Ken Davidoff, following up on his Hall of Fame ballot column from yesterday, brings the noise about why PED stuff shouldn’t matter when it comes to this sort of thing. hitting the following bases:
- Hank Aaron did greenies, so why aren’t people on his case about that?;
- The fact that non-prescribed steroids are illegal should not be relevant to a Hall voter because (a) Hall voters aren’t lawyers; and (b) that logic would apply to greenies, cocaine and — though he doesn’t say it — alcohol in the 1920s too. It’s just not a workable reason to withhold a Hall vote now; and
- More generally, people and the times in which they live are imperfect and there’s no way to be consistent or fair if we apply the standards of one era to the acts of those in another.
I imagine Davidoff will catch a lot of flak for this column, particularly when it comes to the Hank Aaron stuff. But nothing he says in it is wrong, and I love the fact that he’s willing to ruffle some feathers on this stuff.
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.