- How To Become The Ideal Leadoff Man by Brandon Ogle
- Understanding The Shift by Brandon Ogle
- 5 Tips For Crushing A Curveball by Johnny Grassi
- LEGENDS FOR YOUTH INCLUSION BASEBALL CLINIC by Phil
- Fourteen Ways To Turn A .300 Hitter Into A .210 Hitter by Jay P. Granat, Ph.D.
- By Brandon Ogle
Baseball is a constant game of adjustments. In the 1940’s, Ted Williams
essentially forced opposing managers to enact a shift because it was the
only way to slow him down. It worked for a little while until the Red Sox
slugger made an adjustment to hit more to the opposite field. This is just
one of many examples on how teams have implemented the shift to
serve as an adjustment to get more hitters out.
In terms of the actual positioning, we have seen more varieties arise in
recent years. However, for the sake of this article, I’ll give the most
general one that’s been used. Here is how it looks: The third baseman
will move over to where the shortstop normally is. The shortstop will
slide over to the right of second base. Meanwhile, the second baseman
will move back into the grass and in-between second and first. The first
baseman will slide over closer to the line. As for the outfield, the right
fielder can get closer to the line and the center fielder will move into
right-center. This is the most commonly used shift, but it is still
important to gauge the hitting abilities of the player at the plate and
Advantages of Using the Shift on Defense
Before even starting this section, I want to make it clear that merely
shifting a lot is not always an effective strategy. There is a substantial
difference between shifting a lot and shifting effectively (recording
outs). For younger levels, it might be hard to determine when to shift. If
it’s a team you’ve played before or one that you can watch the opposing
players take batting practice, then this might be a little easier. However,
there are plenty of advantages that can arise from implementing a shift.
The most prevalent one is limiting a hitter’s ability to pull the ball.
Obviously, baseball players love to pull the ball to nab extra base hits. It
is much more difficult to be a consistent opposite field hitter. In fact,
we’ve even seen some players dominate throughout the minors only to
struggle in the majors once managers start shifting against them. The
shift also benefits pitchers. When there defense is aligned appropriately,
they can limit hits against them and basically have to throw less pitches,
thus allowing them to go deeper into the game. In addition, they can
focus solely on the inner half of the plate to force the hitter to pull it.
These are two of the primary advantages that can be brought about by
Players Must Learn Other Spots
In order to implement a shift, the infielders must be capable of sliding a
little out of their comfort zone. For example, the third baseman is no
longer covering the third baseline. Rather, now he is forced to basically
act as a fill-in shortstop. The same goes for the rest of the infield,
including the second baseman, who is now technically in the outfield. All
of these may sound like minor adjustments, but when you get in an
actual game situation, they seem a little more rigorous. With this being
the case, I don’t think it’s a terrible idea for young infielders to work on
their versatility. This would include taking grounders at different
positions. Avoid being solely focused on one position. As for a Major
Leaguer that’s portrayed this exact versatility, check out the
increasingly valuable Ben Zobrist.
Since you have to practice other spots, it doesn’t hurt to study some
more online about these other positions. This instructional video from
CoachTube will walk you through some of these other spots. You don’t
have to spend a ton of time on them, but it can be helpful to get a
How to Beat the Shift
Despite the clear advantages a shift can bring, there are also plenty of
ways for hitters to beat it. Jonathan Lucroy, who is the catcher for the
Milwaukee Brewers, is one example of a player who was shifted against
immensely. His response: just adjust! Lucroy referred to this adjustment
saying, “Personally, I love when teams shift on me. I try to hit ‘em where
they ain’t, like Willie Keeler.” There are a few ways, including the ones
Lucroy’s exhibited, that can beat the shift.
Typically, we see bigger players get shifts put on them, so it might sound
a little crazy to ask these big power bats to bunt. But, why not? If the
infield is basically entirely on the right side, all you have to do is firmly
bunt it down the line and you’ll be safe every time. When you do this a
couple of times to the defense, they’ll start to respect your abilities and
they will no longer implement the shift.
With a shift on, the pitcher is going to try to pound you inside to force a
pull. However, even at the Major League level, pitchers make mistakes.
They may intend to throw a cutter inside, but instead leave it hanging
on the outside corner. If you try to pull this ball, it will be an easy pop
out. The alternative is to go with it and hit a soft liner to left for a hit.
Take your pick on which you’d rather have.
As I mentioned in the introductory sections, coaches love to shift
nowadays. If a player is going to try to kill you by pulling the ball, then
why not put extra guys over there because you know that’s where it’s
going. The number of shifts in the MLB rose by over 10,000 from 2010
to 2014. That is certainly a staggering figure. You’d think of all players
that Major League players wouldn’t hesitate to make the adjustment to
continue to succeed. However, it isn’t difficult to see why they don’t
adjust immediately. These are players that have probably dominated
their entire lives and continuously been the best player on the field at
any given time. Now, the opposition is attempting to limit their abilities
by putting extra guys on the right side? This stubbornness and lack of
adjusting is a perfect explanation why managers will continue to
Baseball is a numbers game. Even at the youth level, players develop
tendencies. When they see an inside pitch, they want to pull it. After
multiple times of doing this, they’ll want to pull everything. With this
said, it is the defense’s responsibility to read and react to these
tendencies. A shift is one perfect example of it. If you think a younger
age like 12 is too young to shift, think again because it just might make
you a much better team!