Could the San Francisco Giants benefit from shifting their outfield?
By Timmy Kennedy
A recent study showed the San Francisco Giants have been the most successful team this season with shifting. The study revealed that the Giants may not shift as much as other teams, however, when they do, they are the best at it. Five percent of shifts San Francisco utilise are successful in taking away a hit. Shifts have been limited to the infield thus far, which begs the question: Will corner outfield shifts become a thing?
Yes, yes, they should. In my opinion, teams should start shifting their corner outfielders because, well, play the splits. For example, there is no better example than the Giants themselves. Typically, if the team is completely healthy, Michael Morse would be in left field, and Hunter Pence would be in right field. Morse owns a UZR/150 of -10.1, while Pence’s UZR/150 is an excellent 3.8. Morse is horrible on defense, Pence is great.
Then, take the second important piece of the puzzle. An example will describe it best: Aaron Hill, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, if you look at his statistics, is much more likely to fly out as than groundout. He is also almost guaranteed to pull the ball — therefore the splits essentially guarantee that the ball will be hit to Morse, who is defensively inadequate.
However, there is a reason Morse is playing left and Pence is playing right. If you ask any scout, they will tell you: Put the weaker defensive outfielder in left, and the better defensive player in right – because, well I don’t actually know, but it seems to be a well known fact. Also, right field in AT&T Park is particularly difficult to field.
So, do you simply watch the inevitable unfold? Or do you do something about it, and move Pence to left field for the AB. If you ask me, it depends on the situation. In a meaningless game, with nothing major on the line for the AB, keep Morse in left, it would simply waste too much time for nothing to move him into right for the sake of one out.
On the other hand, if the game is on the line, if the game is hugely important – like the postseason, which the Giants figure to be playing in next month – I’m moving Pence all day long. If Pence hustles to left, he could get there very quickly, and the potential delay in the game would be no problem. It makes sense, just like an average shift, manipulate your defensive positioning in order to optimize your chances of recording an out.
While, in all honesty, it is unlikely Bruce Bochy, who isn’t the biggest fan of shifting, will be an advocate in this new kind of shifting, it is food for thought. After all, Morse, may not get the extension his offense merits because his defense is likely to cost the Giants some runs at some key moments.This new shift could potentially eradicate this. Don’t forget, San Francisco are the best team in the world for shifting, so why not.