Greetings from Day 3 of the Winter Meetings

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In-N-Out in Dallas?  Who knew?  Baseball writers, that’s who. You could put them on an island in some far flung sea and they’d be able to find an In-N-Out Burger.  It’s just what they do.

I felt obligated to go anyway. The lobby was getting to be too much for me last night.  The first 200 conversations that began with “so, who do you think the Mystery Team is?” were endurable but it got slightly less so as the evening wore on. Sometimes you just need a cheeseburger in that situation.

Not that anyone could or should think that Pujols talk was avoidable. He has dominated the first two days of the Winter Meetings, for obvious reasons. He’s huge. No one else is doing anything. And oh my God, the Marlins.

Maybe the Marlins with some hubris, too: they spread the word yesterday that they wanted a decision from Pujols last night. Well, it’s 7AM here and he’s still a free agent. As if they were going to pull their offer because of an arbitrary deadline.  It’s like they’re trying to steal someone’s wife and are forcing her to run off with them tonight lest she think too hard about what she’s doing and change her mind. Albert will decide on Albert’s time.

Otherwise, in the event that, unlike me, you went to bed at a decent hour, wake up this morning to the knowledge that the Tigers are interested in Gio Gonzalez, though the A’s are apparently asking a mint.  The Mariners are maintaining their pursuit of Prince Fielder. The Mets paid what seems like way too damn much money for Frank Francisco.  Sandy Alderson seemed like a guy who understood supply and demand, but I suppose not. He isn’t the first GM to go reliever crazy this winter.

Pujols has to sign today, right? I mean, he can’t keep teasing us all like this, can he?  Either way, we’ll be on the case again. Keep HBT up all day. Your boss will understand. This is serious business.

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.