Cleveland Indians: The shift isn’t baseball’s problem

Cesar Hernandez #7 celebrates with manager Terry Francona #77 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cesar Hernandez #7 celebrates with manager Terry Francona #77 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Harold Ramirez
Harold Ramirez #40 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Indians: The shift isn’t baseball’s problem

This season the Cleveland Indians, along with the rest of major league baseball, have witnessed the rise of the pitcher. The high amount of no-hitters early in the season is nearly unheard of and has brought many to wonder if changes need to be made to the game. While there’s been a few different suggestions, one commonly brought up is to take away the shift. While the shift is used more frequently in today’s game, it’s nothing new and is far from any problem that baseball is sustaining at the moment.

It’s no question that baseball is currently facing a battle of generations between fans. Between throwing at batters, celebrations, the shift, the mound height, etc. there’s plenty to discuss between “traditionalists” and the rest. As someone who has grown up with the sport, but is part of the younger generation of fans my side differs on the topic and quite frankly the situation. However, when it comes to the shift there’s a clear answer, but teams just aren’t willing to do it.

To keep things relevant to the Cleveland Indians, Jose Ramirez is oftentimes played with a shift by the defense. He isn’t the only batter in the lineup, but it’s one that seems to be the most effective given his hitting ability. Being one of the better hitters in the game, especially when he’s hot, the defense will go to any length to beat Ramirez. The reason why people don’t like the shift is Ramirez simply won’t do the same, and that goes for majority of batters who are played by the shift.

The shift is quite easy to beat. You don’t have to be a great hitter to do it either. All it takes is a bunt to the side of the field that the defense isn’t. If the batter really wants to beat it, slap a checked swing to the opposite field. If it’s a full shift, that could very easily be a double by the time the defense gets to the ball.

Now, that might be easy for me to say, a fan who just watches the game. However, it isn’t an outlandish thought. It just takes time and commitment to either laying down solid bunts, another aspect of the game that’s drifting away, or learning to hit to the opposite field. If I could learn how to do both in little league, I’m sure professional athletes can as well.

Where the divide happens is just how the game is trending. As more data becomes available, an inevitable fact in all sports, it becomes a larger focal point. This means launch angle, exit velocity, spin rate, etc.. They all are becoming bigger parts of the game, and whether you’re a fan of it or not, it’s not going anywhere. If anything, there’s just going to be more of it moving forward.

With that data comes a focus to improve those numbers to hit home runs and make money, because let’s face it the best contract is seemingly always the next one for professional athletes. Teams aren’t paying for guys who can lay down a bunt anymore, they want guys who put fans in the seats and high home run numbers and high-scoring games tend to do that.

So from the standpoint of the Cleveland Indians, it’s more worth it for Jose Ramirez to swing against the shift. He could go 10-for-10 in bunts with 10 singles and not make a highlight reel or see more than a handful of comments from fans. But that one home run will make it on social media and probably ESPN, which helps put fans in seats.

While the shift is making it easier on pitchers in these instances against strong batters, it isn’t a factor of the game that should be taken away because of it. The shift has been around for far longer than anyone involved with the game today, the players of the past just figured out how to beat it. Today’s batters rather pull the ball and swing for the fences, turning into a groundball to the second baseman that’s really just playing a shallow right field due to the defensive alignment that the batter continues to hit towards.

As Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If a batter continuously hits into the shift and gets out, why would they not even attempt to do it differently the next time up? Instead, they do the same thing and hope to find a gap when the entire other side of the field is a giant gap.

When Rickey Henderson was stealing all those bases, fans and teams didn’t call for the space between bases to be longer than 90 feet. Defenses just needed to be aware of him and try to be better. When Hank Aaron broke the home run record, they didn’t call for all fences to be pushed back. Teams just needed to figure him out at the plate and try to be better. Baseball doesn’t need to ban the shift, something that’s been part of the game for the last century. Hitters just need to learn how to beat it and try to be better.

Andres Gimenez finding swing in Columbus. dark. Next