Must-click link: Joe Sheehan’s predictions for 2011

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I’m in the process of writing up a bunch of phony, snarky predictions for 2011 for the Rotoworld annual.  It’s thus rather refreshing to read some actual predictions for 2011 that are backed by some genuine baseball thought.  The thinker is Joe Sheehan, and some of his predictions are going to rile some of you:

  • The Phillies will not be as dominant as you think;
  • The Orioles will be a (sorta) contender;
  • There will be tons of trades;
  • No managers will be fired;
  • Ticket prices will fall;
  • There will be greater parity; and
  • The Red Sox will win it all.

For the reasons — and I agree with more of them than I disagree with — you have to click the link. Good stuff.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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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.