The Cleveland Indians defeated the the Toronto Blue Jays last night behind a scoreless outing by Corey Kluber and a towering home run from the bat of Francisco Lindor. While these performances contributed the most to the victory, two other plays stood out in last night’s game. In bottom of the first inning, Carlos Santana bunted against the shift. Later, Jason Kipnis anticipated the direction of a ground ball and made a crucial diving stop.
This morning, let’s sit back with a nice cup of coffee and closely examine both.
/leans back with mug dumping cheap hotel coffee onto chest
Carlos Santana doesn’t have time for your fancy defenses
The man who walked than any other American League player since 2012 found another way to reach base without swinging. We’ll begin as we always do for this series: by watching the play.
It’s important to note that right before the bunt, Josh Donaldson moved even farther away from third base than he had been standing. This significantly lowers the margin of error when it comes to bunting against the shift.
I believe at this point the difficulty sliders on MLB the Show would be Rookie minus. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Santana decided to lay down the bunt there. It’s a free base that is virtually guaranteed if you learn how to properly bunt, and it’s came in the Indians’ first at-bat. Somehow, Cal Ripken JR found a way to complain about it on the TBS broadcast, pointing out that he bunted on a 2-0 pitch.
I’ve sat here foaming at the mouth for a few minutes in this hotel lobby* trying to find a reasonable way to explain this. I can’t do it. Even if I attack it from a completely traditional platform — "The job of the leadoff batter is to get on base." — I don’t feel like I’m adequately pointing out how obvious it is that bunting in that situation was a better decision than swinging away. Even if Santana whiffed, a hitter with one of the best eyes in the game would still be ahead of the count.
I am aware that I’ve put on a suit of armor to attack an ice cream sundae here, but I do not care: Cal Ripken’s sundae needs to be destroyed.
*No one seems to be concerned, so maybe this is normal for Janesville, Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, in the stands, the reactions to the bunt were overwhelmingly positive, because baserunners are a good thing to have.
Even Yoshi, who is apparently a Blue Jays fan, seemed to approve. I don’t know if he’d be a good ballgame companion. Would his chatter about the game be all that interesting?
Santana took a moment to chew on the beauty of the moment after the play. It’s good that he did; Kipnis grounded into a double play two pitches later. While Santana coming around to score is the preferable outcome, I still think the bunt is an excellent play from last night’s game. Teams know that it’s in his arsenal now, and if he keeps dropping them the shift might vanish in front of his eyes.
Jason Kipnis is probably a ninja
"You feel if you hit that ball in April, maybe you're safe."
This was Kevin Pillar’s reaction to the diving stop that Jason Kipnis made in the 4th inning to help Kluber escape another inning on the brink.
One thing stands out right away: the reaction time.
Per @statcast, Kipnis' first step on that diving play to rob Pillar was -0.37 seconds. Means he was moving before the ball was in play.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 15, 2016
Some might say that Jason Kipnis tapped into a plane of existence that lesser fields cannot perceive. Others might heap lesser praise on Kipnis, saying that a great fielder can anticipate the location of a hit before the ball touches the bat. The Baseball Truthers among us might claim that Kipnis stole a coaches’ sign that tipped off exactly where Pillar would hit the ball, which makes sense because the only way the Indians can keep winning is by stealing pitch signs, baserunning signs, and Trump signs. I’ve heard Carrasco has thirty of them in his garage.
In reality, Kipnis might have understood that a two-seam fastball on the outside corner of the plate was on the way. This is a pitch that is often hit into the ground the other way, and so he cheats a little bit to his left as Kluber delivers to the plate. The one thing that I wish statcast would have calculated is his pop time from being flat on his stomach. He didn’t wait to stop moving; he just willed his body to rise from the turf, plant, pivot, and throw to Mike Napoli all in one motion. The ball just beat Pillar to the bag, and I’d like to point out that he threw this ball at almost 75 mph — a Jamie Moyer fastball.
After a play this good, we should all show Jason Kipnis a little bit of extra loving.
This afternoon the Indians will try to recreate some of last night’s magic. Would it be nice for the Tribe to hit five dingers in the first inning and cruise to an easy victory? Sure. I wouldn’t be opposed to a few more "take your base" bunts or diving stops, either.