Defend The Indefensible : The Shift

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In my observation in the last 5-6 years, the defensive shift has created more hits for the batter that a more conventional defense may have prevented.

Also, who was the first player to routinely encounter a dramatic shift (ie, SS/2B playing to the right/left of second)?

gygax! (gygax!), Monday, 24 May 2004 15:51 (eighteen years ago) link

not sure if he was first but teddy ballgame had to contend with the boudreau shift that cleveland's shortstop/manager devised to try to slow the splendid splinter down. pulled the shortstop to the 2nd baseman's normal position, put the 3rd baseman in the hole at short, swung the outfielders around and played the 2nd baseman as kind of a softball shortfielder. didn't work that well but it was known to frustrate williams. williams swithced to a heavier bat a few years later that slowed his swing down a little and he started going to left with the ball, the shift then disappeared. as soon as it did the kid went back to the lighter bat and started pulling pitches to right again.

otto midnight (otto midnight), Monday, 24 May 2004 15:57 (eighteen years ago) link

i've seen it work more often than not, but i don't have gygax's experience with it.

John (jdahlem), Monday, 24 May 2004 16:00 (eighteen years ago) link

also: who are the current players facing a routine defensive shift? to be honest i only know of two:

barry bonds
gary sheffield

gygax! (gygax!), Monday, 24 May 2004 16:14 (eighteen years ago) link

It really doesn't work with Bonds if he drives the ball a half mile, unless they start putting an outfielder out in a kayak.

earlnash, Monday, 24 May 2004 16:18 (eighteen years ago) link

giambi. and according to this neyer article (, thome (i know la russa put the shift on him, at least).

John (jdahlem), Monday, 24 May 2004 16:21 (eighteen years ago) link

Rafael Palmeiro gets shifted on sometimes (the Angels did it to him this weekend).

I don't know whether it's that effective defensively, but I find it interesting that batters don't often seem to take what they're being offered. Of Ted Williams, I'd heard that he refused to go the other way against the shift--I'm not sure if it was a matter of pride or a matter of power hitting--and one would think that as the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived, he could have done so without much problem. I suppose Bonds/Sheffield/Giambi are being paid to hit homers rather than singles, but still...

mookieproof (mookieproof), Monday, 24 May 2004 17:09 (eighteen years ago) link

(i know la russa put the shift on him, at least).

I think La Russa may employ it more than any other manager right now. He even does it on a few of the Astros, although I'm kinda foggy on which ones right now. I think maybe they're Hidalgo, Bagwell, and Berkman (but only when hitting left-handed).

boldbury (boldbury), Monday, 24 May 2004 17:36 (eighteen years ago) link

yeah i'm not surprised. he overmanages like no other. i almost mentioned something about it but i figured it'd muddle the waters more than necessary.

John (jdahlem), Monday, 24 May 2004 17:42 (eighteen years ago) link

he's the kind of guy who thinks about pinch hitting for his best hitter in the 4th inning because his backup catcher hits five points higher on the second wednesday of the month

mookieproof (mookieproof), Monday, 24 May 2004 18:12 (eighteen years ago) link

delgado gets the shift too.

dyson (dyson), Monday, 24 May 2004 18:26 (eighteen years ago) link

exactly. but nothing's more frustrating than his handling of relivers. just last night he burnt through calero, king, and eldred to record 3 outs, just for the sake of "proper" righty-lefty-righty matchups. it didn't matter much because the cards lost the next inning (by a run) but i wish they would've tied it just so he'd have been down 3 relievers in an extra inning game solely because he wanted a lefty to face patterson (who, by the way, seems to hit lefties pretty darn well). the reliver he removed, calero, has a 1.22 WHIP against righties, 1.24 against lefties.

the worst part of it is, i think he thinks he's a genius or something.

John (jdahlem), Monday, 24 May 2004 18:28 (eighteen years ago) link

I heard that A-Rod likes to get something called the Shifty, but it's got nothing to do with baseball.

boldbury (boldbury), Monday, 24 May 2004 18:29 (eighteen years ago) link

but nothing's more frustrating than his handling of relivers.

If only relivers were around when the Mick was still alive.

Leee's a Simpson (Leee), Tuesday, 25 May 2004 19:59 (eighteen years ago) link

i spent 3 minutes staring at that before i noticed the misspelling

John (jdahlem), Tuesday, 25 May 2004 20:08 (eighteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Holy cats: Grissom of first, Bonds at bat, shift on. Full-count, Grissom takes off, it's a ball, but because the third baseman was covering 2nd, GRISSOM KEEPS ON GOING TO THIRD. I wish this would happen more often.

vleeetrmx21 (Leee), Tuesday, 8 June 2004 22:29 (eighteen years ago) link

Wait a sec, it must not have been a full count...

gygax! (gygax!), Tuesday, 8 June 2004 22:33 (eighteen years ago) link

No, it was, and Marquis was given the SB. Though really I ought to check.

vleeetrmx21 (Leee), Tuesday, 8 June 2004 22:39 (eighteen years ago) link

Okay, I just talked to my friend. Grissom took 2nd as Bonds was awarded 1st. Seeing as Huff was still covering 2nd and the ball was still in play (in the pitcher's hand)... Grissom stealthily raced Huff to 3rd as he had yet to recover from covering 2nd in the shift. Very crafty play.

gygax! (gygax!), Tuesday, 8 June 2004 22:44 (eighteen years ago) link

that is a fantastic play. i will add that to things i hope to see when i go to the ballyard, filed neatly behind no-hit/perfect game and the hidden ball trick. i have yet to see any of those things in person.

otto midnight (otto midnight), Wednesday, 9 June 2004 12:45 (eighteen years ago) link

ten months pass...
This was against the Devil Rays? How appropriate!

David R. (popshots75`), Thursday, 14 April 2005 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link

i haven't been able to see enough o's games to tell, but there was a serious raffy shift that teams were using last year and somewhere near the end of the season he figured it out and hit over .300

wonder if the memo's out?

jonathan quayle higgins (j.q. higgins), Thursday, 14 April 2005 16:53 (seventeen years ago) link

Jason Giambi at-bats to thread; Mark Bellhorn fielded a grounder in right field tonight and got an easy out at first. When a hitter's pull tendencies are that dramatic, there's no reason not to play the percentages.

Daniel Cohen (dayan), Friday, 15 April 2005 05:00 (seventeen years ago) link

I don't see how a shift is different from any other (routine) defensive positioning strategy.

MindInRewind (Barry Bruner), Friday, 15 April 2005 05:30 (seventeen years ago) link

three months pass...

The Original Jimmy Mod (The Famous Jimmy Mod), Sunday, 31 July 2005 22:37 (sixteen years ago) link


The Original Jimmy Mod (The Famous Jimmy Mod), Monday, 1 August 2005 05:37 (sixteen years ago) link

eight years pass...

Shifting waaaaay up... Yankees embrace BABIP minimization.

images of war violence and historical smoking (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 16 April 2014 20:02 (eight years ago) link

five months pass...

Did Ted Williams try to beat the shift? He bunted at least 14 times: .917 BA.

son of a lewd monk (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:22 (seven years ago) link

five months pass...

lotta shift news the last few days! Zack Wheeler doesn't like it, so the Mets did less of it behind him last year.

touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Tuesday, 3 March 2015 18:49 (seven years ago) link

dudes complaining abt the shift is seriously complaining about someone washing your car for free and doing a nice job of it

Bringing the mosh (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Wednesday, 4 March 2015 00:25 (seven years ago) link

do you really trust the mets to shift rationally tho

mookieproof, Wednesday, 4 March 2015 00:37 (seven years ago) link

Astros' leadership margin in shifts last year was insane

touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 4 March 2015 17:12 (seven years ago) link

Nats are non-shifters

“We were the team that did the least [in 2014],” manager Matt Williams said. “That’s a product of our pitching staff and a product of us understanding what our pitchers want and moving from there. There are times where we’ll employ the shift, and we’ll do that type of thing against a certain hitter. But for the most part, our pitchers will dictate that for us because they understand how they’re going to go about trying to get them out.”

touch of a love-starved cobra (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 5 March 2015 11:29 (seven years ago) link

When I played in a league of 13-to-15-year-olds, there was this left-handed, dead-pull power hitter with a hot temper -- Kelly Leak in the body of Andrew WK, personality/build-wise. (Whenever asked about his debated age, he'd say "Old enough to be a father.") One game, while facing him, we shifted our entire defense to the right side of the field. NO ONE was left of second. Either his second or third at-bat, while attempting to hit out of the shift, he popped up, flung his bat and helmet, yelled "FUCK!" at the top of his lungs, was kicked out of the game, and sped off on his scooter.

Andy K, Thursday, 5 March 2015 13:26 (seven years ago) link

two years pass...

Maybe my fave moment at the SABR convention 3 weeks ago was a panel hosted by Brian Kenny, and one topic was how to raise the number of "balls in play" per game. (Whether that even 'needs' to be done wasn't questioned. I like HRs and strikeouts myself.)

Mark DeRosa went into a long sob story about how his buddy Brian McCann, a pull hitter, had a lousy stint with the Yankees because his traditional hits were now being hit directly into shifts. “To me, the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a baseball. And now you’re asking us to manipulate it to all parts of the field. There’s a good percentage of the guys that cannot do that, period...." Almost immediately, DeRosa started getting heckled from the second row of the audience.

"Too bad!" "Be a better hitter!"

Presumably, you can hear that here:

Supercreditor (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 20 July 2017 15:37 (four years ago) link


brimstead, Thursday, 20 July 2017 23:44 (four years ago) link

eight months pass...

Another look at that Astros' infield defense vs. Joey Gallo ...

— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) April 3, 2018

mookieproof, Tuesday, 3 April 2018 19:06 (four years ago) link

three months pass...

daniel murphy, kyle seager and matt carpenter on hitting against the shift

mookieproof, Wednesday, 11 July 2018 15:31 (three years ago) link

I witnessed the Dodgers pull a shift against Corey Dickerson last week and he owned them by dumping a soft single to left.

The Dodgers won 17-1.

omar little, Wednesday, 11 July 2018 16:56 (three years ago) link

four months pass...

Could The End be near for The Shift?

I'm told support is building for that idea. So what would happen if there were no more shifts?

More singles..Fewer LH hitters hitting .182..But would it be worth it?

I broke down numbers & surveyed coaches & execs!

— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 5, 2018

he estimates that banning the shift would give each team an average of 17 more hits -- almost all singles -- over a season, eg, not much. it would help the slow, powerful pull hitters by giving them a few more singles vs. groundouts, but seems unlikely to change anyone's hitting approach, because singles simply aren't valuable enough to stop swinging for the fences.

“The reason the value of a single has gone down is that strikeouts are up,” said one big-league pitching coach. “So in this era, bunching hits is really hard to do. In our coaches’ room, we’ll sometimes ask, ‘How do you beat an ace? How do you beat a Max Scherzer?’ And it’s not by singles….You’re not going to bunch three singles in an inning against Max Scherzer. You’ve got to get a guy on and hit a ball in the seats. And that’s part of why singles are devalued. It’s just so hard to hit multiple singles in the same inning.”

stark thinks it might happen anyway, though, as only front-office quants really love the shift. everyone else wants more baserunners (and the pitchers seem to hate singles hit through an empty shortstop position more than they love outs taken away up the middle), even though it would prolong games

mookieproof, Wednesday, 5 December 2018 16:35 (three years ago) link

The logic of that pitching coach seems... deeply flawed.

Jersey Al (Albert R. Broccoli), Wednesday, 5 December 2018 16:48 (three years ago) link

Can't wait to see MLB's decree about what an infielder's "normal" positioning should be, and how far they're allowed to stray from it.

WmC, Wednesday, 5 December 2018 17:02 (three years ago) link

banning the shift reduces the penalty for pulling a grounder. pulled grounders go hand-in-hand with trying to hit for more power. banning the shift might *intensify* the launch-angle frenzy

— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) December 5, 2018

mookieproof, Wednesday, 5 December 2018 17:05 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

Long piece on the Jays' frequent use of a four-man outfield this year.

clemenza, Monday, 9 May 2022 22:32 (one month ago) link

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