As advanced analytics and sabermetrics have come en vogue throughout baseball, the use of defensive shifts have been commonplace. The defending National League West champions first used the shift this season on Opening Day against former teammate Matt Kemp.
Although Kemp went 2-for-4 in game, including exposing the shift for an RBI single in his first at-bat, the Dodgers continue to utilize the defensive strategy. During their April 24 game in San Diego and the Dodgers benefitted from their shift as Howie Kendrick snagged a Wil Myers line drive to end the bases loaded threat.
Whether or not the Dodgers should continue using shifts has been debated at length, and Kendrick is among the supporters, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
I haven’t played against a lot of them, so we rely on the numbers more,” the former Angel said. “So far the system’s been great. If they want me to play there, that’s where I’ll play.”
While some fans believe shifts are detrimental to the game of baseball, numbers suggest they certainly help the defense. Since 2010, hitters pull-side batting average while the shift is on has decreased by 14 points (.304 to .290). In 2014 lone, shifts saved nearly 195 runs.
However, as shifts become more popular, new MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has toyed with the idea of banning shifts from baseball — though he later backed off his comments and clarified it was merely one change that could be considered.
As the season has gone on, the Dodgers have relied less frequently on shifts, they figure to be deployed for the remainder of the season, regardless of the perception that they’re ineffective.
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