Angels left-hander Scott Kazmir has been nothing short of disappointing through six starts this season, with a 2-3 record, 6.82 ERA and 1.78 WHIP. On Wednesday, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Angels manager Mike Scioscia decided to reevaluate his spot in the starting rotation with an hour-long closed door meeting.
“We just wanted to get an understanding of where he felt he was, what
adjustments need to be made and whether he needed some time to make
those adjustments,” Scioscia said. “He doesn’t think so, and [pitching coach Mike Butcher]
doesn’t think so, so he will make his next start Monday in Texas.”
In other words, Kazmir needs to be better the next time he takes the mound, or the Angels will have to move in another direction. The southpaw could be demoted to Triple-A to work on his craft or moved to the bullpen Carlos Zambrano-style. Either way, something has to be done. The Angels are just 15-20 this season and are quickly losing ground to the Rangers in the AL West standings.
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.