This is fun: Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports that Major League Baseball has proposed that the Giants and Diamondbacks open the 2011 season with a two-game set in Taiwan. Baseball has done Japan and Mexico for Opening Day before, but Taiwan would be a new one.
It would be a weird schedule too: the teams would fly to Taiwan in late March, play some exhibitions against their national team and maybe against a pro team or two, play their two game series — which would count in the regular season standings — then come back to spring training and play some more exhibition games before resuming the regular season.
The trip is certainly an odd one, and because of that it would require the approval of the players, so it’s not a done deal 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.