Defensive infield shifts are all the rage in baseball this season; when certain hitters come to the plate the defense will overload one side of the infield and dare the hitter to hit the ball through that shift or hit the ball to the other side of the field. When Mike Moustakas comes to the plate he often sees one guy between second and third and three guys between first and second.
So what should he do?
One theory is that he should bunt or hit the ball to the opposite field. Get the ball in play on the side of the field with one defender and force the other team to abandon the shift and play him straight up. In the meantime Moose can get that batting average up.
Another theory is Mike should pull the ball even more. Forget singles the other way; get on top of the dish, make everything an inside pitch and aim for the cheap seats. There are guys who make a good living doing that. With those players you forget their batting average and look at power and production.
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And a lot of those guys are slow; if they hit a single the other way they then clog the bases and force their teammates to get two or even three more hits to score a run.
Ask Moose himself and he’s got no doubt about what he should do: Mike tries to hit the ball through or over the shift and suggests that people who think he should bunt against the shift look up how many successful bunts he’s laid down in his career.
Moustakas is an excellent third baseman and saves runs with his glove on a regular basis, but will need to hit more homers and drive in more runs to make the hit-it-through-the-shift approach work.
The Royals and RISP
It hasn’t been pretty the last couple nights, but coming into Monday’s game the Royals had the second-highest batting average with runners in scoring position in the American League. Teams and players go through streaks both good and bad. Getting too giddy during a hot streak and overly depressed in a cold streak is generally a bad idea.
The 0-2 mound visit
Sunday night with the game tied and Greg Holland on the mound in the tenth inning, the Cleveland Indians Lonnie Chisenhall was in an 0-2 hole. There were two outs and runners on first and third. He’d thrown Chisenhall two sliders already, both were taken for called strikes and now Holland needed to throw one more strike to get out of the jam.
That’s when catcher Erik Kratz decided to visit the mound.
A mound visit when a pitcher is 0-2 on a hitter might not be the best idea in the world. The pitcher is on the attack, the defense is on their toes and ready and a mound visit puts everything on hold. Everyone has to regroup and the pitcher’s rhythm has been broken. Better to save a mound visit for a 2-0 count, when things aren’t going the pitcher’s way and he might need a chance to regroup.
Sunday night Kratz got back behind the plate, Holland threw his third slider of the at-bat and Chisenhall hit off the top of the right field wall for a two-run double.
There were two big hits in that Sunday night game, Chisenhall’s tenth-inning shot and Michael Brantley’s RBI double in the third. Both came on 0-2 pitches—why give a hitter anything to hit 0-2?
You’ve got at least three pitches to get them to chase something out of the zone before you have to throw another strike.
How to tell who’s playing the game right
There are guys who, almost every night, manage to get their uniforms dirty. Those are the guys who are diving for balls, breaking up double plays, giving it their best. There are other guys who, almost every night, manage to keep their uniforms clean. Those are the guys who wave at the ball as it goes past, peel out of the base path and want nothing to do with breaking up a DP—they might get hurt.
If you want to know who’s playing the game right, most nights all you have to do is check out a player’s uniform.
Now on Twitter
I’ve resisted for quite a while, but I’m going to experiment with tweeting during ballgames. I haven’t wanted to do this because I felt like I needed to concentrate on the ballgame, but times change and so do baseball writers. I tried it Sunday night and, for the most part, thought I did a lousy job.
Figuring out what to comment on in a timely manner isn’t as easy as it seems; you don’t need me to tell you Alex Gordon hit a double, but maybe I can be of use if I point out the pitcher then wants Billy Butler to pull the ball and Billy needs to hit the ball to the right side.
If you want to follow along as I stumble through this learning process you can do so @leejudge8.