By Jon Weisman
In what has become an undoubtedly weird September for the Dodgers, this might be the weirdest fact of all.
The Dodgers have as many sacrifice bunts from cleanup hitters this month as home runs.
Justin Turner’s ninth-inning bunt Monday, which did lead to the tying run before the 3-2, extra-inning loss, was the first sacrifice by a Dodger No. 4 hitter in nine years and the second of the 21st century.
Once upon a time, sacrifices by Dodger cleanup hitters weren’t rare. Go back long enough, and you’ll find 78 games in which Zack Wheat bunted a runner over while batting fourth. But it was prevalent among the Boys of Summer (Jackie Robinson — 48 games), the Go-Go Dodgers of the ’60s and even more recent years.
Steve Garvey bunted from the cleanup spot 16 times. Heck, even Pedro Guerrero did it thrice.
Now, I’m not endorsing a wholesale return to this strategy — I’m confident that you’ll find most of the time, it wasn’t the right move to make. One time, for example, Garvey led off an inning with a double, and Guerrero — who had homered in his last at-bat and had an OPS of nearly 1.000 — came up and bunted Garvey to third. No, it wasn’t a one-run game.
But a cleanup sacrifice comes as less of a surprise when you realize that the Dodgers haven’t had a home run from their No. 4 hitter since September 4, when Chase Utley did so at San Diego. In fact, the Dodgers have more home runs from every other batting slot this month.
Dodger home runs by batting order in September
- 5 batting first
- 3 batting second
- 3 batting third
- 1 batting fourth
- 2 batting fifth
- 3 batting sixth
- 4 batting seventh
- 2 batting eighth
- 2 batting ninth
Turner is hitting decently in September, but hasn’t homered. Adrian Gonzalez has homered three times this month, but all batting third.
Anyway, this is all about as trivial as it gets, but who doesn’t need a little bit of a distraction right now?
Been contemplating the Five Stages of Magic Number at 2. I think they are: Excitement, Stoicism, Impatience, Vexation, Maniacal Laughter.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) September 29, 2015