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Some baseball positions as they have long been known are changing before our eyes.
The cause is the infield shift, a phenomenon exploding this year as more teams are using statistical analysis and embracing a dynamic approach to previously static defenses.
“We’re confident that it’s helped us get more outs than we would have without it,” Luhnow said.
The Yankees are second to the Astros with 223 defensive shifts in 2014.
“I much preferred it when all the other teams didn’t want to do those things.”The Astros began employing the shift early last year.
But the pitchers objected, saying they did not feel comfortable with a defense overloaded to one side of the infield and a gaping hole on the other.
Now, armed with evidence that shows how a batter has a propensity to hit the ball to certain parts of the field, teams will position their infielders accordingly — at times taking them far from their traditional spots.“The shift is on the verge of becoming the norm,” said Joe Maddon, the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and one of the early leading proponents of the shift.
Their pitchers’ earned run average dropped to 3.26 from 3.86.
For more than 100 years, baseball looked pretty much the same from the grandstands.
There were three players spread in the outfield, a pitcher on the mound, a catcher behind the plate, and four infielders neatly aligned, two on each side of second base.
An earlier Williams, Cy, was a victim of the shift in the 1920s, and in Japan teams used the Oh-Shiftu against Sadaharu Oh in 1964. Last year at Fenway Park, Robinson Cano bunted toward an empty third base against a Boston Red Sox shift and ended up with a double. Dewan also did not recommend shifting the infield too often with men on base because it could leave fielders out of position to cover bases.
In his memoir, Boudreau said the shift was about not only defense but also the batter’s psychology. But Maddon pointed out that if Cano or any other dangerous hitter preferred to bunt, that was O. In a recent game at Angels Stadium, the Yankees could not cover first base on a bunt because the second baseman was shifted too far up the middle.
“But once other managers and teams saw the Rays doing it successfully, perhaps they didn’t feel as if they were going out on a limb so much, and wouldn’t be criticized when someone happens to get a hit against the shift.”Following the Rays, the Houston Astros have embraced the shift with zeal, from the depths of their minor leagues up to the majors.