By now it is no secret that the Rays use the defensive shift a lot. As a result, players are often moving to a new position in between pitches. But occasionally, those players are waiting to move until the pitcher starts his windup. And sometimes, there is the potential for that movement to be a distraction to hitters.

Are the defenders just trying to disguise their position to keep the hitters guessing? Catchers have been doing this forever, waiting until the pitch comes before setting up to keep the other team from knowing pitch location. Or are the defenders intentionally trying to distract the hitter?

This very topic was brought up last night by the Yankees announcers. Here’s a snippet of that conversation along with an example of the movement…

We have seen the Rays do this several times this season. What is unclear is which players are moving at the last second. Is it just the middle infielders behind the pitcher? This would suggest it is being used as a distraction. Do other players do this? That would suggest it is just an attempt to keep the opposition from seeing the defensive set-up prior to the pitch (which can hint at pitch location).

Whatever the answer, the opposition may have a complaint, but the move is not illegal, and we’re not sure Major League Baseball can do anything to stop it.

Just one more way in which the Rays may have found just the tiniest little edge. And those edges add up.

 
 

3 Comments

  1. Mike M says:

    Encroachment… on the defense… 5 yard penalty…

  2. Dave L says:

    In the games I went to this year the shifts were pretty evident before the pitch stepped on the rubber. Edge infielders have been creeping or charging down to anticipate bunts since the 19th century.

    I think it may be just a few isolated cases where a guy isnt on the same page as where the dugout wants him and they move him at the last second cause he’s out of the “correct” position.

    I dont see what the distraction is, base runners are always shifting and defenders are always moving before plays to cover baserunners or drop back when not.

  3. Dave L says:

    I just noticed the O’s called up a guy to start tonite at home. Has some ML experience. Seems like they just wanted a lefty to face us which is pretty sound reasoning. Wonder if Maddon will treat him similarly as more established lefties

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