Results tagged ‘ defensive shift ’

Utley’s Head Back Above Mendoza Line

Chase UtleyChase Utley finally has his head above the Mendoza line.

It has been a long climb since his batting average dropped to .099 on May 8, which was the lowest batting average among qualified hitters through a team’s first 30 games since 1914. But Utley went 3-for-4 with a home run in last night’s 5-4 victory over the Reds at Citizens Bank Park to raise his average to .207.

It was the first time his batting average had hit .200 since April 14.

“Obviously the first month didn’t go as planned,” Utley said. “But you can’t really change that. You’ve got to continue to move forward. The last month or so has been a little better. You just try to build on it.”

Utley has hit .347 (25-for-73) with six doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs and an .908 OPS in 22 games since May 8.

Perhaps Utley’s luck has finally turned in his favor.

His batting average on balls in play had been .079 through May 8, which was easily the worst BABIP in baseball. But his .393 BABIP since seems to be evening things out.

“It became a little frustrating at times,” Utley said. “Because you know you’re putting some decent at-bats together hitting balls, maybe not perfect, but well enough where you feel like you may deserve a hit here and there. For whatever reason, they weren’t really falling. You try not to change too much, but mentally it can be tough.”

Utley started last night’s game with a bunt single down the third-base line. The Reds had employed the defensive shift with Reds third baseman Todd Frazier essentially playing shortstop. Ryne Sandberg had been begging his hitters to drop a ball down the line to beat the shift, and Utley finally did it.

“I figured I’d try it,” he said. “I think over the course of a year guys should try it. Whether it works out or not, at least it’ll get the defense thinking a little bit.”

Utley singled to left in the third before homering in the sixth. It was his first homer since May 1 in Miami.

“They say they all even out,” Utley said. “We’ll see if that happens.”

The Phillies Shift

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman stepped to the plate today and the Phillies stepped to the right side of the infield.

They employed a defensive shift against Freeman, which has been a rarity for the Phillies in the past. According to Baseball Info Solutions, the Phillies shifted just 45 times last season, which ranked 29th in baseball. More and more teams recognize the value of a defensive shift, which is why Ryne Sandberg said the Phillies will shift more in 2014.

“We’re going to play with it a little bit,” he said after today’s 2-2 tie with the Braves at Bright House Field. “Once we get our charts and everything, make a decision; sometimes it may be dependent on the game.”

Sandberg said the Phillies discussed using the shift more during the offseason. The Phillies will use video and spray charts on hitters, which show where they hit the ball against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. They also have charts on their own pitchers, which will tell them where hitters seem to hit the ball when they are on the mound.

“The option will also be provided to the starting pitcher, that type of a situation, according to how they’re going to pitch,” Sandberg said. “So it will be coordinated. … We’ll be smart with it and do what makes sense. It’s something that’s grown and the information is there. Teams have had some success doing that, so that’s something to think about and apply.”

No Wonder Howard Hates the Shift

Got an interesting e-mail yesterday from Stat of the Week.

It carried the headline: Is the Ted Williams Shift Effective?

Definitely.

It ought to make Ryan Howard a little nauseous, actuall. Baseball Info Solutions looked at groundballs and short liners (balls infielders can handle while playing the shift) over the previous two seasons. Ryan Howard hit .174 when hitting against the shift. He hit .273 hitting without the shift.

Holy shift!

Read more about the shift here.

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Looking for a holiday gift? I will be signing my Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” on Friday night at the Barnes & Noble at the Oxford Valley Mall. A bunch of other local sportswriters and sports personalities will be there as well. Come one, come all!

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