Matt Adams and Beating the Shift

Over at Viva El Birdos, SBNation’s Cardinal’s blog, author Craig Edwards has a great post on Matt Adams and the shift. In the piece, he notes that Adams hits almost all of his home runs to right field or right center, showing that his best way to beat the shift has been to just bash one over the fence. This season, things have started off a bit differently.

Edwards notes, using our splits data, that Adams has hit five ground balls this season, three of which went to the left side of the infield. In a quote with MLB.com, Adams stated “After my first at bat against Cueto, all pitches were away and there was nobody over at third base. It kind of surprised me a bit. But maybe their feeling was to throw it out there and try and get me to pull it. I’ve just got to stick with my approach and hit the ball where it was pitched.”

All good, right? Well, maybe for real life Matt Adams, but not for fantasy player Matt Adams. As an owner of Adams, I am glad that he is able to control the bat well enough to hit the ball to the opposite field. Even so, I would rather him be swinging it hard and shooting for extra base hits. As a fantasy first baseman, you need power, and for all of those that drafted Adams that is certainly what we are relying on. The early results and the early quote shows that he is more likely to take his knocks and try to go with the pitches outside to beat the shift rather than hit it over everyone.

Am I terribly concerned about my investment? No, but I am definitely going to be monitoring this for a while. Most of the opponents we have in fantasy probably aren’t going to be looking into this type of detail as much as we will.

This is just 28 plate appearances, and his line to date of .346/.393/.462 is nothing to complain about. Even so, a general alteration of his approach could be a cause for a drop in power. Maybe it’s a week’s worth of games and everything goes back to his .220 ISO ways of his debut season, or maybe he’s going to make a concerted effort to get on base more and shorten up his swing to beat the shift. The unfortunate side of fantasy is that sometimes what is good for real life may not necessarily be as good in this fantasy game that we play.




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Ben has been at RotoGraphs since 2012 and focuses most of his fantasy baseball attention toward dynasty and keeper leagues.


6 Responses to “Matt Adams and Beating the Shift”

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  1. jj says:

    Or maybe teams will not shift so much when they see his BIBAP of .400+ vs the shift (just making that number up but with a .474 BABIP, I’m thinking that is likely at this point). If they don’t have the shift on maybe he swings away a little more – no matter it will be interesting to watch.

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  2. Dan Greer says:

    I don’t think the pitches he is dumping into shallow left are the same pitches he would normally drill over the wall. If he can beat the shift that will help him a lot. And remember that teams only shift like this with the bases empty, so Adams will get plenty of chances to sit on middle-in stuff.

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  3. pobothecat says:

    Also, Matt got himself his own personal pitching machine to work on his approach to LH-ers in the off-season. I suspect we’d be seeing more oppo’s even without the shifts.

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  4. James G says:

    This post gets at something I was wondering the other day. In macroeconomics there is something known as the “Lucas Critique” (named after Robert Lucas). Basically, the premise is that one cannot evaluate the effects of a policy shift based on past observed relationships in data because economic agents may change their behavior in response to the policy shift. Lucas used this to condemn the use of large scale macro econometric models to design policy.

    It seems to me that the spray charts teams use to design their shifts fail to meet this threshold. That is, they do not attempt to adjust for the possibility that hitters may take a different approach in light of the shift. Has anyone looked into this? Are shifts really effective?

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  5. croggs says:

    Sounds a bit like “game theory” to me from a defensive perspective, since they have to (i.e. should) try to handicap the odds of the hitter taking a different (and successful) approach if they decide to shift.

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