Why Would A Pitcher Pitch Against The Shift?

Title: Why Would A Pitcher Pitch Against The Shift?
Date: April 18, 2014
Original Source: Fangraphs
Synopsis: I’ll now be writing at Fangraphs (non-Roto side) more often. This latest article broke down push and pull rates to determine whether pitchers should alter their location when a shift is on.

On April 10 in an outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, Dallas Keuchel was pitching Jose Bautista outside in the fourth inning.

That much isn’t really surprising, because since September of 2009, Bautista has done the bulk of his damage by pulling the ball. What was curious to me, however, was that Keuchel was pitching Bautista well outside despite the fact that the Astros defense was employing a heavy shift. It seemed counterintuitive, since I had assumed – though I hadn’t previously given it much thought – that a pitcher would be best served by pitching into a shift and giving the batter something he’s more likely to pull.

As it turns out, Keuchel was probably using the proper approach.

For some background, here is Bautista’s spray chart since September of 2009, courtesy of Bill Petti’s awesome spray chart tool.

bautista spray

Two things are clear here: avoiding Bautista pulling the ball is ideal, and he hits a great number of groundballs to the left side of the infield. Considered separately, pitching outside and shifting both make sense, though, again, my assumption was that a team would employ one or the other.

Continue reading at Fangraphs.

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