This according to John Fay of the Cincy Enquirer.
I understand the impulse — Oh noes! We only scored one run in three games! Halp! Get us some offense! — but Gary Matthews Jr. is no more the solution to that problem than high winds and tinder are to a brush fire. He’s not the solution to any of the Reds’ problems, really. That is unless “the son of a friend of Dusty Baker got released a couple of weeks ago and needs a job” is one of the Reds’ problems.
The kicker here is that the deal, which was initially reported as done, is not quite done yet, and will likely take a couple of days. I’m going to assume the time is needed to accommodate a series of complex demands on Matthews’ part. After all, he is a veteran who knows how to play the game the right way so you can’t rush him or anything.
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.