While we’re on the subject of top
prospects, Dustin Ackley, the No. 2 selection in the 2009 First-Year
Player Draft also made news on Friday. Mariners general manager Jack
Zduriencik said Ackley will begin working out at second base in a move that could become permanent.
Ackley, 21, played outfield and
first base with North Carolina, but was drafted as a center
fielder. Zduriencik was careful to say that this would be an
experiment, but Ackley is expected to rise in the system rather
quickly, and with Franklin Gutierrez holding down center field quite
nicely, second base could be a natural fit.
Ackley is batting .315/.412/.425
with one home run, five doubles, 12 RBI and 13 runs scored in 20 games
for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. He is scheduled to
bat leadoff and play center field during Saturday’s AFL Championship
Game against the Phoenix Desert Dogs.
It’s important to note that Ackley is at least one year away from the majors, but in a semi-related story, the Mariners may consider moving current second baseman Jose Lopez to first base, according to a FOXSports.com.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.