If it feels like the Phillies have been getting burned more than they’ve been helped by defensive shifts so far, you’re not crazy.
It happened again this week in their series against the Marlins. A defensive shift in the outfield directly led to a run-of-the-mill single up the middle turning into a one-out triple in the 10th inning of a game the Phils would lose 2-1.
The speedy Cameron Maybin came to the plate with the bases empty and one out against hard-throwing relief pitcher Yacksel Rios. Rios has routinely been in the mid-to-upper 90s this season, and the Phillies played Maybin to hit the ball the opposite way.
Instead, Maybin hit the ball hard, right back through the middle. Off the bat, it looked like a hard-hit single until one realized there were no Phils outfielders anywhere close to center field. Below is a screen capture of the play in question, with the circle on the left being Rhys Hoskins, the circle in the middle the ball, and the circle to the right Odubel Herrera.
Neither Herrera or Hoskins could cut the laser off in time, and with Maybin’s speed, a triple became a foregone conclusion. Yadiel Rivera followed with a walk-off RBI single, and the Phils lost the game 2-1.
Of course, the offense was the main culprit for that defeat, but extreme defensive shifts have hurt in other games this year, too, especially in the series against the Mets during the first week of the season when Nick Williams was playing too shallow and an Amed Rosario hit a two-run triple over his head.
Needless to say, shifting has helped the Phillies record some outs that otherwise would have been hits, but has it off-set the number of hits that shifting has cost them? So far, no.
Most Net Hits Saved From Shifting— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) May 2, 2018
Phils’ defensive shifting has cost the team nine hits this year, more than any other team in baseball. In fact, they’re one of only two teams whose defensive shifting has cost them hits.
Is some of this just a lack of luck? Yeah, probably, but there’s really no way to know. All we know is, through a little more than a month of game action, the Phillies have been burned by the shifts.
This is not to say they should stop shifting, but perhaps to examine the way they’re utilizing the shift so far this year. Or, it’s possible this is almost all bad luck and things will even out over the next five months.