The final out of the Phillies’ season opener loss to the Marlins sparks a popular baseball debate
Well, last night was finally opening night after almost 10 months without a Phillies game.
My reactions were probably similar to those I made last year, given the “disappointed but not surprised” nature of playing the worst team in the division and losing.
But one thing, in particular, caught my attention, and it has for a few years now. It has very little to do with the outcome of the game and everything to do with the final play that ended it.
“Ban the shift” has become popular terminology among baseball folk. They argue that each player in the field should be playing his proper position and moving elsewhere on the field is antithetical to the way of the game.
Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson moved to position himself on the right side of the infield in between first baseman Jesus Aguilar and second baseman Isan Diaz. That left almost the entire left side of the infield open for Bruce.
Baseball really is embarrassing sometimes. Jay Bruce didn’t even attempt to push a bunt down the third baseline, with the tying run on deck.
Instead, he hit right into the Marlins shift, for a game ending double play. pic.twitter.com/WZPAwwYwdU
— Mike Lott (@FntsySprtsGuru) July 25, 2020
A home run or double was not going to tie the game. I’m not saying Bruce should turn into Ichiro Suzuki, but maybe he owes it to himself to try to just get on base? I know that’s not the popular mantra right now in baseball’s “all-or-nothing” culture, but it bothers me that it didn’t occur to him to try.
He grounded into the shift and the Marlins turned a double play to end the game.
And, until players decide to try, fielders should continue to shift.
It’s not just Phillies players, either.
In yesterday’s opener between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays, with Cavan Biggio batting in the first, Tampa Bay put on a shift with four outfielders — two infielders on the right, and one covering the left side for a bunt:
Gotta love the classic Rays four-man outfield shift pic.twitter.com/QqCThhZQ1D
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) July 24, 2020
With how deep the first and second basemen were, Biggio could have bunted to the right side for a base hit. He struck out.
But next time? He bunted to the right side for a base hit. Take notes, Bruce.
— Jim | BALLCAP Sports on YouTube (@JimRileyLive) July 24, 2020
If pitchers are going to give hitters plenty of space to hit the ball, hitters need to learn to take advantage of it.
Baseball isn’t all about home runs. Bruce had an OPS+ of 101 and an on-base-percentage of .261 last year. Certainly, he could benefit from a few more cheap singles, especially one that could have brought the tying run to the plate in a 60-game sprint where each game matters — 2.7 times as much as they usually do.