But earlier this season, three Rays were on the left side as Toronto’s Jose Bautista launched a homer over their heads.
“He hit it too high, that’s all,” Maddon said with a smile.
It’s not all about statistics, either.
Maddon thinks there’s a psychological element to the shift, one that can be detrimental to a hitter.
“They’re human, man! They’re human. They look out there, the baseball field doesn’t look like it used to when they were 10. All of a sudden it’s stacked on one side. I think what it does to a lot of hitters, it reveals to them exactly what they do (that) they don’t even realize sometimes,” he said.
“We had a hard time in the beginning because pitchers _ if a hitter all of a sudden would do something contrary to what we were doing _ Oh my God, we’d have a war in the tunnel. But now, see, the pitchers have right of refusal. If they don’t want somebody moved, they don’t move. So our pitchers know in advance what we’re doing. If they don’t want it, we don’t do it.”
Smart pitchers usually try to pitch to the strengths of the defense, and all this shifting is taking a toll on batting averages.
Teixeira, a switch-hitter who often sees the shift when batting from the left side, hit a career-low .248 this season because his left-handed numbers plummeted.
His batting average on balls in play (not including homers and strikeouts) was .222 from the left side, a drastic decrease from his .281 career mark.
“You don’t want me to turn into a slap hitter, but at the same time, if I use a little bit more of the field, some of those balls will start falling,” Teixeira said.
“I can’t get a groundball hit left-handed right now. That’s not good for your average. I need to focus a little bit more on keeping the ball up the middle and use the whole field.”
Howard calls those seeing-eye singles “keep-me-afloat hits,” and they’re rapidly disappearing.
Teixeira said he’s already tried to make a few much-needed adjustments.
“I’ve squared up a little bit in my stance. I got a little pull-happy the last two years,” he said. “I need to get more hits left-handed. That’s the fact of the matter. The proof is in the numbers. I have been stubborn.”