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A GAME OF ADJUSTMENTS

A GAME OF ADJUSTMENTS

We hear it all the time: pitchers adjust to what hitters are doing and vice-versa.  Managers also adjust according to the type of roster they have, or face.

We hear it all the time: pitchers adjust to what hitters are doing and vice-versa.  Managers also adjust according to the type of roster they have, or face.

The analytics age we currently live in is changing the optics of baseball at a quicker pace than we have ever witnessed before.

I had touched upon the subject of analytics and its impact on the MLB game in an earlier blog (see “NUMBERS DON'T LIE”).  But only a quarter into the 2019 season, we are already noticing trends that are proving hitters and managers have (once again) adapted in this ever-evolving game.

THE SHIFT

The much-maligned new star of The Show!  Purists despise it to the point of pushing for a ban of any defensive alignment that features three infielders on one side of second base.  That’s because the shift works so well.  Its usage has dramatically increased in each of the last three seasons (43.8% increase from 2017 to 2018 and another 43.1% uptick so far this season).

But the analytics approach can also help the hitters!  Batting coaches are now teaching hitters mechanics that allow them to hit the ball the other way without losing much power.  Moneyball taught us that power was more important than strikeout avoidance, but if you can consistently drive the ball to the opposite field, you can beat the shift and eventually make the opposition re-think the strategy.

QUARTER POLE PROOF

Evidence of this latest trend lies in the success two of the brightest young stars in the game are currently enjoying while applying the non-pull power approach. 

Javier Baez, a notorious free swinger, used to be known as a dead-pull hitter.  This year, his commitment to letting the ball travel further in the zone has improved his pitch recognition skills and suddenly made him a Louisville Silver Slugger Award candidate at short.  In a shocking turnaround, Baez leads the majors in opposite field hits this season!

EvoShield and Pro Hitter user Cody Bellinger is having an MVP-type breakout season using the same inside-out approach at the plate, something the Dodgers are said to be preaching throughout their entire organization.

In addition to the Cubs and Dodgers, the Yankees (ravaged by injuries), Cards and Rays are among the successful group of MLB teams trying to gain an edge in this Moneyball age by bringing back some of the small-ball fundamentals.

While it is undeniable that analytics and the advent of Statcast have changed the way the game is played, baseball is still a game of adjustments, played by human beings who seek to gain a competitive edge over the opposition.

I believe the Rulebook is just fine.  The beauty of this game lies in the constant evolution of its participants.

Leave it alone and let’s see what comes next!

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