We can all agree that the Athletics All-Star Brandon Moss is having a great year at the plate, but could be more productive by bunting more?
Unfortunately, Moss seems to be one player on the A’s that opposing teams employ the more-and-more abused over exaggerated shift, putting three infielders on the right side of the infield, because that’s where he hits most of his ground balls and line drives.
When the shift is employed against lefties, basically the third base position is sacrificed for a short right fielder. Some teams just move the whole infield over; others move the actual third baseman to a deep infielder between second and first base. Either way, it leaves a lot of vacant real estate down the third-base line.
Which leads to the question, when the shift is employed, why not just attempt a bunt down the third base line? Gift runner, right? And – if in the theme of Money Ball – runners lead to runs, why not? Especially to start an inning as has happened with Moss so many times this season.
Earlier this month, Rangers’ starter Colby Lewis exchanged words with the Blue Jays’ Colby Rasmus during the fifth inning of a Texas’ 4-1 loss, when Rasmus laid down a bunt with the shift employed. Lewis voiced his displeasure to reporters in a postgame rift over what he deemed was a selfish act to just get on base.
I don’t see Lewis’ argument and too many major league players are buying into this machismo game of “I’m paid to hit HRs” and they still have to hit away, when basically the whole left side of the infield is given to them.
It goes back to the advice of Hall of Famer ‘Wee’ Willie Keeler who hit .385 in 1898, “Keep your eye clear, and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
The exaggerated shift by opposing teams is essentially a bet by the infield that the batter will hit the ball in that direction. There’s nothing wrong with bunting if that’s where they ain’t – it’s part of the game. A well-placed bunt in fair territory can make for a hell of a weapon, in particular when it’s put down by a left-handed hitter against a defensive overshift.
In other words, “Your shift is taking away my strength to get on base, now play defense to cover my bunt.”
If Moss and other A’s players, I’m seeing the shift occasionally employed with Stephen Vogt and John Jaso, were to start bunting in those situations where a runner is needed, it may lead to the shift going away all together – or at least adjusted in some way and who knows what that’s going to look like.