The shift has become a staple in baseball nowadays, with managers opting to trust the percentages on where hitters will put the ball in play rather than employ a straight-up defense.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, clearly, is not convinced.
In the first inning of his start on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Hill allowed a two-out bunt single to the Rays’ Ji-man Choi because the Dodgers had shifted all the way to the right side of the infield against the pull-happy Choi.
Hill voiced his displeasure with several F-bombs and expletives, loud enough for everyone at Tropicana Field and watching on television to hear.
Rich Hill just screamed the F-word so loud in Tampa after bouncing a curve to Tommy Pham I could hear it in Santa Monica. Bless.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) May 22, 2019
Afterwards, he explained that he does not like it when the defense behind him shifts, because hitters are coming up with ways to work around it.
Rich Hill continued: "No matter if you're a power hitter or whatever you want to categorize your hitters in the top part, middle part or end of the lineup, guys are getting more savvy and understanding how to beat the shifts. We have to make adjustments to that." #Dodgers #Rays— Josh Tolentino (@JCTSports) May 23, 2019
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who shifts often and is a believer in the strategy, probably did not want to hear that from his veteran pitcher. Roberts said that he’s had conversations about the shift with Hill, but that the pitcher just has selective memory about the plays that don’t work out:
“I think we’ve converted more than we’ve been a victim of the shift with Rich or any of our pitchers,” Roberts told reporters after the game, which the Dodgers lost 8-1 to the Rays. “He’s a competitor. He doesn’t like giving up hits.”
The shift has become a controversial strategy because of how often it is being used, and there have been calls to ban it. Based on pure analytics, it should work. But when batters do what Choi did and lay down a perfect bunt, that’s the perfect way to combat the shift and drive pitchers like Hill crazy.
To play devil’s advocate, if power hitters want to take a bunt single instead of swing for the fences, especially with two outs, some might call that a win for the pitcher.
But neither that nor Roberts’ thoughts were likely enough to convince Rich Hill to become a fan of the shift.
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