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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Numb to the dumb? The shift, that is.

Not quite.  I'm less outraged but still really annoyed when I see Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira ignore recent situations where the Yankees needed base runners and they eschewed (a Howard Cossell word) a gift bunt single into the ocean of open area near third base and instead continue to try to hit a home run over the shift.  Argh!

Ted Williams: Sarasota, Florida 1949
By Florida Memory [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
I wrote about this a lot in the spring so I won't beat a dead horse.  But it is even more incredible that a team managed by a smart guy like Joe Girardi still deals with an idea from only one side of the ball.  I think all teams now employ the shift against opposing batters.  I think also the no team makes any concerted effort to combat the shift when it is used against them.

1. Mickey Mantle had a career batting average (BA) of .527 when he bunted in the regular season and that was against a conventional alignment of fielders.  Mantle was 7 for 8 bunting in the World Series.  He hit 50 HR twice, led the league four times and was third in career HR (536) when he retired.  Bunting added ten points to his BA in 1956 when he had a triple crown: 52 HR, 130 RBI, .353 BA (Ted Williams second .345; Mantle got his triple crown by bunting.  Ironically, Williams was famous for not hitting the other way or bunting against the shift that was first deployed against him by Lou Boudreau who also tried it briefly against Mantle in 1956.

Shift on Mickey Mantle.  Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lou Boudreau deployed his shift on both Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  The shift on Williams is fairly well known but its use against Mantle was brief and so mostly forgotten.  Mantle was a switch hitter with great speed who often bunted in his early seasons...

By bunching his fielders up the middle, Boudreau gave Mantle the outfield corners and the left side of the infield, invited him to push a bunt to third base, then pitched him high and tight. The shift worked. Mantle whiffed his first two times up, failing to bunt twice ...

... in June, at Kansas City, Mantle went 4-for-8 against the shift, but all four hits were singles, including a bunt on a 3-2 pitch ...
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2. Against an extreme shift with third base effectively abandoned a batter should be able to square around and bunt for a single at least half the time.

3. Home Run rate (AB/HR lower is better):
Mantle 8102/536=15.1
Teixeira 6071/361=16.8
McCann 4270/191=22.4

It's especially dumb for McCann to be so stubborn but Teixeira is not being a team player either.  Neither of them is Ted Williams.

So, where's the leadership?  None from Girardi.  Apparently, he is too afraid to simply order his batters to bunt against the shift.  None from captain Derek Jeter.  Nothing up the chain of command.

What about the fans?  Where are the boos?  I do not approve of fans booing their own players ... except for unsportsmanlike behavior and dumb actions repeated many times.

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