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Angel Hernandez and the umps think Anthony Rizzo is “awesome”

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We tend to only pay attention to player-umpire conversations when they’re contentious. When a call is blown or, at the very least, the player thinks a call is blown, and the parties get to shouting at one another. Last night, however, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo had a conversation with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez that was pretty sweet as far as these things go.

Rizzo had assumed a ball four earlier in the game and started to head toward first base. It was called a strike, however, and it was one of those situations where an umpire could have, if he wanted to, assumed that Rizzo was showing him up or whatever it is that umpires get cranky about in those instances. When Rizzo came up later in the game he started to apologize to Hernandez for that, but Hernandez wasn’t having any of it:

Hernandez tells Rizzo that he totally understood, that Rizzo was just in the heat of competition and such things happen. He said, speaking for his umpiring crew, that Rizzo was “awesome with us.”

Hernandez blew a call at home plate last night and, at many points in his career has caused players, managers and fans to tear their hair out because, well, he has blown some other calls as well. It’s good to see, however, that for whatever faults he has an ump, holding grudges and perceiving slights and disrespect on the part of players is not one of them. In that respect he seems pretty chill. Far more chill than a lot of older umps who seem to look for signs of disrespect at every turn.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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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.