One of our personal baseball pet peeves is the shift.
Shifts are used by the Toronto Blue Jays depending on who is batting. For left-handed “pull hitters”, the Blue Jays frequently move Donaldson to the regular shortstop position and either move their shortstop to a shallow right field infield/outfield position and reposition the second baseman (now Travis) closer to the second base bag. Some teams set up the same way when Saunders or Smoak (when batting left-handed) is at bat. Baltimore did it last night.
In my view, the Blue Jays should either end the practice of shifting or, at the very least, reduce its use.
A game in Boston last week demonstrated why the shift does not necessarily represent good managing.
With the jays in the shift, the Boston runner went from first to third on a fielder’s choice. Then with Boston in the shift, Bautista scored from second base on a passed ball.
I recall last year, Colby Rasmus dropping a bunt up the third base line because Donaldson was nowhere near third base. Some commentators suggest that a player should not be laying down a bunt when a shift is on based on an unwritten rule, but if I were a professional baseball manager, I would take the free base all of the time. Unwritten rules have no place in baseball or any sport. If a manager is dumb enough to give a team a free base in a critical situation, then a team should take it. Saunders did this Friday night against Baltimore.
The Jays, even though they are above .500, are still a struggling team. Their hitting has been inconsistent and the bullpen has pitched very poorly. Even Stroman has struggled for the last month.
The team cannot afford to give up free bases whether it is through a bunt being made toward a vacant third base or a base runner scooting all the way to third from first on a fielder’s choice to second or first base.
So, please Gibby, re-examine its use. Don’t rely on it every time! Every game counts and the team cannot afford to lose games because of the ill-timed use of the shift that they should have won. At the same time, kudos Gibby for having Saunders bunt in the shift. Please do it more often!