We heard a week or two ago that Jon Garland is worried about his career in light of his shoulder problems. That may have just been some understandable fretting. It’s hard to say. But people are now saying that, at the very least, Garland’s 2011 season could be history. Specifically, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, who was told by a “a well-placed source” Garland is likely done for the season.
Garland went 1-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 54 innings before being shut down. From the sounds of it — and based on how badly some guys have struggled coming back from shoulder problems — there is a non-trivial chance that those are the last 54 innings he’ll ever pitch.
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.