The new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred recently discussed the idea of banning defensive shifts, but Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly believes shifts could become irrelevant if hitters make adjustments at the plate.
Mattingly is no stranger to offensive adjustments. He was a career .307 hitter in 14 seasons and led the American league in 1984 with a .343 batting average. He believes that if hitters were to use the whole field while hitting, defensive shifts would no longer be used.
The manager discussed these ideas in an interview with Tracy Ringolsby of MLB.com:
A good way is to use the whole field and keep the ball in play,” he said during a chat with the media on Thursday. “We’ve got a whole generation that wants to sit and spin and see how far they can hit the ball into the seats. They aren’t using the whole field.”
Manfred clarified his position on infield shifts recently during a Dodgers spring game, and stated that his words were bit misconstrued. The commissioner stated that although shifts may be the problem, hitters could adjust in the next year or two and the league would not need to ban them.
According to Baseball Info Solutions, between 2011-2013, the amount of defensive shifts rose nearly 245 percent. Two years ago, 8,134 shifts were used on balls in play.
However, Mattingly has a valid counter-argument to Manfred’s ideas. Baseball is a game of adjustments. A batter must adjust to pitches, infielders must adjust to the different infields they play on, outfielders must adjust on flyballs according to the sun. Therefore, hitters should have to adjust to infield shifts.
For example, Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins is perhaps one of the most consistent hitter in the MLB. The outfielder had over 200 hits in each of his first ten seasons and is a career .317 hitter, and has almost as many hits to the opposite field as he has pulled.
Players that can adjust will be the most successful in the MLB, which is why hitters should simply adjust to the infield shifts rather than have the league ban them.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Carl Crawford