Ask Hal: Do those defensive shifts actually work?

DENVER, CO - JUNE 25:  A defensive shift makes for a busy right side of the diamond including (L-R) shortstop Daniel Descalso #3 of the Colorado Rockies, first base coach Dave McKay #39 of the Arizona Diamondbacks, second base umpire Jeff Nelson, first baseman Wilin Rosario #20 of the Colorado Rockies, second baseman Rafael Ynoa #43 and first base umpire Clint Fagan all prepare for the pitch during the sixth inning at Coors Field on June 25, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Diamondbacks 6-4. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

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DENVER, CO - JUNE 25: A defensive shift makes for a busy right side of the diamond including (L-R) shortstop Daniel Descalso #3 of the Colorado Rockies, first base coach Dave McKay #39 of the Arizona Diamondbacks, second base umpire Jeff Nelson, first baseman Wilin Rosario #20 of the Colorado Rockies, second baseman Rafael Ynoa #43 and first base umpire Clint Fagan all prepare for the pitch during the sixth inning at Coors Field on June 25, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Diamondbacks 6-4. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy knows a thing or two about our nation’s pastime. Tap into that knowledge by sending an email to halmccoy1@hotmail.com.

Q: The term Golden Sombrero was coined for a player’s inglorious feat of striking out four times in a game so, is there a term for striking out five times in a game — DAVE, Miamisburg/Centerville/Beavercreek.

A: Oh, indeed there is. It is called the Platinum Sombrero. It is, however a rare accomplishment because how many times does a player come up five times in game? Sammy Sosa has a closet shelf containing the all-time career record, four Platinum Sombreros. Ray Lankford owns the single-season record with three, accomplished in 1988 with the Giants/Cubs. There also is the Titanium Sombrero for six strikeouts in a game. Since 2013 it has been done eight times. The last to do it was Milwaukee’s Geoff Jenkins in 2004, the only guy to do it in a winning game.

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Q: What statistical evidence in there that all these exaggerated defensive shifts actually work? — JEFF, Springfield.

A: Oh, they have enough evidence to provide a prosecutor with a slam dunk case. In this computer age, all teams have hard drives stuffed with information on every hitter. Every at bat is logged in, where it went, how hard it went and the result. How many times have you seen a ball hit hard into right field, only to see the second baseman, playing shallow right field, field it and throw the guy out at first base? It happens several times a game. So, yes, there is a mountain of evidence that it works. And that’s because players are stubborn and, for the most part, won’t punch a hit the opposite way or plop down a bunt. Mind-boggling.

Q: Now that the designated hitter most likely is coming to the National League, please help me understand why the players want this? — DAN, Urbana.

A: That’s an easy one. More jobs. Players who no longer can run become DHers and can stay in the game longer. It certainly will help the Reds get more playing time for some of their bench guys who will be able to DH. I still hate it. It takes so many decisions and strategical moves away from the manager. And I enjoy seeing Wade Miley, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray shock everybody by getting hits. Baseball is an offensive/defensive game, so why should one guy get to play offense and not play defense? Just another gimmick.

Q: I’ve seen hitters get thrown out of a game for arguing with the umpire over balls and strikes, but have you ever seen a pitcher thrown out over questioning those calls? — GARY, Hamilton.

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A: Despite the fact some people believe I covered the Reds’ first professional game in 1869, I did not see in person the most famous pitcher ejection ever. It was in 1917 and Babe Ruth started on the mound for the Boston Red Sox. He walked the first hitter, Washington’s Ray Morgan. Ruth thought umpire Brick Owens missed two calls and he ended up punching Owens behind the left ear. Ruth was ejected and hauled off the field by policeman. Ernie Shore replaced Ruth and Morgan was caught stealing. Shore then retired 26 straight. A perfect game? No, because Ruth walked the first batter it was not perfect, but Ruth and Shore were credited with a combined no-hitter.

Q: What’s the big deal with Joey Votto getting 2,000 career hits because I always thought that 3,000 was the benchmark for greatness? — MARK, Cocoa, Fla.

A: The benchmark is Pete Rose’s 4,256, leaving Votto just 2,256 hits behind. But you are correct in that 3,000 hits is the mark of greatness. True, 2,000 is just a number and represents longevity. But few players reach that level and when a player reaches 2,000, he is always acknowledged. Votto will not touch 3,000. They made a big deal of his 300th home run, too. Also just a nice, round number. The home run magic number is 500.

Q: Will Eugenio Suarez end up with a higher strikeout total than his batting average this season? — RON, Beavercreek.

A: At his current rate, his strikeout total will be higher than his batting average. He is hitting .172 with 144 strikeouts, just 28 whiffs under his average. Unless he goes on a hitting spree, it’s a cinch. The only possibility to save him is reduced playing time, which is happening with Mike Moustakas back. And Jose Barrero was spotted taking ground balls at third base last week. Suarez, though, can blow bigger bubbles than either of them.

Q: In a recent game, Nick Castellanos broke his bat and carried it with him all the way to first base, so is there a rule as to when the hitter must jettison his bat? — JOHN, Troy.

A: Actually, no. If a player wanted to do it, he could carry his bat all the way around the bases on a home run. Didn’t Pedro Cerrano do that in the movie Major League? In fact, they could stick the bat between their legs and pony-ride it around the bases. So pitchers need to make up their minds. Do they want hitters to do high-arching bat flips or carry their bats with them? Actually, I’d like to see hitters calmly toss the bat aside and act as if they’ve hit a home run before.

Q: Maybe it is the box on TV, but it seems umpiring is at its worst and can MLB do anything to weed out umpires that are not doing the job? — MESA BILL, West Milton.

A: I wish they’d get rid of that one size fits all box on TV that allegedly defines the strike zone. It is close, but not perfect. And some of the umpires are close, but not perfect. Some of them have strike zones wider than the Ohio River. Umpires are graded, are reprimanded, are fined. But the umpires have an extremely strong union that protects them. Seldom do any get fired and that’s proven by the fact that Angel Hernandez, Joe West, C.B. Bucknor, Laz Diaz and Fieldin Culbreth are still wearing masks and not getting arrested.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Q: With September call-ups just around the corner, should the Reds consider calling up minor league manager Pat Kelly? — J.R., Oxford.

A: Not only should they consider it, they should do it. In the past the Reds have rewarded minor league managers and coaches by bringing them up to the big club after the minor league season ends. Kelly, 65, a baseball lifer, recently won his 1,800th minor league game. Only four active minor league manages have won that many games. Ironically, on the night he won his 1,800th, it was against the Nashville Sounds, managed by Rick Sweet. He, too, has more than 1,800 minor league wins and worked several years in the Reds system. Actually, in my humble opinion, Kelly should have been managing a big-league team a long time ago. And it should have been the Reds. Even though the Reds never gave him a chance, he was loyal to the organization and still is.

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