Rob Neyer asked an all-star cast of baseball writers and thinkers — Allen Barra, Bill James, Bob Costas, Brian Kenny, Don Zminda, John Thorn, Joe Posnanski, Michael Schur, Richard Lally — what the subject matter of the next great baseball movie should be. The answers were all over the place, but most of them struck me as pretty darn good.
I’m sort of in Schur’s camp: we need a funny baseball movie. Something light. We’ve sorta been crushed by a lot of history in the past several notable baseball movies. I think it’s time for wacky. Which is hard because you have to keep the essence of baseball in there too, which can’t be easy. And with “Major League” or “Bull Durham” out there as near perfect examples of the form, it’s hard to match up to what came before.
Still, tell me you wouldn’t see most of these movies.
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.