Last night Joe Girardi revealed his plans for the Yankees’ playoff rotation, announcing that CC Sabathia will start Game 1 of the ALDS against the Tigers followed by rookie Ivan Nova in Game 2 and veteran Freddy Garcia in Game 3.
Not exactly how the Yankees’ brass saw their October pitching shaking out back in spring training.
Because of the scheduling Sabathia and Nova will likely both be able to make a second start in the opening round, meaning the Yankees can rely on a three-man rotation while demoting A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, and Phil Hughes to the bullpen.
Last season the Yankees had Sabathia atop the rotation, followed by Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes, and Burnett in the fourth starter role started just one of their nine playoff games.
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.