From the Economist, a look at the bleeding edge of performance-enhancement: inhaling an oxygen-Xenon mixture. And it is quite literally the bleeding edge. As in: it helps in the production of red blood cells. And the best part: no needles!
The recommended dose is a 50:50 mixture of xenon and oxygen, inhaled for a few minutes, ideally before going to bed. The gas’s action, the manual states, continues for 48-72 hours, so repeating every few days is a good idea. And for last-minute jitters, a quick hit an hour before the starting gun can help.
That little bump gives athletes a whole host of benefits, including increased heart and lung capacity, preventing muscle fatigue, boosting testosterone and improving mood. Xenon has been shown to benefit mountain climbers, paddlers, soldiers and pilots in various studies.
And the best part: it’s not banned by WADA. It has been used by Russian athletes. Indeed, it is recommended by doctors and trainers advising them. And its use if probably increasing.
How soon before it’s being used by ballplayers? Heck, how many ballplayers are using it already?
(thanks to John M. for the heads up)
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.