Brewers offense with a bunt-heavy approach in 2024


In the bottom of the third inning on Tuesday, Blake Perkins swung through a fastball on the first pitch and signaled for a timeout to be called.

Given the situation, it seemed like an unusual place for a timeout – unless you looked a little closer.

Perkins is almost always thinking about dropping a bunt.

The Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder came in on a remarkable streak that it’s quite unlikely anyone was aware of: Perkins has bunted in every game he’s started for more than two weeks now.

In that at-bat, Perkins was hacked, in part because Chicago Cubs third baseman Christopher Morel played a few yards on the infield grass.

Many of Perkins’ bunt attempts, including the one from the previous game, came on the first pitch during his streak. Calling a timeout, Perkins wanted to see if Morel would go back to the sand for the second pitch. He did. And Perkins, very subtly as he put on his batting gloves, took a look.

On the next pitch, Perkins squared off, marking the 10th consecutive start in which he had done so at least once.

With bunts in each of the next two games, Perkins pushed his streak to twelve straight games through Thursday, an active stretch that includes a total of sixteen square rounds and two hits.

“I don’t want to get into the mindset of just showing it to show it, unless it’s a situation where I’m pitching anyway,” Perkins said. “Maybe get into someone’s head a little bit. But I try to throw a bunt. I realize if it’s not a throw, I’m comfortable with a bunt, I’ll just back off. But I’m aware of ( the streak), yeah I mean, I would have bunted all four times on Sunday. And I would have bunted all four times, because why not?”

One of those hits came Sunday in Boston and was part of a two-bunt sequence that infuriated Red Sox reliever Chris Martin and led to a dispute over clearing the benches.

“It’s part of my game,” Perkins said. ‘I’m not going to feel bad about it, I can tell you that. If I have to, I’ll do it every time.”

It’s also apparently a big part of his teammate’s games.

Brewers are one of the toughest flag teams in the league

Entering Tuesday’s game, the Brewers have given up 21 bunts this year, which ranks third in the MLB. That total matches the number of bunts from last season.

“It’s something you can learn and you should be able to do that in the big leagues,” Christian Yelich said. “You never know when you’ll need it. You don’t have to do it all the time. We practice it quite a lot as a team, but it’s a good way to play offensively with your skills sometimes.

You could see the year-over-year turnaround in the flags and assume it is directly related to the Brewers manager turnover. After all, the previous manager, Craig Counsell, had a general aversion to ever sacrificing bunting and his replacement, Pat Murphy, comes from a background in the college game where bunting is common.

But believe it or not, the majority of the flagging comes from the batter’s box and not the dugout – or at least it seems that way.

“I don’t believe the bunt is a significant offensive weapon,” Murphy said Tuesday afternoon.

There have been at least a few called bunts by Murphy this year, but this latest sentiment from him reflects the bunting philosophy he passed on during spring training when he said, among other things, “I don’t know why people associate me with bunting.”

“It’s personnel-based,” Murphy was expected to say Tuesday. “It is also the player’s option. If that’s part of their offensive game and they feel like they can get it done. Sometimes they know the right times to do it and sometimes they take it upon themselves. You tense up and say, “Why did you do that?” But when it works, you say, ‘Hey, good job!’”

Breaking up the Brewers’ bunt attempts

So, how many times has Murphy heard himself say, “Hey, good job!”?

Let’s break down the 21 punches the Brewers took (or at least put in play).

Of those bunts, four turned into sacrifices, although two of them — one each by Jackson Chourio and Brice Turang — were landed with the full intent of going for a single. There was also a sacrificial attempt that resulted in a force out.

Seven non-sacrifices turned into bunt groundouts, plus one errant popout by Perkins. Add in the failed sacrifice and you have 10 outs on bunts without any conceivable advantage.

But eight of the 21 were singles, one of which turned into two bases when the pitcher threw the ball into right field.

The Brewers will certainly average .444 (8 for 18) on bunt-for-hit attempts, or even .400 if you count the two sacrifices that doubled as hit attempts.

“We practice it,” Turang said. “We are trying to create jobs. Trying to get hits. We have to feel comfortable with it. Part of it is making you feel comfortable with it.”

Turang totaled a team-high nine bunts on the year after putting up eight last year. He recalls similar conversations about bunts around the Brewers clubhouse and conference rooms last year, but they ranked just 26th in the MLB in total bunts.

If the team personnel are largely the same – the key players are Perkins, Yelich and Turang, who were all here last year – and the manager doesn’t have a particularly bigger boost in terms of bunting, what’s the reason for the influx?

“I mean Murph definitely talks about it, but they talked about it last year too,” Turang said. “It’s just part of the game, part of the way baseball is played. They were still talking about it last year. But now it’s more about guys being comfortable with it, understanding it and knowing the situations for it.

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