WHY DON’T MORE BATTERS HIT THE BALL AWAY FROM THE SHIFT? Mathew Futterman in a sidebar asks the question that most fans ask when they see a shift: “Why doesn’t the batter hit the ball into the gap that has been left by the defense?” There are some batters who do bunt on the shift. Futterman identifies Carlos Pena as a batter who bunted successfully the most against the shift—-about six times a year over a four year period, with the bunt being successful 19 out of 27 times. Yet Pena did not ever bunt enough to get teams to abandon the shift.
You would think that a strong tendency to hit the ball to the same area would be a disadvantage, and that with better shifts resulting from statistics, the disadvantage would increase. Futterman thinks that hitters are not adjusting to the shifts because baseball coaches are stressing the idea that the perfect swing is always the same. (The theory is that power is more important than placement). Anybody who has played tennis knows that there can be a a variety of strokes. There are batters like Rod Carew and Ichiro Suzuki who have a variety of swings to place the ball, and you will hear an announcer saying that a slugger “served” a ball to the opposite field.