Was Ron Washington Really Wrong in His Criticism of Angels’ Execution?

Ron Washington blasted one of his Los Angeles Angels players for not being able to lay down a bunt. Is that a bad thing?

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 09: Los Angeles Angels second baseman Luis Guillorme walks back to the dugout after striking out during the MLB game between the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on May 9, 2024 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ANAHEIM — Ron Washington calling out Luis Guillorme for his inability to lay down a bunt during a key moment of the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-6 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night has caused plenty of headlines and social media angst. However, when you look at the statistics, should there be as much anger out there about Washington’s comments as there currently is?

For those unaware of Tuesday’s notable moments, the Angels were down by that 7-6 margin in the bottom of the eighth but had the bases loaded with one out. On a 1-1 count, Washington called for a suicide squeeze play, sending Zach Neto racing home with the hopes of Guillorme putting the bunt in play. However, Cardinals reliever JoJo Romero threw a slider that ended up well out of the strike zone. Guillorme was unable to make contact and Neto was an easy out at home.

Guillorme would eventually strike out and the Angels would not score in the frame, leading to the one-run loss.

After the game, I sat in the Angels press conference room as Washington was adamant that the blame for the missed bunt and lack of execution on the squeeze play fell squarely on Guillorme.

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“He didn’t do the job,” Washington said in his postgame comments. “It wasn’t anything I did wrong. He didn’t do the job.”

An obviously frustrated Washington explained to reporters that the matchup between Guillorme and Romero was “lefty on lefty” and Romero was a sinkerball pitcher so he didn’t want Guillorme to hit into an inning-ending double play.

“He was throwing the ball in the strike zone,” Washington said, answering a follow-up question about the play. “Why are you making excuses? He was throwing the ball in the strike zone. (Guillorme) did not get the bunt down. Period.”

Much of the pushback against Washington’s comments have come from those who believe he pushed one of his players under the bus after the game. However, looking at the statistics, it could be argued Washington certainly has every reason to be frustrated with the missed bunt.

While the squeeze play is never a 100 percent sure bet, further research showed that the bunt, even with the ball that far out of the strike zone, still had, historically, a 54 percent rate of not being missed.

Additionally, while Romero finished his night throwing 31 pitches and only 15 going for strikes, the pitch chart shows that it was the slider (which he threw 12 of during his outing) that landed far outside the strike zone (as it was designed to do).

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The other pitches (a combination of three other pitch types, per Baseball Savant) danced around the strike zone, Romero threw Guillorme four sliders during the fateful at-bat. All four went for strikes (foul tip, called strike, missed bunt, and swinging strike).

Guillorme also has a history of being able to put down a bunt, putting down seven sacrifice bunts during his seven-year MLB career and going 4-for-10 on bunts that he has laid down to try to get a hit.

When you put the pieces together, even with the pitch location and a truly perfect pitch for the scenario being thrown, there was still a decent chance the play could have ended up a success (or at least not a complete failure) for the Angels. However, in what has been a frustrating, injury-filled season, things once again didn’t go the way of the Halos.

Baseball is anything but an exact science, and there is nothing guaranteed in the game. For his part, Guillorme was very matter-of-fact about the play after the loss, telling me and other reporters, “He made a good a pitch. I didn’t get it down. I’ve got to try to put a bat on it. That’s it.”

It seems that people are more upset about Washington’s words than the actual play itself. The 72-year-old manager is indeed a throwback to the, shall we say, less PC days of the sport. Those of us in the media can always count on a quote from Washington, but there are times that those quotes can catch anyone by surprise. Such was the case on Tuesday night.

Washington is who he is, and the Angels knew who he was when they hired him to be their manager this offseason. He isn’t going to sugarcoat things, and whether that is the right fit for a young team that is learning on the job at many positions remains to be seen.

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“It sucks to go through,” one of those young players, Logan O’Hoppe, said in the clubhouse on Tuesday night. “It’s not fun. But you gotta go through it. There’s light on the other side of it. But there’s no hiding, this is not fun.

“This is tough. But you stay in it and it’s not because of a lack of effort. It’s hard mentally to go through this as a group but we have to stick with it and keep learning.”

At 16-28 and in the cellar of the American League West, the season is going about how most predicted it would go. The Angels being a postseason contender in 2024 would have been a true surprise. With that in mind, Washington’s candid and straightforward thoughts on his team will likely continue, whether fans and even members of the media like it or not.