The Cardinals were late to the party when the shift became popular but they do use it now from time to time. It’s their hitters, however, that need to learn how to beat it.
In today’s baseball, teams are looking for anyway to get an advantage. A lot of teams are using sabermetrics to give them an edge against their opponents. The most common use of sabermetrics is over shifting. Teams will study the tendencies of hitters to determine where to put their fielders. Managers will stray away from the traditional infield formations and put 3 or even all 4 infielders on one side of the infield.
The Cardinals biggest rivals, the Chicago Cubs, are notorious for having major shifts. Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, is not one to stray away from them. Although the Cardinals do have a lot of balanced hitters, they still have several players who can be shifted against including Matt Adams, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Moss.
These shifts take away many hits from these players. A line drive to left field for a lefty or a hard groundball up the middle for a right handed hitter are no longer hits but now outs because of the shifts.
Now the common sense would tell these hitters to simply hit the ball to the other side of the infield where no fielders are left but if it was that easy then these shifts would not work. When a shift is applied, pitchers strategically pitch to theses hitters so they will hit the ball into the shift. If a left hitter is batting and the defense shifts to pull, the pitcher will pitch the ball inside so that the hitter will pull the ball.
Although the shift is taking many hits away from these players, the hitters are retaliating by bunting to the empty side of the infield. Hitters are able to easily obtain hits by simply placing their bunts away from the shift.
Matt Adams beats the shift by laying down a perfect bunt. #stlcards
— Jenifer Langosch (@LangoschMLB) March 11, 2016
Many teams are shifting less and less because hitters are learning how to beat the shift. These hitters are finally gaining back the hits that they have lost to the shift. Hopefully the players mentioned earlier can do this consistently and get around these pesky rally killers.