Much has been made about how Earl Weaver, rest his soul, was a proto-metrics baseball revolutionary whose philosophies about bunting and home runs pre-dated the recent fad where each baseball fan poses as more of a genius than the last…
AP via New York Daily News
Well we know Earl didn’t have a “hit a home run” sign or even a “hit and run” sign, for the most part, so let’s take a look at his sacrifice bunt totals for the 14 seasons in which he managed more than 150 games.
In 1969, the Orioles were tied with Oakland for 7th among 24 MLB teams with 74 sacrifice bunts (2nd in the AL). Only the California Angels out-bunted Earl and the Os in the AL.
In 1970, the Orioles were 13th among 24 teams with 64 sacrifice bunts (7th in the AL).
In 1971, the Orioles were 7th among 24 MLB teams with 85 sacrifice bunts (2nd in the AL). The only AL team with more were the bunt-happy Brewers, who dropped down 107 and nubbed their way to a 69-win campaign.
In 1972, the Orioles were tied with Cincinnati for 17th among 24 MLB teams with 65 sacrifice bunts (11th in the AL). The only AL team stingier with the sac bunt that year was the Red Sox.
In 1973, the Orioles were 15th among 24 MLB teams with 58 sacrifice bunts (4th in the AL).
In 1974, the Orioles were 12th among 24 MLB teams with 72 sacrifice bunts (3rd in the AL). California and Texas out-bunted Earl and the the Os that year.
In 1975, the Orioles were tied with Milwaukee for 13th among 24 MLB teams with 73 sacrifice bunts (4th in the AL).
In 1976, the Orioles were tied with Houston for 20th among 24 MLB teams with 57 sacrifice bunts (9th in the AL). This is the year when Earl appears to have left the sac bunt behind. But three teams in the AL East — the Tigers, Yankees and Red Sox — had fewer.
In 1977, the Orioles were 22nd among 26 MLB teams with 48 sacrifice bunts (10th in the AL). Four AL teams, the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and White Sox, had fewer. (The numbers appear to add up incorrectly because of ties toward the top of the list.)
In 1978, the Orioles were 25th among 26 MLB teams with 41 sacrifice bunts (13th in the AL). The Yankees had fewer.
In 1979, the Orioles were 25th among 26 MLB teams with 42 sacrifice bunts (13th in the AL). The Red Sox had fewer.
In 1980, the Orioles were 24th among 26 MLB teams with 42 sacrifice bunts (12th in the AL). The Red Sox and Royals had fewer.
In 1982, the Orioles were 16th among 26 MLB teams with 57 sacrifice bunts (4th in the AL). But they leaped ahead of their AL East foes in this department and only the Rangers, Indians and Angels out-bunted Earl this year.
In 1986, Earl’s comeback year, the Orioles were 23rd among 26 MLB teams with 33 sacrifice bunts (11th in the AL).
If you look at the sweep of his career, you see a manager who would bunt with the best of ‘em during the early years, and who began guiding the Orioles toward the middle of the pack as his tenure wore on.
It took Earl until 1976, the beginning of the second half of his career, to bury the sacrifice bunt firmly “in the bottom of a long-forgotten closet,” per the famous quote.
Blog of Team couldn’t immediately tell what year he made that comment, and will figure it out at some point, but will bet it came during the late 1970s.
At that time, however, the Orioles’ AL East rivals including the Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox were doing the very same thing, cutting way back on the sac bunt. So was it the product of Earl’s genius and forethought or the product of industry cross-talk?
If you ask Blog, Weaver’s winning ways were more a function of his hard-nosed attitude toward umpires, his unwillingness to fawn over star players and his ability to understand splits and match-ups. It is clear that the central tenet of “Moneyball,” on-base percentage, was something Earl understood from the get-go.
While Earl didn’t admit until later how important his three superstars — Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson — were, their presence, too, was a key factor in Earl’s success.
Anyway, it’s true, Earl, Terry Crowley was lucky he was in fucking baseball, fer chrissake. So were you. You were a perfect fit. You might have been a night watchman, but for the game. Rest in peace.