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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Is the LeMahieu Shift the Boldest One Ever? | FanGraphs Baseball

Now this is a shift.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 05, 2017 at 09:25 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: d.j. lemahieu, diamondbacks, rockies, shifts

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   1. Tom T Posted: September 05, 2017 at 10:10 AM (#5526132)
One year we had a graduate student--who had played 4 years of softball at SLU (catcher, I think)--playing on our grad/staff/alumni intramural slowpitch softball team. First half of the season she essentially smashed *everything* within a couple feet of the LF line. She initially benefited when everyone (a) played her to be late on everything, and (b) crept in...both, because, you know, she was a girl. Second half of the season, her average did fall quite a bit as folks started lining up the 3rd baseman, shortstop, and left fielder (heck, seemingly even the center fielder and second baseman) within 10-15 feet of the LF line. She just seemed to have a heck of a time adapting to the (lack of) speed of the pitches, and ended up with a very extreme hit chart.

Of course, while her average fell, everyone else in the league quickly learned it was a very bad idea to hit the ball anywhere near her at 3rd. We had a chuckle as each game would begin with cries of "hit to the girl!" that would become "don't pull on the ground!" after she'd made a fancy pick and gunned someone out at 1st.

   2. Nasty Nate Posted: September 05, 2017 at 10:16 AM (#5526134)
In my slow pitch beer league, the women tend to be pull hitters (especially good ones) more than the men.
   3. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: September 05, 2017 at 10:50 AM (#5526148)
I've got a habit (in slow-pitch) of hitting line drives and sharp ground balls between shortstop and second base. The ideal shift against me would be three infielders between "shortstop" and the second base bag, and three outfielders 25 or 30 feet behind them.

I'd hit .000.
   4. catomi01 Posted: September 05, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5526213)
Most leagues I play in have rules against over-shifting against girls - all have a marker about 50-70 feet behind the base path that the OF'ers have to start behind - most also don't allow more than 2 infielders and 2 outfielders on either side of the bag.

What I've noticed with many girls in slowpitch is that they are locked into one portion of the field - middle, pull, or oppo, and don't adjust very well to spray the ball around(not all - the best female players pick apart some defenses). The same is true for a lot of guys - but most guys who only hit to one part of the field or another are dead pull hitters only - guys who can hit to right (as righties) tend to be able to pull at will as well.
   5. Renegade (((JE))) Posted: September 05, 2017 at 12:54 PM (#5526220)
My arc ball league prohibits stationing outfielders too close to the infield when women bat but allows for overshifts.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:03 PM (#5526225)
I've got a habit (in slow-pitch) of hitting line drives and sharp ground balls between shortstop and second base.
Opposing pitchers must love that!

   7. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:21 PM (#5526230)
I've got a habit (in slow-pitch) of hitting line drives and sharp ground balls between shortstop and second base.


I hit like that too. It sucks when you hit it right back to the pitcher, though.
   8. Greg K Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:28 PM (#5526233)
In softball I can hit down either line, though with more power to pull (LF). For the life of me I cannot get the ball in the air up the middle. This season teams have been presenting a wide open RF gap, but I keep just hitting ground balls to 2B. Luckily our league has exactly zero decent second basemen (or more often -women), so quite often they're hits. But last week I lined one off the pitcher's knee and knocked him out of the game. So I think I'm going to stop trying for the gap.

A new guy on the team who is quite athletic, but hasn't played softball since he was a kid, has an interesting strategy. First pitch he always tries to launch it the other way down the RF line. It's usually a foul ball, but if it's fair it's pretty much a guaranteed HR as no RF plays deep enough and close enough to the line to do much about it. But that's his one shot, from then on in the at bat he uses the middle of the field.

Our last game he hit three home runs. Each time he'd hit the first pitch a mile, just foul down the RF line. Second pitch he'd put it deep in the RF gap and run like hell.

The quality female hitters I've encountered in softball tend to be either power, dead-pull hitters or those with excellent bat control that can pick their spots in the middle of the outfield. The power hitters can inflict more damage, but if you're familiar with them the defence can adjust. The bat-control types usually don't get more than a double, but they can be frustrating as no matter what you do they just hit it where you ain't.

I suppose those types go for male hitters as well...I guess the difference is that there is a category of male hitter than can hit it over your head to any field. I think I've only encountered one female hitter that could do that...but I've played all my softball at a fairly friendly level.
   9. a bebop a rebop Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5526235)
So we've got several people here saying that women are more likely to pull the ball, or at least more likely to always hit it to the same spot, and apparently there are sometimes even league rules about whether you are allowed to overshift to take advantage of this... but as a non-softball-player, this possibility would literally never have occurred to me. Any other anecdotal evidence for this phenomenon? Any folk theories out there about why?
   10. Greg K Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:47 PM (#5526238)
So we've got several people here saying that women are more likely to pull the ball, or at least more likely to always hit it to the same spot, and apparently there are sometimes even league rules about whether you are allowed to overshift to take advantage of this... but as a non-softball-player, this possibility would literally never have occurred to me. Any other anecdotal evidence for this phenomenon? Any folk theories out there about why?

In my experience, dealing with a fairly basic level of play (about 5 or 6 years ago my brother organized a softball team made up of a lot of our old friends from the neighbourhood, most of whom had never played softball or baseball), it stems from the initial goal of getting the ball over the heads of the infielders.

In every league I've played in there are rules governing how shallow outfielders can play when a girl is batting. So there is a specifically designed no man's land in the shallow OF where you'll have a guaranteed hit. This is also true for the handful of male novices I've played with too. First step is learn how to make contract, second step is get the power to lift it over the infielders' heads. The simplest way to generate enough power to do so is get it over 3B, so I think for a lot of softball players that is the first consistent hit they learn. And depending on how often you play and build your skills that may just be "your" hit for the rest of your softball career.

However, there do seem to be female hitters who are at a higher level than that who still are dead-pull hitters. It could be a product of where they play. If you're in different tournaments all the time, teams don't have scouting reports on you. You can get a hit or two in before they commit to a massive shift. Or you might be playing in a league that just isn't super competitive (maximizing outs through positioning just isn't a priority for some teams). For some perhaps there just isn't enough of an incentive to adjust hitting style. There are women in the league I play in that are dead-pull, and obviously have the baseball skills to adapt. But some just don't. I don't know if it's a case of: "I know I can do it this way, and it works often enough", or "I have an hour or two a week to devote to softball, I don't want to spend that time learning a new skill".
   11. Rusty Priske Posted: September 05, 2017 at 01:57 PM (#5526243)
I've got a habit (in slow-pitch) of hitting line drives and sharp ground balls between shortstop and second base. The ideal shift against me would be three infielders between "shortstop" and the second base bag, and three outfielders 25 or 30 feet behind them.

I'd hit .000.


This was me in little league. Square it up, on the ground, every time. I hit .600 but all singles up the middle. If anyone figured that out, I would have been toast.

I was a terrible fielder, though.
   12. Rally Posted: September 05, 2017 at 02:05 PM (#5526245)
The biggest aging problem for me has been timing and consistency. In slow pitch I never swing and miss. In BP before the games I'll hit some balls HR distance, both pull and oppo. But for the real game I only get 2 or 3 at bats, and too many times I just miss it enough to pop it up or hit a weak fly to the outfield.
   13. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: September 05, 2017 at 02:56 PM (#5526275)
We're talking friendly slow pitch, right? Why not just hit 'em where the ain't? It's not that hard when the ball is large and slow. My favorite strategy (until switching leagues, this new one counts all fouls as strikes) was to foul off a bunch of pitches in one direction, leading the fielders to put a serious shift on me, and then punch one out the other direction. Only works the first time you play a team though.
   14. Greg K Posted: September 05, 2017 at 03:19 PM (#5526306)
We're talking friendly slow pitch, right? Why not just hit 'em where the ain't?

That's what the good hitters (male and female) in these leagues do!

As a further speculative addition to the whole power/pull vs. control hitters...it's been my non-scientific observation that the women who can use the middle of the field at will tend to have higher baseball IQs (smoother glove-work, smarter base-runners, their technique looks well-coached), while the power/pull hitters are often more athletic, but look less like ball players outside of the batters box.
   15. Hotel Coral Esix Snead (tmutchell) Posted: September 05, 2017 at 03:40 PM (#5526332)
Is it just me, or is that a catch the RF typically makes anyway? The video shows Pollock catching it in front of the Hartford sign, which is just about where your RF normally stands. The twitter guy says it almost certainly wouldn't have been caught without the shift, but, unless your RF is historically bad, he ought to be capable of catching a ball hit right at him. Right?

Also, sorry for not following the odd track this thread has taken and talking about softball. I pulled something in my hip a couple of years ago trying to stretch a single into a single and haven't really played since.
   16. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 05, 2017 at 03:52 PM (#5526347)
Is it just me, or is that a catch the RF typically makes anyway?


I was just coming to post that same thing. If the Diamondbacks were playing him straight, it's an easy fly out to right.

   17. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 05, 2017 at 03:56 PM (#5526351)
(smoother glove-work, smarter base-runners, their technique looks well-coached)

Also, less hyphen-over-users.
   18. Hotel Coral Esix Snead (tmutchell) Posted: September 05, 2017 at 04:02 PM (#5526362)
I was just coming to post that same thing. If the Diamondbacks were playing him straight, it's an easy fly out to right.


I tried to figure out how to get the "Catch Probability" rating on it from Statcast, but they don't seem to have that metric tied to certain box scores, or searchable in their online database. The best I could do was the hit probability, which suggests that a ball hit at 14 degrees and 103mph off the bat is a hit about 63% of the time, which is fairly high, though of course that doesn't account for exactly where it's hit.

I am of the opinions that shifts generally work well, but that catch doesn't seem to be the best example to bolster the point.
   19. A triple short of the cycle Posted: September 05, 2017 at 04:26 PM (#5526392)
My co-ed league within S.F. Parks and Rec requires 2M and 2F in the outfield (also 2M and 2F in the infield, 1 each in the battery, and an alternating batting lineup). The only outfield positioning rule, which I hate, is that the 4 outfielders have to play at the same depth. You can play shallow for weak hitters, but you all have to play shallow. I hate the rule because, between the strong wind and strong pull hitters, sometimes you really want to play the outfielders at different depths. Man I love playing OF. Standing out there under the lights at night, in the wind and fog, trying to keep my glasses dry so I can see, game on the line, waiting for the big dude at the play to launch one towards me, knowing its all up to me to catch it.

   20. Nasty Nate Posted: September 05, 2017 at 04:41 PM (#5526417)
My co-ed league within S.F. Parks and Rec requires 2M and 2F in the outfield (also 2M and 2F in the infield, 1 each in the battery, and an alternating batting lineup). The only outfield positioning rule, which I hate, is that the 4 outfielders have to play at the same depth.
I'm sure it's still a fun time, but this sounds like way too many rules. Also, do teams have trouble finding enough women to play?
   21. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: September 05, 2017 at 05:01 PM (#5526442)
The twitter guy says it almost certainly wouldn't have been caught without the shift, but, unless your RF is historically bad, he ought to be capable of catching a ball hit right at him. Right?

I have to believe that meant it's a ball that would never be caught by a center fielder. Which is a "Brett Lawrie can field balls in right field when he's positioned in right field"-style no-####-Sherlock observation.
   22. Greg K Posted: September 05, 2017 at 05:01 PM (#5526444)
Also, less hyphen-over-users.

I was hoping to come up with a witty response about this being grammatically incorrect -- but I'm brain-addled enough that I can't quite make out if it actually is or not.

-

   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 05, 2017 at 05:05 PM (#5526448)
I can't quite make out if it actually is or not.

Probably isn't, but hey.
   24. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 05, 2017 at 05:58 PM (#5526524)
Also, do teams have trouble finding enough women to play?
All the time. The co-ed team I sometimes play on never has a problem finding guys — there's actually too many guys, which is why I only sometimes play with them. They always have trouble finding women.

We're talking friendly slow pitch, right? Why not just hit 'em where the ain't?
Once I started trying to slap hits to right field, I became a much worse hitter. Softball isn't baseball. They're just serving the pitch right up to you, so it's best just to hit it as hard as you can. If that means you're hitting a line drive down the left-field line very time, so be it. More often than not, it'll find grass. I'm a good defender (and a great first baseman, if I do say so myself), but once I changed myself up with the bat, I became a garbage hitter. Boo for me.
   25. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 05, 2017 at 06:09 PM (#5526534)
Once I started trying to slap hits to right field, I became a much worse hitter.


When I try to hit to right field, half the time I get a clean hit out of it, and half the time I end up dropping my shoulder and popping up to the middle infielders.
   26. Nasty Nate Posted: September 05, 2017 at 06:24 PM (#5526540)
All the time. The co-ed team I sometimes play on never has a problem finding guys — there's actually too many guys, which is why I only sometimes play with them. They always have trouble finding women.
I know that's the case in leagues that require 3 women, which is why i was curious about the league described in #19, which requires 5.

The team I'm on had trouble getting enough people this year, but the problem wasn't women; we usually played above the minimum.
   27. RMc's Unenviable Situation Posted: September 05, 2017 at 07:51 PM (#5526593)
Shift happens.
   28. TomH Posted: September 05, 2017 at 08:16 PM (#5526610)
I used to hit the first pitch foul down third to open the game, and then go opp or up the middle.
2nd AB, poke a line drive to RF, either just fair or foul. By then the field was wide open to go back to hit-it-hard-to SS/3B/LF.

Now I'm just old.

   29. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 05, 2017 at 08:31 PM (#5526624)
When I try to hit to right field, half the time I get a clean hit out of it, and half the time I end up dropping my shoulder and popping up to the middle infielders.
That's exactly what's happened to me, except now I'm popping it up every single time. I can see why big league hitters are so fastidious about maintaining the same mechanics regardless of the defensive alignment. Once you start messing with your stuff, it's hard to unmess it back.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2017 at 09:32 PM (#5526662)
This shift is kind of awesome, by the way.

Also, I pull the ball, period. Would never consider hitting it the other way on purpose, unless that's where all the chicks were.
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: September 05, 2017 at 09:41 PM (#5526682)
The thing about casual slow pitch softball, is that the opposition doesn't really figure you out unless you get a lot of at bats in one game or have a very distinguished recognizable look so that they can remember what you did last time. I carry about a .900 average the past 20 years of softball, and all I do most of the time is hit a line drive over the shortstop/thirdbaseman head and two bounces to the left fielder, if they manage to figure out what I'm doing and play the outfielder in, I have enough power that I can easily hit a double/triple over the left fielders head, and after that they just concede the single. Every so often I try to get cute and hit a gapper to right field, but that ball has a tendency to stay in the air longer and is potentially catchable, but I'll do it once in a while just to see if I can do still do it. (last year I made two outs in my first two at bats for a new team that I never played with, and then made an out in my fourth at bat of the game....so they thought I was probably a liability, my next out came in the tenth game, but even my team never realized how many hits I was getting, because they were all just singles and not really capable of advancing the runners more than one base...so I was effectively proving the axiom that a walk is as good as a single)

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