The new, shifty Yankees

Two Games, Two Wins: Yankees shut out Cubs 2-0 to sweep doubleheader
4/17-4/20 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
Even with a man on base, the Yankees still shifted David Ortiz on Sunday.
Even with one out and a man on base, the Yankees still shifted against David Ortiz on Sunday.

I’m not sure there has been a more discussed topic this year than infield shifts. The YES booth talks about them all the time, pointing out who is playing where and wondering why hitters don’t just bunt (so easy!). Same conversation, game after game, night after night. Shifts are the hot topic right now and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

The Yankees are no stranger to using infield shifts. We’ve seen them shift over the last two or three seasons from time to time, but this year they have cranked it up a notch and are among the leaders in shifts. During Sunday night’s game, the ESPN broadcast put up a graphic showing that the Yankees had used 79 shifts in their first dozen games, second only to the Astros (127). The Brewers were a distant third with 48 shifts. Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi, and others told Pete Caldera they were planning to use more shifts this season back in Spring Training and they weren’t joking.

Using the shift requires quite a bit of data. You need to know the hitter’s tendencies, the pitcher’s tendencies (and preferences), your infielders, all sorts of stuff. It’s not as simple as telling the third baseman to mosey on over into shallow right field. At least not if you want to do it correctly. Buster Olney explained all the work and preparation the Yankees put into their new shift-happy ways earlier this week:

In order for this to happen, there needs to be a complete buy-in, from the front office to the last relievers in the bullpen, and as Yankees manager Joe Girardi explained it, the numbers were presented to the field staff during the winter — and the field staff embraced the idea. Then, early in spring training, the Yankees talked about the changes to come in a team meeting, and some of the most important voices in that first conversation were players who had been on teams that had used defensive shifts — Kelly Johnson, who had played with Toronto and Tampa Bay, and Brian Roberts, who played with the Orioles.

The Yankees practiced the shifts they would use in their daily workouts during spring training, and in the second half of the exhibition season, they began employing them in games. Yangervis Solarte has been the moving part in a lot of cases, shifting from third base to the right side of the infield against a lot of left-handed hitters, and the Yankees have shifted a lot against right-handed hitters as well.

The moment that may have demonstrated the Yankees’ complete devotion to defensive shifts happened early in the series against Boston, when Mick Kelleher — who oversees the coordination of the Yankees’ infield defense — employed a redesigned alignment against the speedy [Jackie Bradley Jr.], who doesn’t have a lot of track record in the big leagues. [Red Sox manager John Farrell] said before Sunday’s game that it’s not often you check the spray charts of your own hitters, but the Yankees’ decision to shift against Bradley made him wonder what data they had seen, and he had gone back and checked the direction of where Bradley had hit the ball in the past.

The Yankees used the shift the eighth most times in baseball last season according to Jeff Zimmerman, or, rather, they had the eighth most balls put in play while the shift was in use, if that makes sense. When the infield was aligned normally, opponents had a .307 BABIP against New York. When the Yankees used a shift, opponents had a … .325 BABIP. More hits were falling in whenever the Yankees shifted, which is the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen. That agreed with the anecdotal evidence, that’s for sure.

Shift data is not yet available for this season, so we don’t know how effective they have been early in 2014. It seems like they are working more often than not — as with every defensive alignment, shifts will simply not work sometimes, with Mike Carp’s two-run single on Saturday standing out (video) — but there is no real way to confirm that right now. For what it’s worth, opposing teams had a .255 BABIP on ground balls against the Yankees prior to yesterday’s games, which is way worse than the AL average (.236) and identical to last season (.255). The shift is about more than ground balls though; Dean Anna was perfectly positioned to field some line drives on Sunday night.

“You’re going to be burned on it. You just want to have more instances of run-saving circumstances than run-yielding circumstances,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler to Ken Davidoff. “If you had a crystal ball, if you could conceive of what happens before it happens — if you could jump in your DeLorean and go back in time — you could turn every ball in play into an out. A perfect opponents’ BABIP is .000. The average is between .302 and .305. You want to beat that. If you beat that, you’re going to be pleased.”

The Yankees have held opponents to a .296 BABIP on all balls in play prior to yesterday’s doubleheader, down from .302 last year and their lowest since 2010 (.281 BABIP). The AL average prior to yesterday’s doubleheader was actually a .294 BABIP, down a bit from the number Eppler mentioned. The Yankees are right there — the difference between a .294 and .296 BABIP is one extra hit every 20 games or so — at the league average. Average isn’t bad! Especially not with a range-challenged infield. For what it’s worth, Davidoff cites data showing the Yankees are tied for the MLB lead with two runs saved via shifts in 2014.

I was worried about the infield defense before the season, especially considering the team’s generally ground ball heavy pitching staff. The infield defense has been a problem at times, no doubt about it — Ivan Nova‘s start against the Orioles stands out in particular — but I expected it to be a lot worse, honestly. Shifts appear to have helped compensate for the lack of range, and, really, using them is more of a necessity than anything for this team. This isn’t a fad. Shifts are here to stay like specialized relievers and pitch counts. The Yankees have aggressively adjusted their defensive approach and are a better team for it.

Two Games, Two Wins: Yankees shut out Cubs 2-0 to sweep doubleheader
4/17-4/20 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
  • Bavarian Yankee

    I don’t know if this has been discussed in YES broadcasts (or anywhere else) but shifts are only worth so much if pitchers don’t pitch to the shift. I’d like to see some analysis about that.

    • I’m One

      Probably difficult to analyze. Attempting to pitch to the shift and actually executing are 2 different things. I guess you’d need to look at catcher location (where the catcher is calling for the pitch) and then the hitters tendancies (does he have an inside out swing), etc.

      I like the thought, but I’m not sure what you can look at other tan results.

    • Kevin G.

      Yeah, Tanaka it seems doesn’t pitch to the shift. He likes to keep away from lefties, but I guess it doesn’t matter since he gets so many strikeouts.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I have heard it discussed, for what it’s worth.

    • Dr. TJ Eckleberg

      I think that pitching to the shift is dicey. You still need to keep hitters off guard, and if you are constantly pitching inside someone (Ortiz) is going to start sitting on it and turn on it. Pitching away would seem to me a lot about keeping a hitter off guard.

    • LK

      I’m skeptical of this. I think teams generally shift when a hitter shows a strong tendency no matter the pitching. For instance, if Mark Teixeira is facing a righty, his grounders are going to the right side. I doubt it matters if he’s pitched inside or outside, high or low, fast or slow, it he hits it on the ground it’s getting pulled.

      The idea of “pitching to the shift” seems self-defeating to me. Whatever gain you get from a more optimal defensive alignment you’d give back because the hitter knows what to expect.

  • TWTR

    I would think that this trend makes hitters like Ellsbury, whose spray chart resembles a normal distribution, more valuable because he is harder to defend on balls in play.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Good point.

  • RM

    Totally agree, They will get burned but I bet they save more run this way.

    • Mikhel

      Last season yankees saved less runs by shifting than no shifting. I can’t remember where I saw that stat but it was clear that the shift was not working when compared to the fielders in their normal position.

  • CountryClub

    I’m not 100% sure shifts are here to stay. If offense keeps going down, MLB may look at doing something to improve it (like they’ve done in the past).

    People ask how you could enforce a no shift rule and it’s rather simple. You just say that you can only have 2 infielders on each side of 2nd base.

    But if that happens, it won’t be for a few more years.

    • marechal

      Most likely, if shifts continue to drive BABIP down, batters will try to improve their bunting skills, which will lead to some correction. People tend to think that batters choose not to bunt against the shift, when in reality I think they are just not that good in bunting.

    • Daviscc2000

      I don’t believe that the “Shift” is good for baseball. I mean how difficult is it to use computers to tell you where to place your infielders and then for these infielders make routine plays on balls hit to them because of the “Computer Shift” and is this really what we want baseball to become? Do we want to go back to the days of 1 to 0 0r 2 to one games because of the lack of offense .We will be back to the Sixties when a guy one the batting title with a 301 batting average. Attendance plummeted and it will happen again if baseball doesn’t put a stop to the shift.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Is it because the Yankees are actually playing well that we need to find something else to be pessimistic about?

        Attendance is just fine, thanks. More people go to games now than in any period before the 2000’s.

      • JFH

        I don’t mind it. What I suspect will happen is that batters will begin to adjust, become less pull happy, and begin to “Hit ’em where they ain’t”, as Wee Willie Keeler would say.

      • KeithK

        Neither is having batters working deep counts every at bat to tire out the pitcher and draw walks. The game is better for the average fan if batters put the ball in play. But players and teams are trying to win and if it’s an effective strategy they will use it. Eventually the game adapts in order to counter these strategies.

      • Dick M

        What if the law of unintended consequences takes hold and the batters actually start hitting the way they should, ie, stop pulling everything and take the away pitch the opposite way?

        Would be great for hitting and great for the game.

    • ALZ

      I don’t like the idea. You should be able to position your players how you want. The catcher has to be in a certain spot, and the pitcher has to be toughing the rubber. Aside from that there has never been restrictions, and there shouldn’t be. All you would see with that idea would be teams sending their 1B over to the other side, having the 3B hug the base, and ss/2B on the right side.

      • ALZ

        How about batters learn to hit better, instead of punishing fielders for being smart.

    • Mikhel

      Impossible, what to do:

      Game tied, bottom of the 11th, bases loaded, no outs.

      A deep fly wins the game.
      A slap single (texasleaguer) wins the game.
      A groundout can win the game unless the ball is thrown to home plate.

      Managers utilize an extra infielder to cover all the infield holes, and the two remaining OF play shallow because a deep fly will win it anyway and they’ll try to catch a pop fly that could result in a normal scenario in a texas leaguer hit.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    Read initially by me as, wait for it, “The New Shitty Yankees.” I thought it was a dalelama guest post for a second, but he wouldn’t think it was anything new.

    Agree with Countryclub above. There’s some strategy behind it, but I just hate it. Not enough players try to overcome it by just laying down a bunt, and it just feels so disrespect to guys lining up in this “we’re not even going to bother putting anyone over there” kind of manner. Some infield alignment rule changes would be interesting.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      I don’t want any rule changes. I’d prefer if hitters in the minors, college, and high school levels started to learn to hit the ball the other way, too.

      I just don’t buy the disrespect angle. It’s not disrespectful when the outfield moves in on guys with no power, why is it disrespectful to shift to one side of the infield? Outfields have been shifting for WAY longer than infields, to not outcry.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Good point on the second part.

      • Long-Past-His-Day-Rod

        I agree 100% shifts are here to stay until hitters adjust. It’s an interesting twist to the game but I don’t mind it. I don’t see any disrespect involved.

        Hell, my slow-pitch softball team employs a shift on two particular lefty all-pull hitters. They both get pissed that we do it, but they continue to either beat the ball directly into the shift or pop it up trying to beat it. If you as a hitter feel disrespected, learn to hit the other way and beat it.

  • MB923

    I still think All hitters that are facing a shift (Ortiz, McCann, etc.) should lay a bunt down the 3B line. I don’t care if they pay these guys to put up the big numbers. A bunt down the 3B line and you’re on base 100% of the time.

    I’m sorry but it makes no sense Not to bunt down the line unless you are facing a scrub pitcher who gives up a lot of fly balls and home runs.

    I didn’t see the day game yesterday, but I know the Cubs 2 hits off of Tanaka were bunt singles. I’m not sure if there was a shift on in those bunts, but if not for the bunt hits, the Cubs could have been no hit yesterday. I”m aware bunt hits happen time to time, with or without the shift, but if they are giving you the wide open area at 3B, why not bunt the ball down there to get on base 100% of the time (assuming you get a pitch to bunt and it’s a good one)

    • CountryClub

      One was a real bunt; the other was against the shift (vs Rizzo). And the Yanks moved the position of the 3rd baseman (really the SS) in the 2nd game so he wouldn’t try it again. But otherwise the shift stayed on.

    • Mr. Roth

      “I’m not sure if there was a shift on in those bunts, but if not for the bunt hits, the Cubs could have been no hit yesterday.”

      And if it weren’t for the scoreless innings the Yankees pitched, the Yankees could have lost 100-3.

  • David in Cal

    All hitters will have to learn to bunt, even leftie power hitters.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      It sure would throw off opposing pitchers.

    • MB923

      Agreed. Give me a 100% chance of being on base as opposed to about a 33% chance.

      • Mr. Roth

        Well, in fairness it wouldn’t be 100%. Players fail to bunt all the time. It’s not like there’s some guarantee that if you bunt it will be successful.

        • MB923

          Fair enough, but I think you get my point. LH Power hitters who get the shift put on them should do more bunting.

          • Mr. Roth

            I absolutely agree.

          • Preston

            I don’t know that it’s worth it though. It really depends on the player. David Ortiz got an extra base hit in nearly 12 percent of his ABs last season. He also got on base nearly 40 percent of the time. He did that getting shifted a majority of the time. As slow and unathletic as he is, how often do you think he’d actually get a bunt down and get to first safely? I’m not betting on him getting so much more than 40 percent of the time that it’s worth the trade off of never getting extra bases.

            • Mr. Roth

              I think it’s worth doing on a very limited basis. A guy like Ortiz dropping down a bunt in the 1st inning may make the defense think twice about the shift in a higher leverage situation later on in the game. I definitely don’t think it would be beneficial for players like that to try to bunt EVERY time they are shifted against.

              Just need to keep the defense guessing.

              • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

                Couldn’t agree more with all of this.

              • KeithK

                And it depends on the situation. For example, if it’s two outs with no one on late in a tie game Ortiz should swing away regardless of shift because even a sure hit may be less likely to result in a run than swinging away. But if the Sox are down two runs in that situation he should take the cheap hit every time.

                BTW – it doesn’t have to be a true bunt either. If the 3B is playing over at SS a short contact oriented swing resulting in a normal ground ball will result in a hit as well.

            • ALZ

              Right. The pitcher is maybe 40 feet from the ball, and then they would throw it. If you are talking about Gardner, yes he should bunt if they shifted on him. For Ortiz though, is a good chance the pitcher could get it to 1B before he arrives. He is so good with the bat, that even if he legs out half of them they would be better off with him getting his doubles and hr.

          • Mike HC

            At the very least, the lefty pull, power hitter that can consistently get the bunt down will become more valuable. Rizzo is young enough where you can still teach him a few new tricks and he looked pretty good on that one bunt. Maybe he can be the first of a new breed?

          • Evan3457

            Especially LH-hitting switch-hitting first basemen who hit .229/.332/.445 in the two years immediately preceding serious wrist surgery who, when asked about hitting the ball to the opposite field to beat the shift, say ““I’m trying to hit line drives, hit balls in the alley, hit home runs,” … “When I start trying to hit groundballs the other way, it’s time for me to retire.”

            Those guys should bunt for a hit EVERY damm time they bat with their team down by 2-3 and no one’s on base. Until teams adjust to take that away from them.

    • Kevin G.

      More and more minor leaguers will learn this as they advance. Then the shifts will stop.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        “Then the shifts will stop.”

        Or just change, become more nuanced, more subtle.

        • Eric Young


          While there are plenty of situations when a power lefty should do what he’s paid to do (hit a baseball very, very hard), as extreme shifts become even more common than they are now, hitters will develop counter-measures.

          Cano’s fungo-style bunt double 2013.09.13 (1st inning, 2 out, bases empty):

          My guess is most power hitters will receive a lot more coaching for bunting and slap bunting within the next few years. Hopefully, NYY sees the writing on the wall and is drilling it to any power prospects already.

          • JAG

            Personally, I think it gives a big boost in value to leftie power hitters who can run some. Guys like Cano, Bruce, and Heyward can actually get doubles off of these bunt hits to really stick it to the shift. Getting a bunt single is fine, but if that’s all you’re going to do at bat, the defense should take that most of the time. When you’re hitting for “power” on the bunt, that’s when the shift’s value really drops off.

    • Mikhel

      All players SHOULD know how to bunt; why pay millions to a player who doesn’t even know how to bunt? Every single ballplayer should practice and know how to bunt.

      We’re watching lots of players who don’t even know how to choke a bat to slap a single when it is needed, Tony Gwynn had an amazing career doing that, when the count was in the pitcher’s favor (when the count was in his favor he swang for the fences… or swung or whatever the past of “to swing” is). Wade Boggs did it, Carew and a lot of other prolific hitters did it, even those with enough power so as to look for a homerun in every swing.

  • Radiokev

    I wonder if this is part of the reason why Nunez got the boot. Need to be comfortable and focused all over the diamond.

    • Yan Solo

      I think he was let go because, unfortunately, he wasn’t comfortable at “a single position”, let alone “all over the diamond”. Poor Nuney. Just can’t seem to get out of his own head. I hope he does figure things out, never had anything against the guy personally and he always tried his damnedest. Results just weren’t there.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Which is not a trait you want from your UTL. Your UTL has to, at least, be average across a range of positions.

        If they can actually continue to hit, one of our Yangervis/DEANNA boys is going to be a much better fit at that role.

        • Yan Solo

          To be fair, Nunez got his shot to be that guy. Several in fact. Personally, I’m very happy the Yankees went “unconventional” with Solarte and Anna (and of course Team Sizemore). It seems they’re definitely adapting to what is clearly a changing game. At least to an extent (them adapting and the game changing).

  • pat

    Welp, if the numbers bear it out.. ¯\_(?)_/¯

  • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead


    I’m not sure you can just look at BABIP against the rest of the league, on grounders/flyballs/line drives. The only fair comparison would be against this same Yankee team if they weren’t shifted.

    It’d make sense that if we have less rangy infielders, the babip against may still be worse compared to everyone else, but better than it would have been otherwise. If you’re shifting correctly, at least.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner


  • wallypip

    I think someone should run the numbers on individual power hitters to determine whether the bunt is a good play. Figure a good power hitter is going to actually get on base well over 35% of the time. I don’t know what the percentage is if the hitter bunts, but it is going to be well under 100%. I think that could go up on a lot of hitters since the shift effectively takes away the pitcher’s opportunity to use the outside of the plate and should generate even more walks. What percentage of bunts will actually lead to a single? Is it worth giving up doubles and HRs?

    • mitch

      It’s not that hard to determine the breakeven. Let’s say David Ortiz is a .400 wOBA hitter with the shift. If he bunted every AB he’d have to bunt for a single 44% of the time to match that.

      • wallypip

        Interesting point. It’s too simple, but yet I can’t argue with it. Ha-Ha. I think some slow-footed, high OBP power hitter is going to actually have to start bunting to really test the theory. BTW, I saw Kelly Johnson try to bunt yesterday against the shift. That makes perfect sense to me. I’m still not sure about the big hitters giving away their power though.

        • mitch

          I think it’s only a matter of time before someone gives the all out bunting strategy a try. It’s not going to be an elite hitter, but if you’re a league average hitter or below there’s probably some upside. I could definitely see a guy like Kelly Johnson dropping down enough successful bunts to actually exceed their normal production.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            ….and that’s how I finally got to the majors.

            Cito Culver

      • KeithK

        Being a good bunter isn’t easy. I grew up hearing Phil Rizzuto bemoan the lack of bunting skills in baseball back in the 70s and 80s. But the thing is, it doesn’t take a really good bunt for a lefty to beat the shift. You just have to put the ball on the ground down the left side. If there’s no third baseman you don’t even need to deaden the ball all that much since you’re probably better off if the ball goes past the pitcher.

        I can easily see a major league hitter who spends some effort at this having a .800 OBP bunting against the shift. The shift wouldn’t last too long in the face of that.

  • Crink

    What’s weird to me, and I remember Singleton talking about it on a broadcast in Spring Training, is that they don’t pitch to the shift. Meaning they’ll put the shift on but then will keep pitching the hitter away or wont make any changes, rather than pitching inside for them to pull. Just seems odd to me.

    Also would love to see how the shift changes based on the count, if at all.

    • marechal

      I’m not sure “pitching to the shift” actually matters at all. Batters are generally pitched to more or less the same way across the league, and their spray charts are consistent. You don’t need to pitch Teixeira inside if you have the shift, he’ll still try to pull the outside pitches. Most hitters are like that. Those that aren’t will probably not be shifted against to start with.

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Exactly this.

    • Mike HC

      One explanation for that could be because the data they are looking at was compiled when pitchers were mostly pitching to hitters normally, not changing their approach for an extreme shift. So if the Yanks all of sudden started pitching to hitters differently based on the shift, it kind of makes all the numbers they were looking at irrelevant. Not sure how much sense this makes though, ha.

      • I’m One

        Agree. I think this makes a lot of sense.

    • mitch

      When they look at a hitter’s spray chart it’s based on all pitches. If a guy was good enough at hitting an outside pitch the other way he wouldn’t be getting the shift in the first place. I think pitching exclusively inside would make a pitcher too predictable and take away the advantage of the shift.

  • FLYER7

    I think the shifting works better because except for Jeter, Johnson, Anna, Solarate, Sizemore are versatile enough to play 2B, SS, 3B and team can employ them in different positions in a shift, not sure ARod and Cano skill wise could have been moved all over and been effective. Cano particularly appears to be a traditional positioned 2B, could see him in short RF or ARod playing to the right side of second…wonder whether anyone has posed this question to Girardi?

  • Yangeddard Solarte

    These power hitters just need to adjust and slap the ball the other way. That’s just all there is to it. They don’t shift for Jeter. How many times is McCann going to pull the ball right into that shift before he adjusts? Until McCann adjusts they’re going to keep doing that.

    And I think Girardi tries to get too cute with the shifts for his own defense. He’s trying too hard to be Joe Maddon. I understand shifting for guys like Big Papi but I think he shifted in the Boston series for Mike Carp lefty on lefty with the bases loaded. Stop it.

    • Mr. Roth

      And all you need to do to become a professional baseball is learn plate discipline, hit for average, hit for power, and learn to defend a position better.

      Easier said than done, right?

      These guys spent their entire lives playing the game a certain way. They got so good at playing that way, that they became professionals. It’s not that easy to completely alter the approach that got you to where you are.

      • Mr. Roth

        *Professional baseball player

      • KeithK

        It’s not easy, which is why it will take some time for the game to adjust to infield shifts. Eventually some players will and they will be rewarded for it with higher BA and OBP. Some players won’t and they’d better have the power to compensate for their lower OBP.

        In the long run I can imagine the development path emphasizing this skill, at least for some guys. If a guy projects to 40 HR power maybe a team accepts a one dimensional approach that leads to a low OBP. But shifts are employed against guys with minimal power too if the data supports it.

  • PFOJ

    “When the infield was aligned normally, opponents had a .307 BABIP against New York. When the Yankees used a shift, opponents had a … .325 BABIP. More hits were falling in whenever the Yankees shifted, which is the exact opposite of what’s supposed to happen”

    It could just be that the Yankees only shifted against better hitters, this isn’t a true control experiment.

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      It’s also a small enough difference to potentially be noise, depending on how many times they shifted.

      • Mikhel

        0.018 its not a small difference, BUT it could be noise.

        • Mikhel

          (it could be a big difference but still be noise due to it relying on a small sample size)

  • Captain Turbohiro Tanaka

    That’s what brings the folks to the park, solid defense!

  • Baked McBride

    I’d love to hear Singleton, Cone and Kaat doing the Yankee broadcasts until the day I die…if not them, then Bob Murphy (may he RIP)

  • Darren

    You know how in softball when the hairy monster comes up and the outfielders move way the hell out there, and the hitter absolutely cranks one that ends up as an easy fly ball out, and if you’re the fielding team you’re like ‘right on!’ and if you’re the fielding team you’re like, ‘Screw those guys, it’s practically cheating to play the outfielders that deep’ and when the game is over you go out for wings & you have a few shots along with the pitchers of beer and then you go home and pass out on the couch watching Yankees Encore. What’s the difference between that and the increased use of the shift in MLB? You’re happy if it works for you, and you hate it when it works against you.

    • Mike HC

      haha … nice

    • Mikhel

      i lost you at chicken wings…

      • Mikhel

        my english not very well today hahahaha

  • mt

    I do agree that shifts are helpful but I also wonder whether they can get over-used – for example, by all means shift against the Ortizes and McCanns (especially since we would not be all that upset if Ortiz bunted rather than aimed for fences) but the Mike Carp example stands out (and not just because shift did not work in this time) – how much historical data would there have been on Carp against a particular type of lefty reliever for Yanks to put on the shift in the first place? In addition, Thornton has so far this year had a 94-95 mph fastball which is unusual for a lefty (and would make pulling harder). And even if there was spray chart data, how sporadic would any data on Carp versus a lefty reliever be – maybe a couple of ABs a year? In that situation, with men on base late in game, I would imagine the little used Carp will do anything and everything just to get on base and keep the line moving.

  • nopfe

    If a pitcher needs to pitch for the shift by throwing inside to induce a pulled hit, shouldn’t batters, who can easily see they are being shifted against, start gearing up for pitches on the inside half of the plate? Or can a batter only sit on a type of pitch rather than location?

    Of course, if batters start sitting on inside pitches during a shift, that makes pitches on the outer half more effective, possibly negating the fact that any contact made outside is going to the open opposite field for an easy hit.

    Side note: is the shift only ever used against leftys? Are there no dead-pull RH hitters?

    • Mr. Roth

      “Side note: is the shift only ever used against leftys? Are there no dead-pull RH hitters?”

      The Yankees have been equal opportunity shifters this season. Both righties and lefties get shifted on.

    • Mikhel

      Alfonso Soriano. I’ve seen shifts with him batting, hell, today Maddon will surely shift his infield with Alfonso batting.

    • KeithK

      Yes, against both lefties and righties. It just looks less extreme against right handed batters because you can’t shift your first basemen over as far as you can with the 3B against lefties. Shifting to cut off pulled ground balls is rather silly if you then can’t throw the guy out at first.

  • TopChuckie

    Bunting to beat the shift is not only beneficial if it results in an OBA better than the batter has when hitting into the shift. If you do it often enough it will also lead to opposing teams no longer employing the shift against you, which should in turn once again allow you to swing away and still have the increased OBA.

    You’re not only bunting to beat the shift, you are bunting to deter it from even being used against you.

    If you can keep your opponent from doing what they want to do, you are winning, and if you can make your opponent think, “We don’t know where to play this guy??? When we shift, he bunts! When we don’t shift, he gets a hit right where we would have shifted to!”, you are winning.

    • Mikhel

      Exactly!! To break their strategic advantage they are gaining by shifting.

  • vicki

    “[farrell] said before Sunday’s game that it’s not often you check the spray charts of your own hitters….”

    hey, dinosaur. shouldn’t you avail yourself of ALL available data? it’s not like a chart showing where the ball actually went is some spooky sabr witchcraft. pitching coach to the bone.

  • Jack Rhodes

    Mocking the bunt conversation (“so easy!”) is either an attempt at humor or an oversimplification. Doesn’t seem to me that anyone is saying that bunting is easy. These guys spend countless hours working on all sorts of things, whether it’s going the other way, hitting the ball back up the middle, whatever it is. There’s no reason they can’t work on bunting also. And, for what it’s worth, “catching” the ball with the bat in order to direct it is probably easier (relatively speaking, of course) than directing the ball the other way with a full swing. At the end of the day, even attempting to bunt would serve some measure to keep opponents honest.

  • Pasqua

    I don’t know much about Billy Eppler, but the fact that the dude made a “Back to the Future” reference in that statement means he’s alright in my book.

  • Mikhel

    I thought the article would end with a:

    The Yankees need to sign Drew…

  • The Other Matt

    I was just reading an article on George Springer of the Astros, and the semi-controversey of them holding him down in the minors as a result of him declining their contract offer, and it amazes me that Evan Longoria has only been in the majors since 2008. It sure as hell seems longer than that. Dude feels like he’s been on the (Devil) Rays for about ten years now.