I’m not going to say that sabermetricians are ruining baseball, but the Yankee season isn’t a week old and I’m already sick and tired of the shift – the entire defense realigning on one side of the field so as to guard against pull hitters.
If I’m being honest, though, I’m not mad at the math geeks that have invaded America’s past time and made the shift a feature of nearly every inning. No, my problem lies, instead, with the hitters who treat it like some unsolvable Rubik’s Cube and ignore the clear, easy solution.
There’s an old saying in baseball – an instruction, really. “Hit ’em where they ain’t,” they say.
It’s a simple directive. Find spots where there aren’t defenders, put the balls there. Admittedly, most times it’s easier said than done. But sometimes – like when the shift is on – it couldn’t be any simpler.
Which is what’s so infuriating. You want to beat the shift? Direct the ball away from it.
Simply put? Bunt.
If the defense is willing to give you half the field, be willing to show them why that’s stupid. Square up, and put the bull where there are usually two defenders but currently aren’t any.
Naysayers will argue that the quality hitters whom defenses bother to shift against wield a bat too potent to waste on something they can’t do well anyway.
A valid concern, certainly.
If only each major league team could hire a coach whose sole job is to instruct players on how to hit. And if only these coaches had sessions with his or her players in some kind of cage wherein skills like how to bunt could be taught and honed. Batting practice they could call it. And if only major league players were paid professionals of whom it would be reasonable to ask that they have command of the game’s basic skills.
And if only bunting to the field opposite the shift – which, devoid any personnel, wouldn’t take a perfect, or even good, bunt – would guarantee a base hit, and, done every time the shift is put on, force defenses to reconsider gifting first base so often.
And if only I wasn’t setting new standards for sarcasm. Because if my lamentings above weren’t comically absurd, the naysayers would have a point. But they were comically absurd. Because each team has a hitting coach to teach players how to bunt. And because everyone in the league makes at least $500 thousand a year and should be able to master that which they teach you in little league. And because if Mark Teixeira or David Ortiz or whomever else faces the shift would just direct even a terrible bunt to the side of the field left wholly unattended, they could walk to first base.
And because, yes, they wouldn’t hit home runs, but they’d force managers to think about whether they want to, effectively, intentionally walk a hitter every time they step to the plate.
Author: Joe Bianchino
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.