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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Shift is dead in MLB. But is the ‘two-man outfield’ next? And will it work? [$]

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Defensive innovation in virtually all sports is a risk-and-reward game. But do the rewards of the two-man outfield ever justify the inside-the-park-homer risk? In reality, not very often. But what we’re about to find out this season is whether the actual answer is:

Not never.

“I think it’s always a balance of what you’re willing to give up and what you’re trying to accomplish,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “You’re trying to change an immeasurable. You’re trying to change (the hitter’s) approach, which we can’t measure. Because the risk of a triple down the left-field line, that’s real. And that’s a run. That leads to a run, which is super valuable.”

Hinch isn’t announcing publicly whether his team will use the two-man outfield against Gallo or anyone else. But he’s the first to acknowledge that when he managed the Astros, no team shifted more against Gallo than his team.

“But we didn’t leave a place in the outfield open,” Hinch said. “We used a four-man outfield. So yes, we had a bunch of people over on the right side, and I left the infield open at third and short. But I never left an entire half of the field open. And that’s the risk. If you’re willing to do that, which I saw that Boston was, it’s cost analysis. And I get the cost.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 23, 2023 at 08:19 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defensive shifts

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 23, 2023 at 09:55 AM (#6121139)
I may be alone, but all this intricate strategizing to try an eke out an extra couple of runs a season bores be to tears. Just line 'em up and let the players play.
   2. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: March 23, 2023 at 10:46 AM (#6121150)
I will say, I never cared one way or the other about the shift or about banning it, but watching the preseason I've been surprised at how much watching ground balls through the box or into the holes actually turn into hits just... feels like a relief to me, after these past five years or so of them almost always being outs.

This is probably just how it is when you're old; I'm finding comfort in baseball looking just a little bit more like it did when I was young.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 23, 2023 at 12:11 PM (#6121158)
I may be alone, but all this intricate strategizing to try an eke out an extra couple of runs a season bores be to tears. Just line 'em up and let the players play.
There is a fine line where the trying to capture every tiny advantage crosses over into “stop being a twerp and just play the game.” Scherzer trying to game the pitch clock was over that line for me.
   4. Cris E Posted: March 23, 2023 at 12:34 PM (#6121160)
I'm guessing there won't be as much of this OF nonsense as there was of shifted infields just because of the higher cost of a guy hitting into the defensive void. If Joey Gallo flips one into left field through the empty SS spot it'll just roll to the left fielder for a single. If he dumps it into the left field corner it'll be a double, which is not clearly better than letting him swing away into a standard defense.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: March 23, 2023 at 03:42 PM (#6121188)
The Mets tried this although they called it "starting Todd Hundley in LF."

Anyway, no and no.

Almost no hitters have strong much less extreme pull tendencies on fly balls. Now they surely do have pull tendencies on HRs but there's nothing you can do about that. But finally, the BABIPfb is only about 100 -- how many more outs do you think you can convert anyway? Maybe it's about reducing BABIP on LDs?

If I am using FB's splits tool correctly ... In a full season, Gallo hits about 45 FBs to RF, 45 to LF and 50 to CF. There is a big split in his LDs with about 30 to RF, 15 to CF and just a couple to LF. So a well-placed guy in short RF would produce a fair chunk of extra outs. He's got a career 064 BABIP on FBs so presumably the ones he hits are pretty easy to field but how much ground can 2 guys cover?

As it is even against the shift the (vast?) majority of the time, Gallo has a 671 BABIP on LDs so there's no reason to think that should drop -- if anything, I assume the new rover would be your least speedy OF who surely would make fewer plays than the 2B did. Most of the extra LD hits would be singles while the FBs that fall in would be 2-3-4 baggers (Gallo has good speed). There may be some hitters whose FBs are sufficienly straight LF to straight RF that 2 guys in LCF and RCF would get to almost all of the ones they hit.

I could see trying it out in the spring just to see but ... no and no.

EDIT: There may also be times where a single kills you and it makes sense.
EDIT2: And of course back to the shift ... Gallo has hit 388 GBs in his career. He does have a well below-average BABIP on GBs but even if he did hit league average, he's lost about 20 hits in his career. That would raise his career BA all the way to 208.

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