I have only watched a few baseball games this year. I keep up with a few teams and players, but I don’t often spend three hours watching a nine inning game. I did catch part of a Red Sox-Rangers game recently, and noticed something that has been getting some criticism lately. Against David Ortiz, a left-handed (and slow) pull hitter, the Rangers’ second baseman played in short right field, the shortstop was well right of second base, and the third baseman was behind second base. This extreme shift resulted in any pulled ground ball being an out.
Now, the shift has been around for a long time–the Ted Williams shift back in the 40’s was every bit as radical as that employed against Ortiz. Statistics show, however, that the batting averages of left-handed pull hitters has dropped markedly in the last few years, as more teams have employed the shift. It has become such a defensive weapon now that some are proposing limiting the shift–perhaps requiring that the shortstop not be positioned any further right than behind second base.
The obvious answer would be to “hit it where they ain’t”. Apparently it is asking too much of a major leaguer to learn to hit to the opposite field, but, to me, that big gaping hole between second and third base would be awfully inviting.