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Thread: In general, how well does the shift work?

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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    In general, how well does the shift work?

    It's an interesting question, and a question that I may have thought of a different way to analyze, but I need the board's help :

    We all know the defensive alignment opposing teams put on hitters such as Barry Bonds and Adam Dunn, and it has to work to some degree otherwise teams would stop incorporating the shift into their defensive alignment. What I'm curious about is attempting to identify how much the shift is expected to help when teams decide to incorporate it, and which hitters it has more of an effect on than others. Now while I'll watch nearly every Reds game this season, I don't get to see too many out of market games, and this is where I need the board's help.

    For those who see a large number of non-Reds games, which hitters do you see having to regularly deal with the shift?

    I'd like to try to take a look at as many of these hitters as possible for a better sample size - preferably every hitter that deals with the shift - rather than look at only a half dozen or so.
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    I have another question regarding the shift. How come it's almost always used for LH hitters? You don't see variations of a RH shift that often?

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    I found this about the beginning of "The Shift" in the early dawn of baseball history - from Baseballfever.com. It would be interesting to read Cobb's two page letter.

    The "Williams Shift" Is Born
    July 14, 1946 / Fenway Park

    Teddy Ballgame was definitely a "pull hitter," and Williams himself once estimated that eighty-five percent of his hits went to the right of the centerfielder. During the second game of a doubleheader on July 14, 1946, these tendencies inspired Cleveland Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau to try to stymie Williams by shifting most of his fielders to the right side of the diamond.

    Both Williams and Boudreau had been incredible in the first game of the doubleheader. Boudreau had four doubles and a home run and Williams slammed three home runs, driving in eight. With the Indians in sixth place, Boudreau decided he had nothing to lose in the second game.

    Williams' first at-bat went normally; he ripped a base-clearing double. While Boudreau had been creative enough to come up with such a specific defense against Williams, he was not daring enough to do it with runners on base.

    In Williams' second at-bat of the night, however, Boudreau threw the shift at him. Indians third baseman Ken Keltner moved directly behind second base. Second baseman Jack Conway moved to shallow right field. Boudreau moved from his usual position between second and third to a spot between first and second -- almost an opposite-field shortstop. First baseman Jimmy Wasdell moved behind the bag at first and played on the line, along with rightfielder Hank Edwards. Centerfielder Jim Seerey moved to right-center, leaving leftfielder George Case as the only player on the left side of the field.

    The shift was no defense against bad pitching. Cleveland pitcher Charley Embree walked Williams on four straight pitches. Williams had another walk and a groundout to finish off the day.

    Other managers soon followed suit and came up with their own shifts to stifle Williams. These unique defenses annoyed Williams, but didn't affect his hitting.

    Even though Williams' production hadn't slowed, there was no shortage of unsolicited advice on how to beat the shift. The media accused him of being too proud to hit to the now wide-open spaces in left field, and Ty Cobb sent Williams a two-page letter on how Cobb himself would have handled the shift. Paul Waner told him to just step away from the plate a little.

    In a game against the Indians at Cleveland Stadium later that season, Williams showed up all his critics. Boudreau used an extreme shift against Williams with two out and none on in the first inning, bringing in left fielder Pat Seerey to cover the left side of the infield. The move left left field unprotected, and Ted hit a routine fly over Seery's head that rolled to the 400-foot mark. While the ball was rolling, Williams raced around the bases for his first -- and only -- inside-the-park home run. That run won the game and clinched the pennant for the Sox in 1946.
    Now back to the regularly scheduled discussion.

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    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    And from The Baseball Page this answer to the question why do you not see the shift against righthanded batters:

    Putting on a shift for a right-handed batter is rare but it does happen. I believe a shift was used against Frank Howard for example. I think you would have to be very careful about a shift for a righty. If you move your second baseman to the left side of the infield that leaves your first baseman with a lot of ground to cover in addition to covering the bag. I would think you would shift only for a slow-running right-handed pull hitter.

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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    which hitters do you see having to regularly deal with the shift?
    Giambi and Ortiz are two -- though I don't know how regularly they face it.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    I believe Thome faces it as well. It's interesting that you rarely see the shift against a righty. Perhaps it's because if the SS fields a ball in short left, it's gonna still be a hit, so you don't really gain much. Plus, the 1B is still anchored to 1B so actually get less coverage up the middle. Great topic Cyclone. I can't wait to see what you're able to do with it.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 05-23-2006 at 10:48 AM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve
    Giambi and Ortiz are two -- though I don't know how regularly they face it.
    Giambi does - almost all the time. Last night against the Sox, the Yanks had Damon on 2B, and they still moved the SS to the right side of the bag. However the 3B had to maintain position otherwise Damon could've swiped third easy. So there was a huge hole between 2B and SS...Giambi popped up.

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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    The Bonds shift is really exaggerated. The second baseman plays in short right field. It's closer to a 4 man OF. The pic below is from the World Series v. the Angels when Barry could still run. Now that he's slowed to a crawl, I've seen second basemen drop back further into the OF.

    Last edited by NJReds; 05-23-2006 at 11:21 AM.

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    I wondered once why the outfield didn't shift very much while all the infielders moved over. Then I heard somewhere (this was a few years ago, so I don't remember the source) that it's not so much that these guys always pull the ball, it's that when they go the opposite way, the ball's almost always hit in the air. It was explained that with a typical power hitter's uppercut swing, when he swings "late" making the ball go the other way, it's unlikely he'll top the ball because the bat is fairly low in the zone at that point. If he meets the ball out front (pulling), the bat is higher on the swing plane, making it more likely to top the ball and hit a grounder.
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    in high school, the "inward shift" used to really mess with my weak grounders

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    smells of rich mahogany deltachi8's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    Quote Originally Posted by princeton
    in high school, the "inward shift" used to really mess with my weak grounders




    well done!
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    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    Ok, we've now got a beginning list to work with ... Bonds, Dunn, Giambi, Griffey, Ortiz and Thome.

    Here's some other hitters I'm curious about whether or not the shift is employed on them more times than not: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee, Brian Giles, Jason Bay, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Delgado, Jeff Kent, Miguel Cabrera, Morgan Ensberg, Bobby Abreu, David Wright, Jim Edmonds, Richie Sexson, Travis Hafner, Cliff Floyd, Troy Glaus, Nick Johnson, Eric Chavez and Lance Berkman.

    The vast majority of NL hitters I'll see regularly only against the Reds, and I'm not sure if what the Reds do defensively holds true throughout other opponents. Likewise for AL players, I'll maybe only see a half dozen games or so throughout the season for most of those guys so I'm not really sure who sees the shift often and who doesn't.
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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    I just wonder why nobody has tried a defense with all 7 IF/OF standing right in front of the plate
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    Quote Originally Posted by KronoRed
    I just wonder why nobody has tried a defense with all 7 IF/OF standing right in front of the plate

    For the same reason why you don't see 3 forwards, 2 defencemen and one goaltender standing in front of the net while trying to protect a lead in hockey.

    Fear of certain death.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: In general, how well does the shift work?

    Quote Originally Posted by KronoRed
    I just wonder why nobody has tried a defense with all 7 IF/OF standing right in front of the plate
    In soccer we call that "the wall". Thought I think we'd need more than shinguards. And of course, getting the pitch through the wall could be tricky.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.


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