Scout’s Take: Being Shifty, Does It Work?

Back at the turn of the century Baltimore baseball was famous for what was called “The Baltimore Chop,” which was a batted ball down in front of the plate that went straight up. It would go high enough to allow the batter/runner to reach first base before it came down to the infield. It was said the groundskeeper mixed the dirt in front of home plate with clay and kept from watering it to help them get the bounce that they needed. Back then the team was famous for tricky plays and dirty behavior.

Today the Orioles have become a team that employs more shifts than almost every team in baseball. Let’s call it “The Baltimore Shift.” Kind of has a nice ring to it. Today at Yankee Stadium, they used some type of shift on 22 out of 32 batters in the Yankee line up.

The Orioles have placed three fielders on one side of second base more than any other team in MLB except for the Astros. A number that posts around 45% percent of the time. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is the perfect fit for this team’s new analytical heavy thinking as he was a part of Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon’s coaching staff for a number of years. Maddon has always loved shifts and multiple pitching changes. 

So how did that work out for them today at Yankee Stadium? Well in the first game of this doubleheader the shift led to an out in what normally would have been a hit zero times and a hit that normally would have been an out the same zero times. The difference between scoring or not as a result of those shifts was again zero. The Yankees figured out how to beat the shift today by hitting it where they ain’t playing, in the bleachers! The first 4 runs by the Yankees were on HRS. Why put on shifts when everyone is swinging for the fences? There is no defense for a HR.

This was an important win for the Bombers today. They need to beat the weaker teams, not only in their division but throughout the rest of baseball. They look like a well oiled machine right now from the starting lineup and starters to the bullpen and how manager Aaron Boone is lining them up to finish games. Today he pulled J.A. Happ with only 64 pitches thrown after 5.1 innings because he said, “I felt everyone was lined up in the pen the way we wanted to finish the remainder of the game.”

Whether it is the shifts, Statcast, with it’s gun times and launch angles, or the flashing lights and loud music that brings you to the ballpark, it never gets old. The game really never changes too much from its core. Today it’s the “Baltimore Shift.” maybe tomorrow it will be “The Pittsburgh Stealers.”

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