When the Indians re-signed Grady Sizemore to a one-year, $5 million they did so hoping he’d be ready for Opening Day, but instead the oft-injured center fielder hasn’t played a single game and now he’s been ruled out for the season following another setback.
Manager Manny Acta summed up the situation pretty well to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com:
It’s sad. I won’t call it disappointing. I’m just sad for the human being that he is, and the type of player that he is. … A lot of things have happened over the last three, four years that have been completely out of his control. The guy played the game right. He was an elite player in this league. Unfortunately, over the last three or four seasons, he hasn’t been able to do it.
Sizemore is still only 30 years old, but he’s had multiple surgeries on his back, elbow, and both knees. And he’s just never been able to build any momentum with his latest comeback, repeatedly having to take a break from rehab due to different aches and pains.
By age 25 he’d made three All-Star teams, won two Gold Glove awards, and received MVP votes in four seasons. In four years since then Sizemore will have missed 438 of a possible 648 games while hitting .234 when in the lineup. What a shame.
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.