The Baseball Shift

Some people in the baseball community are starting to believe that strategy for winning games in the 162 game season includes shifting fielders on one side of the field to cluster on the other side of the field. Looking at the dynamics of a baseball diamond, the observer is likely to see that the field in its entirety as a quarter of a circle. The ray from home plate to second base marks a 45 degree angle. Lately, many strategic decisions made by managers effectively move third baseman, short-stop and the left-fielder over to the second baseman’s and first-baseman’s side of the field. The decision kicks out the second baseman to shallow right field. This decision is designed to guard against the left-handed hitter that pulls everything pitched into right field.

Decisions such as this are complete co-pouts and remove the responsibility of scouts and operations managers that fail to find quality players. Quality players are those that make adjustments in hitting to all fields rather than one field. This appears to be a symptom of a larger problem in professional sports. The larger problem is that in order sustain a fan base, franchise owners ask for buy in from the public. The majority of the public does not understand the undercurrents of strategy or know that post-season ball requires substantial pitching and defense excellence.

Baseball is a game of finesse. As such, this can be quite boring at times because finesse requires mental acuity for strategy and long-term thinking. Hitting home-runs is often sensational. Who doesn’t like to see the ball blasted out of the park? The answer: Everyone likes to see the ball hit out of the park as often possible. This increases revenue and profit and salaries for owners and players. Rarely does a team possess the financial resources to pay for offensive players and or defensive players.

The shift occurs at the Major League Baseball level throughout the minors and into college, high school and little league. The point of this entry is coaches that teach players correct fundamentals are likely to encourage hitters to hit the ball where the ball is pitched rather than pull the ball to the fence every fourth or fifth at bat. Players that hit the ball for average are sometimes just as exciting to watch because suspense is generated over the course of a series. Teams that know how to do this consistently are remarkably exciting to observe. The most recent San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals to some extent had such qualities.




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