Orioles pitchers and catchers report on Thursday; Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report on Sunday. No one knows if free agent starter Ervin Santana will have a new home by then, but Jon Morosi of FOX Sports is reporting that the O’s and Jays have had discussions with Santana’s representatives at Proformance Baseball.
Santana remains unsigned into February in part because he is tied to draft pick compensation. The Orioles would have to surrender their first round pick, 17th overall, in order to sign the right-hander. The Jays’ two first round picks (9th and 11th) are protected, so they would have to give up their second round pick (49th).
Santana, 31, was one of baseball’s most effective starters last year with the Royals, finishing the season with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings. However, he has been Jekyll & Hyde over his career, finishing with a sub-3.50 ERA three times and with an ERA above 5.00 three times. PECOTA, the projection system created by Baseball Prospectus, sees Santana posting a 4.25 ERA in 2014.
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.