With about a month of baseball played so far, let’s take a look today at some of the players hitting into an infield shift. Some players have always been shifted like David Ortiz and Ryan Howard, but other hitters are seen the shift deployed against them for the first time. Today, I will look at some early season trends on some players and the effects they may be seeing.
First off, here is the complete leader board for when an infield shift was in place when a hitter put the ball in play (min 10 hits) as April 26th (the data is always a few days behind). I am only looking at infield shifts (three or more IF on one side of field), no outfield shifts or bunt defenses. Because of this, sometimes the overall batting average on balls in play is not between the infield shift and the no shift data. (2013 data for reference)
• Brian McCann is getting shifted quite a bit more in the AL East than he did in the NL East. He hit into the shift 143 times all of last season. So far this season, he has hit into 55 of them. The effects are about the same on his stats. The difference between his no-shift and shifted BABIP was 120 points in 2013. This season, it is 121 points (.375 vs .254).
• Albert Pujols is the right-hand hitter who has hit into a shifts the most. The following charts show the reason teams employ the shift.
He has not hit one ground ball to the right side. He has been successful so far finding holes in the defense. People should not expect him to keep it up all season.
• Matt Adams came into 2014 with a plan to beat the shift as documented my Mike Petriello a couple of weeks ago. It is a bit interesting the chess game being played with Matt Adams. In the first half of 2013, when teams weren’t shifting him, he hit .316 with 7 HRs in 144 PA. In the second half the season, teams began the shift and he kept the power up (10 HRs in 175 PA), but his batting average dropped (.258). This season, he has decided to beat the shift by going the other way. In the process, his batting average is up to .327, but he only has 1 HR in 107 PA.
I think teams will continue to shift him because they get a lesser hitter no matter his batting strategy. He will either pull the ball for a low AVG and power -or- go the other way for AVG and no power. If teams stop shifting, they will have to deal with the high AVG and power hitter.
• Marc Krauss hit into the shift twice in 2013 in 146 PA. This season, he has hit into it nineteen times. He is not a feared hitter in any way, but teams are willing to take advantage of his pull tendencies. In the past, it was only the stars who go shifted. Now if any hitter show a strong pull tendency, they will likely get shifted.
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