MLB owners and general managers are paying the wrong men to hit for them. These wrong men should surrender some of their pay as an apology to their teammates and fans.
Any hitter that faces a defensive shift, specifically a shift that overloads the hitter’s pull side, then pulls an outside pitch into the shift, can’t be called a professional. As soon as owners wake up and see their $5, $10, $15 million dollar sluggers lace a pitch in the gap between first and second right into the stood still mit of the shift, they will begin to make roster changes or they may fire some scouts or hitting coaches. I would.
Baseball has its own economy. We could argue the value of free-agency, home run hitters, raise the mound, lower the mound, raise the seams, lower the seams and so on…..and yes baseball looks at it all. Over 73 million fans went to baseball games last year. That was about a million fewer than the year before. Attendance continues downward this year. Run production is down to levels the league hasn’t seen since the early 1970s. Batting averages are down. Home runs are seldom seen outside of Baltimore.
Here’s the kicker… defensive shifts are skyrocketing on a pace to nearly double the over 8,000 times last year the shift was used against batted balls. Over 8,000 chances a season ago for hitters to take the pitch to opposite field, to go with it, to hit it the other way, to inside-out the swing, to Ichiro it, to Jeter it or to bunt the thing down the line to 3rd for a free hit. On pace for over 14 ,000 batted balls defended by the shift this year.
Here is the double kicker … pitchers usually pitch away from the shift. They throw on the outer half of the plate. This type of scouting report and strategy is exposing the slow-footed, over-payed power hitters for what they really are: The stubborn, pull - only, hardheaded, free swinging dinosaurs of baseball. Hitters, hitting coaches, general managers, trainers, player developers and all the way to the scouts need to immediately be honest with the game and place more value on over 14,000 batted balls.
That is a ton of at-bats that could/should have gone to a speedier contact hitter, instead of a 20 home run hitter capable of only one swing.
What would Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose, Bernie Williams, or Boggs or Carew do with all those at bats? We already know the answer; there would be no need to answer since there is no need to speculate because the question would not exist. No team would shift against them. To think of putting three infielders to the right of second with the other infielder barely to the left of second against Pete Rose is comical.
That’s a gap near 90 ft. wide.
The reason for the decline of baseball numbers in every category including attendance is once mighty 4, 5 , and 6 hole hitters have become free outs. Some look like softball hitters or the torque bashers in the long drive contests. Often with two strikes these guys are swinging haymakers at the plate. This alone proves that these shift- hitters are incapable of adjusting or unwilling to adjust.
As I set out to back up my claim that MLB teams are paying the wrong men to hit, I am reminded of a player’s worth or value. Chad Robinson, Von McDaniel, Tim Ellison, Lynn Dale Fixico and Randy McKee would have hit .500 or better against the shift. That would be about 100 points higher than playing them straight up. What would that be worth in today’s market?