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Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Shift May Have Cost the Braves a Pennant. Will It Cost Someone a World Series?

The rationale for the shift is pretty intuitive: Both left-handed and right-handed hitters tend to pull about three-quarters of their ground balls, so it seems smart to position more fielders where the ball is likely to go. Shifts against lefties have been proved to prevent hits on the whole, so it’s not surprising that teams have more than doubled down on that strategy in recent seasons. Nor is it surprising that teams would seek to extend the strategy to right-handed hitters, having experienced such success against hitters who swing from the other side. But here’s something that is surprising, especially considering how often right-handed hitters have been shifted this postseason: In the aggregate, shifts against righties evidently don’t work. And just as those often ill-advised shifts shaped both Championship Series, they may alter the outcome of the Fall Classic.

Anecdotal evidence of the shift’s futility against righties is easy to spot. Although some hitters in the postseason have singled into the teeth of the shift—as Springer did in the ALDS and Mike Zunino did during the ALCS—the shift’s shortcomings are most apparent when righties hit ’em where they ain’t. In the first three rounds of the playoffs, right-handed hitters singled 14 times on grounders to the right side of second when the shift was on. Not all of those hits would have been prevented by a second baseman playing straight up; two were chopped down the line past the first baseman, and one was whistled up the middle. However, the rest probably or possibly could have been played by a second baseman stationed on the right side of second.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:38 PM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: shifts

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   1. The Duke Posted: October 22, 2020 at 05:49 PM (#5984625)
Pretty interesting article. I had not processed the issue of the first basemen not being able to move over to cover the hole - of course that makes shifting on RHHs difficult.
   2. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 22, 2020 at 06:23 PM (#5984631)
How come you don't see the Cool Karl Karansky Shift anymore?
   3. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:33 PM (#5984675)
I had not processed the issue of the first basemen not being able to move over to cover the hole - of course that makes shifting on RHHs difficult.
The ‘bigger target’ for right-handed hitters may provide the extra incentive to get them to attempt to hit against the shift regularly. That, and the longer throw that limits how deep the shifted infielders can play, makes it a pretty iffy proposition. I think you need data showing the right-handed hitter is inept going against the shift before it’s worth trying. Just not the same as for lefties.

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