D-backs’ unique shift on Rockies 2B D.J. LeMahieu has no one in left field
The Arizona Diamondbacks made waves throughout baseball this weekend when their unique shift on Colorado Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu was deployed Friday night in the series opener.
The shift bets on what the analytics suggest: LeMahieu rarely hits the ball to left field and almost exclusively to right field.
First-base coach Dave McKay was the one to pitch it to manager Torey Lovullo, according to Fox Sports Arizona’s Jody Jackson.
In all five at-bats LeMahieu had Friday night, he, in fact, did hit it to the right side on every ball in play, picking up one double in five at-bats. One of those catches by center fielder A.J. Pollock was certainly helped by the alignment.
The starter that night, Taijuan Walker, talked about the shift that he didn’t even know was in the gameplan.
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) September 2, 2017
Walker wasn’t alone. LeMahieu didn’t notice either until the same Pollock catch that Walker referenced, according to MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer.
“I mean, I don’t blame them,” LeMahieu said. “I hit a lot of balls that way, but at the same time, if I hit a ground ball, it’s a triple to the left side. I’m not really going to change my approach. I hit plenty of balls to the left, enough balls to the left that if they keep playing me like that, I’ll burn them a couple times, at least.”
McKay spoke about what needs to happen for the plan to succeed.
“It doesn’t work with every player,” McKay said. “If [Walker] starts being cute and trying to throw an inside curveball, all [LeMahieu] has to do is yank it down the third-base line and we’re in trouble.”
Despite the success, the strategy changed when left-hander Patrick Corbin was on the mound Saturday, and the shift was called off.
Tha adjustment was also made to have Pollock be the “left fielder” in the shift and swap with David Peralta because of his speed and range. Pollock, however, was not in the lineup Sunday.
It was back Sunday, and on his first two-at bats, LeMahieu was able to hit the ball to the left side, but both were groundouts to the shortstop.
On the third at-bat, the infield had its own shift on as well.
Shortstop Ketel Marte was put very close to third baseman Jake Lamb. The logic behind the move was if LeMahieu was to hit the ball in the traditional gap between the two infielders on the left, it would be a guaranteed double or triple. Now, if LeMahieu were to hit the ball where Marte traditionally plays, the outfielder would be close enough to make it only a single.
LeMahieu did just that, picking up his first hit of the day.
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