Friday, December 16, 2016

Imagine a middle of the Yankee batting order... and no over-shifts

In a clean and just world, Mark Teixeira plays two more seasons, retires at age 38 and skips merrily into the Hall of Fame wearing a Yankee cap. Even in his final year, Tex hits .230, whacks 20 taters and handles first-base the way Ivanka Trump does media. Two more seasons - hell - maybe three. Damn, he's only 36.

Well, it's not a clean and just world, and for Tex, the problem wasn't injuries, age or blonde aerobics instructors. He just never solved the defensive over-shift. He didn't figure out how to bunt, check his swing or hit to an opposite field. He just blasted balls at the fielders who were perched in the gaps, and now he's pitching tapes to ESPN. Listen: I love the guy and wish him the best, but the truth be told, Tex last year was so terrible, so soul-crushingly ineffective, that I am massaging my personal Canyon of Heroes to celebrate that he is gone. Last year, Tex hit .204. Two oh four. To owe for! Horrible. And, yeah, part of his decline came from a wrist injury that robbed him of 2012-13. But Tex never recovered from the over-shifts that began with Joe Madden in Tampa and spread through the game like chlamydia.

In recent years, Yank fans have enjoyed a ringside seat to the downfall of numerous big name sluggers, who came to Gotham with high expectations and finished as dead pull hitters, swinging drunkenly for the seats. There was the Giambino, the Grandyman, the Pronk, the Andruw Jones, the Stephen Drew, the Brian McCann, Alexander the Great and, of course, Tex. Over the years, they turned the heart of our batting order into the Mohave Desert.

Defensive over-shifts have done as much to kill the Yankee brand name as bad trades, wasted draft picks or even Hal's love of the almighty nickel. On that note - and with fingers crossed - let us rejoice in the notion that Matt Holliday, our figurative 2017 cleanup stud, hits 'em like this.

I stole that schematic from River Ave, who appropriated it from Baseball Savant. It shows a RH slugger who still uses the entire field. Holliday will bat near Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez, and right now, none would induce an over-shift. (I'm worried that Bird will devolve into a pull slugger... Aaron Judge, too.) Coupled with Gardner (if not traded), Ellsbury, Didi and Headley, we might actually go a few innings without seeing a defensive over-shift. (I'm also worried about Starlin Castro; did teams start shifting on him late in the season?)

This is critical, because one thing we've learned about the Yankees: Hitting coaches don't matter. They pass through the clubhouse like a Fleet enema. Once a hitter becomes a star, he apparently decides that the word "coach" is an abbreviation of "cockroach." He stops listening and treats every suggestion like an unsolicited email from Vladimir Putin.

So maybe - just maybe - our young players will listen to Matt Holliday. After all, he will be 37 this season - same age as Tex. Ah, if only the world were clean and just...


KD said...

Don't know if this can be confirmed with stats but it did seem to me that McCann did try to hit the other way to avoid the shift. sometimes he was even successful.

el duque said...

McCann did try, I'll give him that. But he couldn't break the defense, and that was that.

Anonymous said...


Alphonso said...

If any of our veterans paid any attention to the core tenets of baseball, we would be far better off.

For example, " hit the ball where it is pitched." Assuming a pitch is in the strike zone, hitting it where it is pitched ( rather than trying to pull everything ) will result in a well struck ball to the opposite field. Always a higher probability of success than trying to pull a low, outside fastball.

Another example ( sacrifice bunting ); " square around to the pitcher, and allow the ball to contact a steady bat. Do not thrust the bat at the ball." Almost no Yankee can bunt correctly.

I assume coaches are saying these things. But players on the Yankees ) choose not to listen or pay heed.

Hence; we have an abundance of .230 hitters, who often bat into double plays, pop-up or strike out. Runners are not moved into scoring position, so we score only two runs per game.

Anonymous said...

Sad, but too true, Duque; I have long thought the Yanks would be better off without that short porch to corrupt their hitters. I loved Tex, he was one of my favorite contemporary players (along with Jeet & Matsui, for starters) - - but his response to the media & fans asking him to try opposite field hitting was appalling, and made my heart sink.
Fonz is so, so right as well; our guys have not been in a frame of mind to move runners along for years, now - - matter of fact, since about the time Joey Binders took over....hmmmm. Joe Torre's teams were excellent, for the most part, at moving runners over - - but Joey B. seems to be of the "get up there and mash" school. He's too busy with catchers' fundamentals to care about the rest of the players doing what they should.
You are also correct, all-caps, the RedSux do pretty much uniformly use all fields - - although I'm not ready to give them so much credit, because, hey - - if you were a left-handed hitter playing in Fenway, why WOULDN'T you make use of the Monstah over there in left?? LB

pepitone said...

That spray hitting approach from Holliday paid off in a big way last season, as the veteran hit for an amazing .246 average. Congratulations Matt and kudos to Mr.Cashman for signing this hit machine!

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