter?
Yes and no. Baseball has many unwritten rules. All sports have unwritten rules. These are the rules you learn simply by playing enough games and spending enough time trying to perfect your craft. There are many keyboard jockeys out there (looking at you Deadspin) who ridicule unwritten rules and think it is hysterical when people claim, “but you didn’t play the game, you wouldn’t know.” They think that argument is invalid. They think watching enough of a sport gives them credence to claim what is correct and incorrect in a game. The problem is, there are some things you pick up on only by playing the sport: do not talk to the batter while the pitcher is in the windup if you are the catcher, expect a beanball if you try to tip pitches at second base, do not steal when up by double digit runs late in the game.
While these are some of the unwritten rules of baseball that everybody can agree on, bunting in a perfect game is different because it is all a matter of timing and game situation. A solid rule is anything goes through six innings.
If a pitcher has some serious stuff that day, the batter has two at-bats in which to throw the pitcher off of his game. Think about it. If a pitcher is rolling, he is going to bulldoze you the first time you meet. The pitcher always has the advantage the first time up; he is fresher and the batter has yet to see the typer of arsenal the pitcher is working with on that day. Second time up the equation starts to slide to the batter. Now, even if the pitcher has a perfect game going, the batter gets the opportunity to make the adjustment and decide what is the best way to take this guy out of his rhythm; maybe his changeup is filthy so you move up in the box, maybe the fastball is a freight train so you move back, or maybe you realize he is falling off of one side of the mound so you want to drop down a bunt. No matter what that adjustment is, the batter has a right to do whatever the hell he wants in that second at bat. First at bat belongs to the pitcher, second at bat belongs to the batter. And every batter, no matter where he is in the lineup, should get a chance to do whatever he wants. Dyson was in his second at bat of the game and made his adjustment and won the battle.
Where things start to get a little dicey is when the game gets into the later innings. After the sixth inning it is gut-check time. Who are you as a batter? Do you have the type of skill set that even when a pitcher is on his game, you can finesse or muscle a hit off of him? Or is the pitcher that type of locked in that it does not matter. When it gets to those later innings, you have to tip your cap to the pitcher and man-up. Tell him whatever he has going that day, you can take him. If you cannot, then he deserves to get you out and he deserves a chance at immortality.
What is the Score?
This is the one that causes the most controversy. What is the score of the game? For most, the score is directly tied to the inning. There is no hardened rule, even an unwritten one, when it comes to the score. If anything goes through the six innings, then the score should not matter until the seventh inning or later. For most people, once the game is into the seventh inning a bunt should be out of the question for any game that is five or more runs.
HOWEVER, if the game is close, you should be trying to do whatever you can to get on base. For situations like this, it all comes down to the individual batter and their approach at the plate. Which means, the score is not nearly as important as…
Who is Batting?
Hypothetical: Cecil Fielder comes to the plate in the seventh inning against Roger Clemens. The Rocket is in the midst of a perfect game and Fielder drops down a perfect bunt for a base hit. This would be a crime against the game of baseball. Granted, the physics of Fielder ever getting a bunt base hit are impossible, but the situation is clear; if you are not a guy who is used to bunting, do not drop down a bunt to try and break up a perfect game. Case in point; the most egregious perfect game bunt in memory
This is all the way back on May 26, 2001. Curt Schilling is in his prime and is having one of the best games of his life. He is on the mound in the bottom of the eighth inning with one out, having struck out eight Padres up to that point. He has faced 22 batters and retired 22 of them (including Rickey Henderson three times). Up comes Ben Davis, catcher for the Padres. Davis lofts a plop bunt towards second with the infield back. The ball drops in and Schilling’s bid for a perfect game is over. Schilling walks the next batter before getting a foul out and a strikeout to end the threat. Davis was no speedster. The infield was playing back because the last thing they are expecting is the five batter in the lineup to drop down a bunt with one out in the eighth inning of a potential perfect game. Davis had faced Schilling twice already in the game, striking out once. Davis knew the only way he could get a hit was to drop down a bunt. Davis took a look at the way Schilling was pitching, analyzed his own offensive game, and figured there was no possible way he could get a hit.
Just like Dyson, David made his adjustment. The problem though, is that Davis’ move to bunt the ball came as a result of a complete and utter lack of faith in his own abilities. He went outside of his own skillset and dropped down a bunt specifically because he thought he had no shot. At that point, you owe it to the pitcher, and you owe it to yourself, to go ahead and swing the bat. Dropping down a bunt in that scenario just reeks of cowardice.
Jarrod Dyson is no coward. Jarrod Dyson is a long shot who hustles and runs his way to and through every opportunity. Dyson was a 50th Round (2006) draft pick of the Kansas City Royals out of Southwest Mississippi Community College. This man should not be in Major League Baseball. And yet, he was a standout and pivotal part of two separate Royals World Series teams. Dyson is the exact type of player you should expect to drop down a bunt every time he comes to the plate. Back in 2013 he picked up 10 bunt base hits in 239 at bats. In other words, he was picking up a bunt base hit every 24 at bats or six games and a half games. This year he is not close to that pace, but he (after the successful bunt against Verlander) has six bunt base hits in 246 at bats. If there is anybody you should expect, and play for the bunt, it is Dyson.
That is what this really boils down to though. For a guy like Ben Davis to drop down a bunt, even in a close game, it speaks to a cowardice and lack of faith in one’s own abilities. For Jarrod Dyson, he was channeling those abilities to execute something to perfection, and something that is not out of the realm of his normal skillset. Dyson dropping down a bunt for a hit in the middle of a perfect game attempt might rub some people the wrong way, but Dyson was simply doing something he does with regularity. This was not a one-off ploy by Dyson. This is a guy with 39 career bunt base hits. Clearly Verlander and the Tigers defense knew it was a possibility. If they did not then that is on them. But in this day and age of analytics and shifts, the safe bet is the Tigers knew Dyson might try a bunt. Even with all that knowledge he still executed it perfectly and made his way on base. For a guy that was a 50th Round pick, using what few abilities you have to got a hit off of a guy like Justin Verlander, that should be something that is applauded, not denigrated.