Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Surprise, Surprise

I no longer know if that was the “real” Brett Myers who showed up last night or a pretender, but whoever that was, he pitched “real good” as his manager might say.  

Lots of walks – too many – but lots of strikeouts, especially when he needed them.  And some wonderful fielding behind him, especially by Abraham Nunez, who proved he should be given more playing time.  I can’t resist pointing out that without Nunez’ great stop of a hard hit ball by Randy Johnson, the Phils might have suffered yet another ignominious defeat courtesy of an opposing pitcher with a bat in his hands.

Shane Victorino also served notice yet again why he deserves to be  playing regularly.  Only yesterday I said he should be in the lineup every day, spelling one of the three regular outfielders.  He hits.  He runs.  He catches the ball.  He ignites this team in a way no other player does including Jimmy.  Watch.  They’ll trade him.

Chase Utley played first base last night.  Nunez was at second.  When Tom Goyne of Balls, Sticks & Stuff emailed me and some other bloggers prior to the start of the game and told us the lineup had Utley at first and Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard on the bench, I didn’t believe it.   (Say, Tom, where do they post those pre-game lineups anyway?)   I believed Tom, mind you, just not Charlie.  Hey, it worked, so I am not complaining…for now.

Nothing surprises me anymore.   Prior to this season I have never seen so many shifts put on for so many batters.  We are not talking about a shift only for Barry Bonds.  Just about every team with a pull hitter is seeing a shift at one point during a game, and even some guys who have a strong tendency to go the other way are being defended in the extreme.  You can be sure I’ve never seen a shift like the one Tampa Bay put on for Ryan Howard Friday night when I was at the game.  After the pitcher had Howard 0-1, Devil Rays third baseman Tomas “Pie Man” Perez shifted to left field, giving Tampa Bay four outfielders.  The shortstop was behind second base leaving the entire left side of the infield and most of left field (except the deepest part) completely uncovered.  I stared in total disbelief.  For their part, the Devil Rays figured he wouldn’t attempt to lay down a bunt with one strike on him.  Heck, they probably figured he wouldn’t lay down a bunt no matter what the count but even they wouldn’t chance their version of the shift when Howard had a strike to give.  Not only shifts, but situational ones!


Matt said...

Tom -

Thanks for the reminder! I meant to comment on the shift also, and completely forgot about it. Man, that was strange. I've never seen anything like it.

I was seven rows up in left field and the morons out there were actually cheering for Perez when he came running out. He didn't do ANYTHING for us and he's hitting below .200 for TB and they're cheering him. Unreal.

J. Weitzel said...

This must be the year of the overshift, culminating in the First-Annual Overshift Convention held in Milwaukee earlier this season. Even Ultey was overshifted that series.

J. Weitzel said...

Did you catch the broadcasters making a passing reference to the Perez overshift last night? That was an all-timer. Sure to go down as one of the great moments in overshift history.

Tom Goodman said...

Leslie Gudel (sp?) Of Comcast Sportsnet noted after the game that the Phillies won last night without the aid of a single home run, the first time they'd won playing small ball in a long time. They managed to do that in no small measure (pun intended) because they had guys like Victorino in the lineup.

Tom Goodman said...

I wonder if ESPN picked up on that during BBTN??? It was the strangest alignment I have ever seen. Didn't they put a similar shift on during one of the other games in the series, but from the first pitch, not after the second?

RickSchuBlues said...

Defensive shifts are a victory for the micromanaging, statmongering pencil-pusher's influence over baseball. I erupt with joy every time I see a hitter poke an RBI single through a vacant left side.

Tom Goodman said...

RSB: Could not have said it any better. I would have given anything to see Howard drop a bunt down third base way that night. I heard Thome did beat a shift recently going the other way but don't know the details.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

Shifts = highly overrated!

John Salmon said...

"I erupt with joy every time I see a hitter poke an RBI single through a vacant left side."

I don't know-how ofte do you see players actually do this?

The Phillies aren't losing because they don't play "small-ball" enough-the Dead Baall Era ended in 1920, and thus it's been 86 years or so since it made sense to play that style. They lose, in part, because they don't have a leadoff hitter, a problem solvable by playing Victorino every day. This idea makes so much sense they'll never do it. As someone mentioned, Victy will be the first guy they trade.