Mike Piazza played five games and amassed 19 plate appearances as a Florida Marlin. But such are the things from which obsessions are borne. From Ken Belson of the New York Times:
One is a corporate lawyer from Southern California with few hobbies and only the mildest interest in sports. The other is a college student from Miami who is less than half his age and has amassed a stash of memorabilia that matches his love of baseball. Yet from opposite ends of the country they share one peculiar passion: collecting trading cards of Mike Piazza in a Florida Marlins uniform.
That’s like collecting only Delaney & Bonnie-era Eric Clapton stuff. Or focusing intently on John Tyler’s vice presidency. Neat, I suppose, but says more about the enthusiast than the object of the enthusiasm.
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.