Earlier in the week, Yankees' manager Joe Girardi told the media that he would ban defensive shifts if he was the commissioner of baseball. Considering the timing of his comments, it sounds like Girardi is salty about what happened during Monday's opening game against the Rangers. In that game, Nathan Eovaldi took a no-hitter all the way to the seventh inning before Nomar Mazara singled through the hole in left. Although Mazara only has 61 plate appearances in the majors, the Yankees still employed an infield shift against him...and it clearly didn't work out in their favor. In fact, if the Yankees hadn't shifted, Mazara's ball would have been hit right to Didi Gregorius.
According to Jared Diamond, defensive shifts seem to have hurt the Yankees more than they have helped them over the past few years. Since 2012, only three other teams (Rays, Astros, Orioles) have used infield shifts more frequently than the Yankees. Yet opponents have hit .258 against the Yankees' shift, which is the third-highest in baseball, according to Baseball Info Solutions. There is not a great deal of data readily available regarding team defensive shifts, and it would be interesting to look at stats other than batting average. However, this does seem to indicate that other teams are having better luck with the shift than the Yankees are.
On the other side of things, the Yankees also struggle when their batters have to face defensive shifts. Since 2010, teams have shifted against the Yankees more than any other team in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann have both been very vocal about the shift and how it is frustrating to see hits be taken away from them (and to watch their batting averages drop). McCann spent the 2014 offseason working on a plan to beat the shift by hitting the ball the other way, and trying to utilize all parts of the field. Instead of concentrating on going the other way, Tex decided that he would try to take the shift out of the equation by hitting more doubles and home runs. They both had decent 2015 seasons, but Tex and McCann are still both hitting right around .230 against the shift since 2012.
Defensive shifts appear to be here to stay, and the Yankees will continue to use them, but maybe it is time for the team to reconsider how frequently they employ shifts. The statistics in the Wall Street Journal indicate that almost every team is experiencing more success using defensive shifts than the Yankees are. If that's true then the Yankees need to get to the bottom of this. It seems safe to assume that the Yankees have hired some of the best and brightest people out there to go through player data and figure out which shifts they should implement for each player, so why aren't they having better luck?
Do you agree with Girardi and think that defensive shifts should be banned? If you were the Yankees, would you use them less frequently since they don't seem to have much success with them?