Clayton Kershaw has the Cy Young Awards and the MVP. Madison Bumgarner has the rings and the World Series MVP. It’s kind of like a Peyton Manning/Tom Brady thing, I guess. Which makes me wonder why I haven’t seen the Very Important Thinkpiece comparing those two that way. I guess Plaschke and Jenkins are involved in some sort of arbitration over who gets to write that first.
Anyway, today the Dodgers and Giants are facing off and their aces are on the hill. At present: advantage Bumgarner. Because he took Kershaw deep a few minutes ago. Video of the dinger at that link. Embedded here later when MLB makes it embedable.
Right now it’s 2-0 Giants, as Hunter Pence also singled in a run. The Giants are, apparently, never losing again.
Oh, and Bumgarner has as many homers on the season as Robinson Cano and Joe Mauer.
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.