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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Francisco Lindor concerned analytics are ‘taking over’ baseball

The Mets’ new shortstop, who was elected to the executive subcommittee of the MLB Players Association over the offseason, voiced his concerns on Monday that analytics were “taking over the game too much” and diminishing the product.

“Analytics are great, they’re good. But they don’t need to take over the game,” Lindor said after the Mets’ first full-squad workout of spring training. “That’s something that’s just — it’s not right. Let the players play the game.”

Lindor, who also pointed to MLB’s revenue sharing program as “rewarding teams for losing,” was most passionate when asked about the parts of analytics he hated the most.

The four-time All-Star said he was not a fan of the shift and prefers to let his own instincts dictate where he positions himself in the field.

“I get really mad when I miss a ball because they were telling me to move the other way,” Lindor said. “It just drives me nuts. But if it’s my instincts and I go for the ball and I miss it? I’ll die with it. That’s fine.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 09:52 AM | 51 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: analytics, francisco lindor

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   1. The Duke Posted: February 24, 2021 at 10:37 AM (#6006489)
I’m with him. Ban the crazy shifts
   2. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 24, 2021 at 11:08 AM (#6006497)
Lemme guess, he didn't say anything about when he gets to a ball because he was shifted.
   3. Adam Starblind Posted: February 24, 2021 at 11:44 AM (#6006505)
I get why they have to interview baseball players, but who cares what they say?
   4. Itchy Row Posted: February 24, 2021 at 01:07 PM (#6006534)
Let the players play the game
Analytics have shown that's a good idea.
   5. Lassus Posted: February 24, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#6006537)
Also, indoor plumbing is the worst.
   6. bfan Posted: February 24, 2021 at 01:54 PM (#6006547)
why is this different than a manager who came out and said he doesn't care about numbers and spreadsheets and all of those new-fangled things, he is going to get a feel of who should be on the mound in the 9th or needs to pinch-hit in this clutch situation, and act on his feelings?
   7. Rally Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:02 PM (#6006554)
Baseball players in general are not good at analytics. But analytics are, 100%, not good at playing baseball.
   8. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:13 PM (#6006558)
If analytics were so great they'd put them on the scoreboard.
   9. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:18 PM (#6006560)
I have no problem with analytics. Teams are trying to win. I have a problem with MLB taking a laissez-faire approach to the whole thing and allowing analytics to leech the entertainment value out of the game.

Joe Posnanski has been advocating for this for a while, but baseball needs an executive in charge of making sure the game is fun to watch. I think he calls it the "Czar of Entertainment." Manfred is out there making sure the owners make money. Baseball executives are only interested in making sure their teams win (within the budget constraints set by ownership). Players play and managers manage to that end as well. MLBPA looks out for the players' wellbeing. There's no one advocating for the game itself.

Posnanski thought that would be a great position for Theo Epstein, now that he's stepped down from running a team. Yes, he's analytical, but he also loves baseball in a way that it seems other members of MLB's front office might not. I don't know if Theo's the right guy, but I love the idea of that position existing. Maybe it should involve a committee of several people. But someone needs to looks at the game - how it's played, how it comes across to fans, how it's evolving - and tinker with rules to make sure it's fun and entertaining.
   10. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:21 PM (#6006561)
I love that idea, but of course the owners and the union would never give that person the power to make changes that they didn't like, so what would be the point?
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:29 PM (#6006563)

I love that idea, but of course the owners and the union would never give that person the power to make changes that they didn't like, so what would be the point?



Even if the person(s) doesn't have the power to act unilaterally, the simple fact that there was one person in the sport who was actually considering what was good for the sport would be a significant improvement from what exists now.
   12. Adam Starblind Posted: February 24, 2021 at 02:41 PM (#6006564)
why is this different than a manager who came out and said he doesn't care about numbers and spreadsheets and all of those new-fangled things, he is going to get a feel of who should be on the mound in the 9th or needs to pinch-hit in this clutch situation, and act on his feelings?


I think the difference is slight. Both should be doing what they're told by the front office. The manager just has more freedom to screw it up by selecting their pitcher by scent or whatever until they get fired. As far as I know, Lindor's never gotten the shift sign but refused to go to the other side of the infield. So who cares what he says about analytics?
   13. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 24, 2021 at 03:09 PM (#6006575)
So who cares what he says about analytics?


Well, zero people should. But reporters gotta report.

I have a problem with MLB taking a laissez-faire approach to the whole thing and allowing analytics to leech the entertainment value out of the game.


Once teams stand to make more money by doing fun things than by winning games, they'll do fun things. You can support this move by purchasing Bartolo Colon bobble heads, offering to get season tickets if they repeat disco demolition night, and the like.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: February 24, 2021 at 03:15 PM (#6006578)
Once teams stand to make more money by doing fun things than by winning games, they'll do fun things


That's why it needs to be on MLB. Because for MLB, winning games is a zero-sum situation.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:14 PM (#6006594)
#1: Based on the quotes, he's not advocating for a ban on shifts. He's saying he wants to decide where he should be positioned,not the coaches much less the nerds. If he thinks he should be on the other side of 2nd, that's where he'd be. And banning shifts won't stop coaches and nerds telling him where to position himself.
   16. McCoy Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:44 PM (#6006600)
But what is good for the sport? There’s no true baseball and it is universally viewed as great entertainment. All you’ll get is some guy occasionally wanting to put webs on bases, have players wear “cool” uniforms, and a hip mascot.
   17. winnipegwhip Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:45 PM (#6006601)
Hitler used analytics.

" Get me the soldiers with the best WAR against Poland and Belgium. We will be in Moscow by August!"
   18. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 04:51 PM (#6006603)
I love that idea, but of course the owners and the union would never give that person the power to make changes that they didn't like, so what would be the point?


Ideally, the right person for the job is also able to sell the owners on his or her ideas (Long-term sustainability! Expanding the consumer base!). It depends on the change for the union, but as long as jobs aren't eliminated, most changes should be easy sells, and some of them might not need union approval at all. Changes that would eliminate jobs (like my thought that pitching staffs need to be limited) would be a tougher sell.

I think there would be benefits to having someone looking at the game itself even if that person doesn't have complete power to implement changes.
   19. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: February 24, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6006610)
Fix the time between pitches. A couple years later any other issues will be evident. Then adjust as necessary. Do anything else first—like, say, make the intentional walk automatic—and it's a demonstration of a fundamental inability to understand your industry and to lead it.

I always despised Selig. He's scummy, underhanded, and dishonest. Manfred has made clear he's in over his head.
   20. Hysterical & Useless Posted: February 24, 2021 at 05:20 PM (#6006611)
Fix the time between pitches. A couple years later any other issues will be evident. Then adjust as necessary. Do anything else first—like, say, make the intentional walk automatic—and it's a demonstration of a fundamental inability to understand your industry and to lead it.

I nominate Lowry for the Posnanski/JAHV "Advocate for the Game" position.
   21. Jay Seaver Posted: February 24, 2021 at 05:36 PM (#6006613)
“I get really mad when I miss a ball because they were telling me to move the other way,” Lindor said. “It just drives me nuts. But if it’s my instincts and I go for the ball and I miss it? I’ll die with it. That’s fine.”


The problem here is less analytics than communication, I imagine. One of the things they talked about Alex Cora being really good at with the Red Sox is being able to convince players that the dry and sometimes counter-intuitive things coming from the analytics department had value because he spoke both languages, so to speak; I wouldn't be surprised if good coaches from the analytically-oriented organizations also made a point of targeting practice and drills so that the thousands of reps that form player instincts are informed by the thousands of data points that the guys modeling the data are taking in. You want the player to be focused on all the micro-level stuff like footwork and release not how figuring out the best starting point works, and the manager making sure that the player knows that the team is making outs the might not otherwise make when he feels held back.

I have a problem with MLB taking a laissez-faire approach to the whole thing and allowing analytics to leech the entertainment value out of the game.


Baseball's just way too solvable in some ways, too easy to model as discrete events, and I don't know what can be done about that. You hear talk of rule changes but I kind of figure that just gets you a temporary reprieve until new analysis can be done and the game gets too predictable in a slightly different way. I half-suspect that the real value of enforcing 12 seconds between pitches is as much moving things fast enough that people occasionally screw up or act in a more random fashion than the actual pacing itself.
   22. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:32 PM (#6006623)
There's no one advocating for the game itself.


Isnt that the power of fans and discretionary income?
   23. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:39 PM (#6006626)

Baseball's just way too solvable in some ways, too easy to model as discrete events, and I don't know what can be done about that.


Isnt that the beauty of it? that it can be nearly completely analyzed in real time; with understanding that there will always be unknowns. The same is not possible in say football, as a fan sitting in the stands, we don't know: The offensive line calls, the defensive coverage, the line splits, etc. There's so many things that go into a given play even coaches dont know the full extent of their strategies until they see game film, and figure out what coverage the defense was in, what stance the DL was in, etc.

I can absolutely enjoy a baseball game on radio, or even reading about it in book. Football not so much, although when you have an analyst like Hank Stram or someone it can be enjoyable. Basketball is hard to enjoy on radio. golf OTOH
   24. SoSH U at work Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:41 PM (#6006627)
Isn't that the power of fans and discretionary income?


To an extent, but not completely. The game could be healthy now with its current base but setting itself up for a significant decline if it's not building a next generation of fans.

It should be the job of the commissioner's office. But it seems, to many of us, that MLB has taken a short-sighted approach for a long time.
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:44 PM (#6006630)
It depends on the change for the union, but as long as jobs aren't eliminated, most changes should be easy sells
Oh, that's adorable.
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: February 24, 2021 at 06:45 PM (#6006631)
Isnt that the beauty of it?


To one type of fan, yes. But I wouldn't say the majority of baseball fans find it's easy to analyze quality to be its primary appeal.
   27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 24, 2021 at 07:00 PM (#6006634)
Football not so much, although when you have an analyst like Hank Stram or someone it can be enjoyable.
Sorry to break the news, but Stram has been dead for 15 years.
   28. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 07:55 PM (#6006640)
that's why I cant listen to it anymore.
   29. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 07:58 PM (#6006642)
Isnt that the power of fans and discretionary income?


Yes, but in a non-specific way. Fans can withhold their money and attention but that just tells baseball something's wrong, not what's wrong or how to fix it. Having someone (or a small committee of people) in that role would hopefully help the game improve without seeing fans leave en masse.
   30. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:01 PM (#6006643)

To an extent, but not completely. The game could be healthy now with its current base but setting itself up for a significant decline if it's not building a next generation of fans.


Right there are a couple of counter arguments to what Im saying. One is that fans don't know what's good for their own selves. Or at least they couldn't all sit down and draw up some rules to make baseball more enjoyable. And the long term thing as you say.

so you need vision, and a committee of people or a consortium or owners or whatever will never have a strong vision of things ought to go. I do think the length of games is going to impact the next generation of fans. So yeah you're right. Not sure what role a Czar would play or how he would function given the structure of MLB.
   31. Jay Seaver Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:17 PM (#6006646)
Isnt that the beauty of it? that it can be nearly completely analyzed in real time; with understanding that there will always be unknowns.


Not really; I think the last few years have shown that it's too solvable, that those unknowns are generally not variable enough to vary strategy. Teams know a pitcher is less effective after two times through the rotation, that strikeouts are bad but not bad enough to trade away potential home runs, etc. There's a lot of randomness in any given pitch/swing, but there's often a sense that the last few decades of analysis have given teams a little too much knowledge about what works, and not enough room to react and innovate.
   32. "bothsidesism" word 57i66135 Posted: February 24, 2021 at 08:22 PM (#6006647)
Also, indoor plumbing is the worst.

outdoor plumbing ain't too great, either.
   33. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: February 25, 2021 at 08:30 AM (#6006676)
Lindor's comment really made me think, and I think #21 sums it up nicely. H.S.-Senior Jobu remembers feeling exactly the frustration that Lindor describes. Facing Chris Haney (who ended up having a non-trivial MLB career as a pitcher) our coach pulled out our first shift of the season in a tie game, runners at 1st and 2nd, one out situation. (Incidentally, it was not only our first shift, it was the first time in my young life that I had ever lined up on the 1B side of the field.) Haney, of course, hit a 2-hopper exactly to where I would have been had I been at my normal SS alignment. My player's mind very strongly blamed the shift, and the coach, for that loss.

Later in life, as a coach and number-friendly observer, I totally get that baseball strategies are geared toward the aggregate rather than individual outcomes because individual outcomes are wildly random. Sometimes you make the last out on a screamer straight to the CF, sometimes, you're a hero for hitting a bloop that just clears the 2B's glove - doesn't mean you shouldn't try to hit the ball hard. It does seem harder to internalize the same thing on the other side of the ball. "It matters how many balls I'll get to over time, not whether I got to *that* one" doesn't sound as convincing.
   34. . Posted: February 25, 2021 at 10:14 AM (#6006693)
Love the open-minded, "The only people who should speak on analytics are people who really like analytics" attitude. What's next: Frankie Lindor doesn't really understand baseball?? The ridiculousness of that is surpassed only by the cluelessness of it.

I think I get the internet tribe game now: If you never have to hear anything contrary to what you think, your identity can never be shaken. And the term "identity" fits perfectly here. People's internet takes are now a fundamental part of their self-identity, and that's the main reason the internet has become such a cesspool of poseurs since around 2015 or thereabouts. Once the thing became less a discussion and more a ratification of identity, the thing quickly spiraled badly downhill.

Baseball's just way too solvable in some ways, too easy to model as discrete events, and I don't know what can be done about that. You hear talk of rule changes but I kind of figure that just gets you a temporary reprieve until new analysis can be done and the game gets too predictable in a slightly different way.


Bingo. Once data got cheap enough, the game is so simplistic that it would inevitably be hacked. The only real, long-term way to fix it is to make the outcome of various events less discrete. The game was self-evidently far better before the knowingness hit it, which makes the criticism of Lindor all the more silly. It really and truly wasn't *that* big a deal that managers hit fast guys with meh OBPs leadoff and had them steal bases to shake up the defense. Seriously, it wasn't. While a lot of people bemoan that as contrary to analytic doctrine, no one has really ever been able to explain why it was. And anyone who gets all too offended by a baseball manager doing that is either a crank, an eccentric, or both. It was fun when the crank population was limited to people like Bill James, but now it's an absurd state of affairs.
   35. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: February 25, 2021 at 10:32 AM (#6006695)
Lindor's comment really made me think, and I think #21 sums it up nicely. H.S.-Senior Jobu remembers feeling exactly the frustration that Lindor describes. Facing Chris Haney (who ended up having a non-trivial MLB career as a pitcher) our coach pulled out our first shift of the season in a tie game, runners at 1st and 2nd, one out situation. (Incidentally, it was not only our first shift, it was the first time in my young life that I had ever lined up on the 1B side of the field.) Haney, of course, hit a 2-hopper exactly to where I would have been had I been at my normal SS alignment. My player's mind very strongly blamed the shift, and the coach, for that loss.

Later in life, as a coach and number-friendly observer, I totally get that baseball strategies are geared toward the aggregate rather than individual outcomes because individual outcomes are wildly random. Sometimes you make the last out on a screamer straight to the CF, sometimes, you're a hero for hitting a bloop that just clears the 2B's glove - doesn't mean you shouldn't try to hit the ball hard. It does seem harder to internalize the same thing on the other side of the ball. "It matters how many balls I'll get to over time, not whether I got to *that* one" doesn't sound as convincing.


I coach a 10-12 year old league. Every year at the end of the season we play an "all star game" for all the 12s. One last chance for the kids to play together before moving to the big diamond. It's always a fun game, pretty loosey goosey atmosphere. A couple of years ago we dropped a shift on a lefty batter (super nice kid, one of my all time favorites). Wouldn't you know he hit a bullet right at the repositioned third baseman who was now in shallow right field. The hooting and hollering from our guys (including me) was epic. Even his dad was teasing him. Kid had a big smile.
   36. Greg Pope Posted: February 25, 2021 at 11:35 AM (#6006714)
One is that fans don't know what's good for their own selves. Or at least they couldn't all sit down and draw up some rules to make baseball more enjoyable.

I agree with this completely. Fans will say "the game is too long" or "the game is boring". They will stay away but they won't really know what the actual solutions are. In fact, the solutions that MLB has implemented are the ones that fans will bring up. "too many pitching changes" and "intentional walks".

Fans in general don't specifically notice that time between pitches has increased, they just know that they're not seeing action and it's boring. You need someone to recognize that time between pitches is a problem and get it fixed. Then the fans will start to find the game more interesting. And the fans will probably even attribute it to the shorter game time instead of the real solution.
   37. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 25, 2021 at 11:46 AM (#6006720)
Lindor's comment really made me think, and I think #21 sums it up nicely. H.S.-Senior Jobu remembers feeling exactly the frustration that Lindor describes. Facing Chris Haney (who ended up having a non-trivial MLB career as a pitcher) our coach pulled out our first shift of the season in a tie game, runners at 1st and 2nd, one out situation. (Incidentally, it was not only our first shift, it was the first time in my young life that I had ever lined up on the 1B side of the field.) Haney, of course, hit a 2-hopper exactly to where I would have been had I been at my normal SS alignment. My player's mind very strongly blamed the shift, and the coach, for that loss.

Later in life, as a coach and number-friendly observer, I totally get that baseball strategies are geared toward the aggregate rather than individual outcomes because individual outcomes are wildly random. Sometimes you make the last out on a screamer straight to the CF, sometimes, you're a hero for hitting a bloop that just clears the 2B's glove - doesn't mean you shouldn't try to hit the ball hard. It does seem harder to internalize the same thing on the other side of the ball. "It matters how many balls I'll get to over time, not whether I got to *that* one" doesn't sound as convincing.
In your case, though, I assume your high school team played few enough games, with shifts being a rarity, that you probably didn't have many or even any counter data points of plays that you were able to make because you were shifted.

For a veteran major league shortstop, who has made plenty of such plays, it shouldn't be too difficult a concept to grasp.
   38. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: February 25, 2021 at 01:23 PM (#6006753)
#34 - You're right in the sense that the batting order thing wasn't "that big of a deal" because it wasn't nearly the magnitude that some people wanted it to be. IIRC, the difference between the optimal arrangement and the *worst* could come out to 2-3 wins for a wildly unbalanced team, but worst isn't and never was the baseline. Super broad-brush, optimal vs. reasonable was generally less than a win - but that's also the difference between a marginal RF and say, an average Nick Markakis year - and teams have spent over $100M to have Nick Markakis play RF. So there are different scales of "big deal".

Additionally, the difference between Barry Bonds hitting 2nd because that's strategically optimal and Barry Bonds batting 5th because he's comfortable there might not be worth having Barry Bonds walking around all pissed off. I loved me some DMB back in the day, but DMB players are wat easier to manage than human players.

   39. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: February 25, 2021 at 03:02 PM (#6006780)
they just know that they're not seeing action and it's boring


What, "clap-clap-clapclapclap" and short snippets of Justin Timberlake songs aren't enough to keep you engaged?
   40. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 25, 2021 at 10:00 PM (#6006821)
For those of us who haven't yet finished "solving" the baseball "problem" can you give us the answer?
   41. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 25, 2021 at 10:14 PM (#6006822)
IIRC, the difference between the optimal arrangement and the *worst* could come out to 2-3 wins for a wildly unbalanced team, but worst isn't and never was the baseline. Super broad-brush, optimal vs. reasonable was generally less than a win


Its more than that. I just did one here:

My preferred, conventional wisdom lineup scored almost 4.8 runs/game. But the computer maxed it out to almost 4.9. So about 16 runs/season difference between conventional and optimal.

The computer also give the worst possble lineups and its 80 runs difference. Not sure you can see my lineup at that link. I had the two good OBP guys up first and the sluggers in 4/5 hole for my conventional lineup. The computer moved them up in the order.

Its interesting cause its a small, non obvious change and it results in +1.5 wins. I wouldnt be surprised if an Earl Weaver could give you 5 wins, but I guess no one's ever proved that by looking at Pythagorean predictions and comparing to actual.

EDIT: I took out the link to avoid breaking the page.
   42. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 25, 2021 at 10:29 PM (#6006827)
Just looking at Weaver: through 1975 he had only outperformed pythagorean projection twice.

But then his last 7 seasons he outperformed it every year. Averaging 5.2 wins above it. Wow some magic there
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: February 25, 2021 at 11:24 PM (#6006834)
Its interesting cause its a small, non obvious change and it results in +1.5 wins. I wouldnt be surprised if an Earl Weaver could give you 5 wins, but I guess no one's ever proved that by looking at Pythagorean predictions and comparing to actual.


I'm not sure what pyth would have to do with it. Optimizing your lineup in terms of run scoring isn't going to necessarily result in the optimal distribution of runs scored.
   44. sunday silence (again) Posted: February 25, 2021 at 11:56 PM (#6006839)
you're right. But the pt. is that small tweaks can improve your team. Im not sure the pythagoras thing is all that good for measuring managers although its been tried.
   45. LargeBill Posted: February 28, 2021 at 12:29 PM (#6007017)
1. The Duke Posted: February 24, 2021 at 10:37 AM (#6006489)
I’m with him. Ban the crazy shifts


There is no need to ban the shift. Only two defensive players (pitcher and catcher) are tied to a spot on the field the other seven go where it makes the most sense. The offense dictates where the other seven players are positioned prior to a pitch and they move in reaction to the ball after the pitch. The size of the area to be covered by the seven players doesn't change. If the defense doesn't divide up the area fairly evenly then they are by default leaving some area unprotected. As Keeler said, "Hit it where they ain't."
   46. SoSH U at work Posted: February 28, 2021 at 01:50 PM (#6007025)
As Keeler said, "Hit it where they ain't."


And, as one wise Primate once said, don't "make 'em ain't where I want to him 'em."

   47. . Posted: February 28, 2021 at 04:03 PM (#6007038)
Nobody wants to see an accomplished left handed major league hitter try to hit dribblers up the third base line.
   48. Jeff R. Posted: February 28, 2021 at 04:23 PM (#6007040)
Nobody wants to see an accomplished left handed major league hitter try to hit dribblers up the third base line.


Line drives into the gap are almost always base hits.
   49. SoSH U at work Posted: February 28, 2021 at 04:28 PM (#6007042)

Nobody wants to see an accomplished left handed major league hitter try to hit dribblers up the third base line.


All hail oafball.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 01, 2021 at 10:10 AM (#6007078)
Just looking at Weaver: through 1975 he had only outperformed pythagorean projection twice.

But then his last 7 seasons he outperformed it every year. Averaging 5.2 wins above it. Wow some magic there


And in fairness to The Pearl, in two of those years where the O's underperformed their Pythag they still won 109 and 101 games. The only year they had a serious deficit (-10 games, 1972) was a year when their entire offense collapsed (from 112 OPS+ to 89 OPS+) and Weaver had to make a ton of adjustments on the fly.
   51. Howie Menckel Posted: March 01, 2021 at 10:20 AM (#6007081)
Nobody wants to see an accomplished left handed major league hitter try to hit dribblers up the third base line.

Carpenter hit a bunt double last year, which was fun as a one-off, at least.

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