Baseball is becoming more about strategy, rather than letting the game flow naturally. For instance, the new trend of the infield/outfield shift for certain hitters. The Yankees have used this shift traditionally against Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. Now, the Red Sox are countering this by doing the same to Yankees’ catcher Brian McCann.
This past series against the Yankees’ arch rival, McCann broke out of an early slump in the third game of the series. The first two however were a prime example of how the shift was making a difference against McCann. Since players such as McCann or Ortiz are dead pull hitters, they do not spray the ball around the field which makes it easier for the defense with this shift. There were some balls that McCann was striking right into the center of the shift and they would be outs because of the way the defense was positioned.
McCann however, had an easy solution to beat the shift, hit the ball over it. McCann hit two home runs in his breakout game Saturday. McCann had some words for this new defense shift strategy in baseball and how it affects hitters like himself:
It’s just part of the game now. You want to work the ball all over the field, but at the same time, if they try to pitch you in, you have to hit the ball where it’s pitched.
The new shift defense was popularized by Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, and has now become prevalent around the majors. The Yankees have started to incorporate this new strategy into their arsenal especially with a banged up infield with different guys playing different positions. An advantage the Yankees have is utility man Kelly Johnson, who played under Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay. Johnson can give Girardi and the Yankees insight about this new shift trend. Girardi believes the shift should be used for different situations as he states, “It’s a number of at-bats over a period of time that shows where they hit the ball the most often. That’s basically what it comes down to.”
Should McCann learn to hit the play the other way? Most people say yes, but it is harder to do than say. However, if the shift continues to have success against pull hitters like himself, it will be interesting to see if hitters try to adapt.
“I hit the way that I hit,” McCann said. “I go up there and look for pitches to hit, and I don’t worry too much about the field.”