Finally, confirmation that Phil Hughes is in The Best Shape of His Life

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We’ve had several stories about Phil Hughes’ conditioning this winter. Word that the Yankees didn’t like that he was out of shape last year. Word that he was re-dedicating himself to conditioning this offseason.

Because of the uncertainty, Kopy, our resident keeper of the BSOHL roster, has had Hughes listed in the “awaiting confirmation” category, with all of us waiting to see which New York writer was the first to get to Tampa and write “Phil Hughes looks good.”  The winner of that derby is Kevin Kernan of the New York Post:

 

I think the “buffed up” seals it.  I defer to Kopy on this one because he’s the keeper of the roster, but this has to take Hughes out of “awaiting confirmation” and into … the BSOHL.

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.