In a recent Q&A, Bill James said this and I agree. It may not be five years, but we will see an end to the increasing frequency of these shifts. The reason is simple: bunting is the best option and once players begin to do it, the shifts will end.
If you can bunt for a hit, it almost always makes sense to do it. That’s why this era we are in, with the great frequency of defensive shifts, will probably end in about five years. Young power hitters will figure out that they can hit .700 against it by bunting, and they’ll start bunting, and force managers to abandon the shift. It only works because people don’t bunt.
By the way, I made a similar point this spring, and added that “sometime this year, I expect to see some hitter bunt for a double.” I didn’t see it all year, and I was thinking I would have to acknowledge my error on that one, and then, the last time the Red Sox played the Yankees, Robby Cano bunted for a double up the left field line.
Seattle Sports Insider said something else about this that I also agree with.
SSI has maintained, for years, that Justin Smoak's refusal to bunt is an egregiously selfish decision. I can't think of ANY selfish tactic, in ANY American sport, that costs its team so dearly as this one does.
Smoak's not the only such player, of course; most MLB(TM) players "who are paid to knock runners in" refuse to bunt against the shift. Griffey refused. Ortiz does. Almost everybody does. They run with the crowd to commit evil, as it were.
And so, there is a "Moneyball" field strategy available against these selfish nimrods: Shift the stuffing out of them.
I was happy to see Anthony Rizzo try to at least bunt this past year even if it wasn't pretty. He needs to be practicing and hopefully he'll take advantage of the shift as long as teams will give him that side of the field to hit through. If not, well, it's pretty dumb even if that's what most of the other players do.
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