He was probably just messing around in a meaningless game, and Prince has been known to do it every so often during the spring, but it sounds like something Ron Roenicke wouldn’t mind seeing him do once the games start counting. As quoted in both the Tom Haudricourt and Adam McCalvy pieces:
“If they’re going to overshift for him and he’s leading off an inning and we’re down a couple of runs in the eighth or ninth inning, I’m fine with him bunting. It’s a smart play.”
A “smart play” would be a good way to describe it. It’s not really smallball, as he wouldn’t be giving himself up to move a runner over. He’d be taking advantage of a game situation my making a high-percentage play.
Because I’m a geek who thinks about these things, this actually reminded me of a post Jack Moore made at Disciples of Uecker last season. Using some very basic and admittedly imperfect analysis, he estimated that the break-even success rate for Fielder bunt hits would have to be around 45% for it to be a good decision.
Considering all have to do to reach base is punch the ball past the pitcher, it does seem like he would be able to get to first safely at least half the time. As Roenicke said, if teams insist on keeping the shift on late in games when the Brewers need a baserunner, maybe it’s not a terrible idea. Prince just needs to be confident that he can get the bunt down in the first place and then get out of the box quick enough to beat a throw. Right now, it doesn’t sound like he’s confident in either part of that equation.
Even if he’s never completely comfortable with the idea, the benefits would be too great to ignore. Not only would it essentially mean a free baserunner, but the more he could successfully execute the bunt, the more teams would have to respect it. Potentially, that could mean the death of the Prince Shift, or at least force teams to make an adjustment that could open up a hole on the right side of the infield.
Hey, if David Ortiz can pull it off, there’s no reason to think that Prince can’t.