Why is it so hard in baseball to beat the shift?


Baseball just outlawed the shift, and people opposed to that will always lament “why can’t they hit it where the shift isn’t?”

Obviously, even for professional hitters, this is hard. Why is that? Does it have to do with the pitch type and pitch location? If not that, is it something else other than batter handedness and tendencies?

In: 22

Well, a big part of it is that the shift is tailored to an individual hitter’s tendencies.

If you’ve been a pull hitter your entire life, then the defense starts playing you shifted to the pull side, you can’t just decide to become an opposite field hitter overnight.

It’s like a default setting, for lack of a simpler term. The absolute best hitters are whole field hitters with no overt tendencies to use the shift against. The defense just has to play them straight up and hope the don’t hit one into the gaps. That’s why they’re the best hitters.

Not everyone has the ability to be the best though.

Another often overlooked aspect is that the battery (pitcher and catcher) are working with the shifted defense to induce a ball hit into the shift.

For example, a left-handed pitcher facing a left-handed batter known to be a pull hitter will have the defense shifted towards first base. That pitcher isn’t going to throw a slider low and away so the batter can poke it down the third base line. The pitcher is going to pitch him inside where all the batter can do is turn on the pitch and pull it towards first.

A player’s swing takes years to craft and perfect. The shift really only started gaining popularity in baseball in the past 6-7 years, and only became something everyone did around 2018. Many players’ swings are designed to hit ball hardz making it hard to adjust.

The value of a home run greatly outweighs the value of a single, so it’s generally always better to hit ball hard.

Beating the shift would require a batter to hit ball less hard in order to hit ball the other way.

Hitting ball other way is very hard, harder than hitting ball hard if you’ve always hit ball hard.

Hit ball hard hitters still hit ball hard, since hard hit balls produce more runs.

So harder to beat shift than to hit ball hard, so just hit ball hard.

ELI5 what is the shift?

Even at the highest levels, there are very few hitters capable of hitting hard to all fields. And it’s only gotten tougher now that every staff is stocked with guys who can throw in the high-90s and hitters commonly see multiple pitchers every single game. This is a rule to help increase the chances of base runners resulting from the ball being put into play.