When Nori Aoki came to the plate with runners on second and third with one out in the third inning against Madison Bumgarner, fans on Twitter called out for the slap-hitting outfielder to bunt. Instead he struck out and the rally fizzled. But the question remains: should Aoki have laid one down, a safety squeeze or something similar?
Aoki has 70 “official” bunt attempts over his three-year career, reaching safely more than 30% of the time. Just 20% of those attempts came against left-handed pitchers, as Bumgarner is. Among those attempts, six could be classified as squeezes and four successfully plated runners, according to the Baseball Reference Play Index.
It’s a low-percentage play, all things considered. But Nori Aoki versus Madison Bumgarner is a low percentage play in relative terms. Playing for one run so early in the game is a bit much, even for the Royals, especially in this situation offering many avenues for scoring (ground out, sac fly, a single scores two and so on.)
No Royals scored, so looking back with hindsight makes the decision look bad automatically. Kansas City blazed their trail to the World Series by making questionable decisions and “putting pressure on the defense.” With a strong bunter and an ace still looking for his groove on the mound, the decision is never an easy one.