A defensive shift cost the Los Angeles Dodgers a couple runs in Sunday night’s 5-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez knocked a two-RBI single past Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. This gave the Pirates a two-run lead, which ended up being the difference in the game.
This begs the question, is the defensive shift in baseball overrated?
According to Michael Lananna of MLB.com, Zack Greinke still believes in the shift:
If the data shows that he hits the ball up the middle, then you’ve got to play up the middle,” he said. “If the data shows he hits the ball to second on the pull side, then you’ve got to play three guys on one side. If the data shows he hits it to shortstop, then you’ll play at shortstop.
“It depends on what the data shows. I like the shift for the most part.”
Don Mattingly’s philosophy on shifting is based on playing percentages:
At that very point? I don’t like it very much,” manager Don Mattingly said. “But I think the shifting — you’re basically playing percentages. A lot of times you’re pitching to that.”
Alvarez has pulled the ball for 14 hits this season, compared to just eight opposite field hits. He also has a .255 batting average when pulling the ball and a .205 batting average hitting the ball to opposite fields.
Greinke went on about Alvarez’s tendencies for that particular at-bat:
If you look at Alvarez, if you throw the ball a couple of inches off the plate away, he still pulls the ball for the most part,” Greinke said. “So, a lot of times, you shift for guys when they do that no matter what.”
Mattingly and company seem content with keeping defensive shifts as a numbers game.
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