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August 14, 2010

You Can Blog It Up

The Shockingly Non-Bunty Gene Mauch All-Stars

by Steven Goldman

In 22 full seasons of managing, Gene Mauch’s teams led their leagues in sacrifice bunts 14 times and finished second thrice more. In many seasons, the race for the bunt title, such as it was, wasn’t even close. In 1979, Mauch’s Twins dropped one down 142 times—and those are just the successful bunts. There must have been many more attempts. The second-place team had just 79 bunts, and the league average was only 68. In 1982, the Angels had 114 bunts. The league average was 54. In 1986, the Angels had 91 bunts against a league average of 46.

But for shortstop Roy Smalley, who had 23 bunts in 1978, the players listed here didn’t do a great deal of bunting. The reason is simple: as eager as Mauch was to give up an out to move a runner over, these were his real hitters.

Boilerplate: this series was inspired by Bill James Guide to Managers, which contains several best-of teams for historic managers. Mauch was one of those that James didn’t bother with.

 

 

YR

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

TAv

C

Butch Wynegar

1976

534

58

139

21

2

10

69

79

63

0

0

.269

.356

.363

.273

1B

Rod Carew

1977

616

128

239

38

16

14

100

69

55

23

13

.388

.449

.570

.338

2B

Bobby Grich

1982

506

74

132

28

5

19

65

82

109

3

3

.261

.371

.449

.286

3B

Dick Allen

1966

524

112

166

25

10

40

110

68

136

10

6

.317

.396

.632

.353

SS

Roy Smalley

1978

586

80

160

31

3

19

77

85

70

2

8

.273

.362

.433

.279

LF

Larry Hisle

1977

546

95

165

36

3

28

119

56

196

21

10

.302

.369

.533

.300

CF

Lyman Bostock

1977

593

104

199

36

12

14

90

51

59

16

7

.336

.389

.508

.304

RF

Rusty Staub

1969

549

89

166

26

5

29

79

110

61

3

4

.302

.426

.526

.338

DH

Brian Downing

1987

567

110

154

29

3

29

77

106

85

5

5

.272

.400

.487

.303

 

 

 

YR

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

SNLVAR/WXRL

SP

Jim Bunning

1966

19-14

1

314.0

260

55

252

2.41

10.3

SP

Mike Witt

1986

18-10

0

269.0

218

73

208

2.84

8.1

SP

Chris Short

1965

18-11

2

297.1

260

89

237

2.82

7.7

SP

Dave Goltz

1977

20-11

0

303.0

284

91

186

3.36

6.7

SP

Jerry Koosman

1979

20-13

0

263.2

252

83

157

3.38

6.6

RP

Donnie Moore

1985

8-8

31

103.0

91

21

72

1.92

6.1

The unavoidable notes:

  • I don’t have a great deal to say this time; there weren't too many difficult choices to make. This underscores the central facts of the Mauch story:  as famous as Mauch became for near-miss teams like the 1964 Phillies and 1986 Angels, he rarely had a really strong roster to work with. They were mostly flawed in some way. Consider his 1977 Twins, well represented above. They had a fine offense, led the league in runs scored per game, batting average, and on-base percentage, but their pitching staff was hopeless, ranking 12th in the league in ERA. They went 84-77, finishing fourth in the AL West. His Expos were an expansion team, just accumulating real talent when he left. The 1982 Angels could hit (with a wonderfully potent outfield of Brian Downing, Fred Lynn, and Reggie Jackson) but had no starters capable of causing batters to swing and miss and nothing like a bullpen. The only thing wrong with the 1986 Angels was the loss of Wally Joyner halfway through the ALCS. Mauch's small-ball style worked against him, but the bunt totals went down when he had more hitters; it was his way of compensating. Were I starting a team, I probably wouldn't hire him to manage because I don't believe in the style, but I would have loved to have him running my spring training, drilling my players in fundamentals.
  • An odd note about Mauch’s career is that he had a lot of players whose careers didn’t fulfill great promise. Wynegar, a second-round draft pick in 1974, had an amazing season in the California League in 1975 (.314/473/.500, 19 home runs, 142 walks). He might have been the first coming of Joe Mauer. Rushed to the majors at 20, he proved to be a more pedestrian hitter (although selective), but made the All-Star team in his first two seasons. In his third year, he hit .229/.307/.308 and although there were a couple of decent seasons yet to come, he never approached stardom. Dick Allen couldn’t keep his mind on baseball and trailed off after age his age-32 season. In his six years from age 25 to 30, Smalley was one of the best-hitting shortstops in the game (.270/.357/.430), but injuries destroyed his defensive abilities. He finished as a DH and was gone at 34. Larry Hisle was at the literal peak of his career, coming off of a .290/.374/.533, 34-home run season when injuries brought his career to a virtual halt at 32. Lyman Bostock was murdered at 27. Allen would have been an easy Hall of Famer with a slightly better finish. I don't know if any of the rest would have made it, but they would have been remembered as stars of the era instead of footnotes.

Previous Entries in This Series:

Billy Martin

Chuck Tanner

Whitey Herzog

Lou Piniella

Tony LaRussa

Bobby Cox

Steven Goldman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Steven's other articles. You can contact Steven by clicking here

Related Content:  1986,  Bunts

6 comments have been left for this article.

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