You don’t typically see the shift utilized against right handed hitters but Angels fans might want to warm up to it.
The shift, popular against David Ortiz, gives the infield a better alignment for pull hitters to record more ground outs. It’s fairly effective too, save for the rare oppo infield bunt. The Orioles picked up on something and applied their own shift Sunday. In Albert Pujols‘ final at bat, the Orioles shifted their second baseman behind the bag at second giving them three infielders on the left side. Pujols grounded out weakly to short.
This didn’t surprise ESPN Stat guru, Mark Simon, who sent a chart over to Mark Saxon that you can see here. Of Pujols’ 20 groundballs this young season, 19 have gone to the left of second with the other one just up the middle.
Small sample size? Sure. It could be a sign that Pujols is pressing or his timing is simply off. Right now, though, it appears Pujols might be a candidate for hitting against the shift. The upcoming series against the Rays will be an interesting test as Joe Maddon is one of the craftier managers in baseball. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him stack six players in rows on the left side of the field. There is only a thin line between genius and insanity, after all.
Of course, the season is only a few weeks old so it’s early to hit the panic button. Pujols is actually hitting fewer groundballs (35.7%, career 40.9%) and more line drives (25%, career 19.1%), which are more likely to be hits. Although his HR/FB ratio is slightly down this year to 0.0% compared to his 19.5% career mark. I blame that on his inability to find a good Arch in Anaheim. It’s a little known secret that half of an oval is the source of his power.