Yeah, the headline is sort of trolly, I realize that. But the fact is that Cole Hamels is the most eligible pitcher available at the trade deadline and the Yankees are in pretty desperate need for a starter. It doesn’t seem like those two teams match up wonderfully as far as a trade goes, but you know there are no small number of Yankees fans who covet Hamels and would love to see him pitch in the Bronx.
Well, they saw him pitch in the Bronx today and it didn’t go too well: Hamels gave up five runs on eight hits in five innings and the Yankees went on to win in a laugher, 10-2.
For the Yankees the story of the day was Ivan Nova, who returned from the disabled list to pitch six and two-thirds shutout innings. He and the Phillies relievers even managed to tame Maikel Franco, who had been terrorizing the Yankees for the previous two games. The phenom went 0-for-4. Mark Teixeira also bounced back after some time off with ailments, going 3-for-5 with two driven in.
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.