The Rays style of baseball is more than just “looking for an edge” or “thinking outside the box.” The Rays Way is about challenging things that many people think they know about the sport of baseball.
As a result, the Rays are a threat to baseball insiders that have spent a lifetime accumulating “baseball knowledge.”
That was on display last night with Yankees broadcaster, Michael Kay.
Full disclosure: I have met Kay on a few occasions. We have had drinks. And I was even his guest for a taping of one of his shows.
It is no secret that the Rays use the defensive shift a lot. And against the Yankees they use it even more. And so far this season, we have seen several plays in which a Yankee has hit a ball right into the shift.
This led to a discussion last night between Kay and Al Leiter, in which Leiter explained that not only do these shifts predict where a ball will go, but it also causes the hitter to lose his comfort level at the plate.
Here’s the play that led to the discussion…
“But if there wasn’t a shift there, the shortstop would have been right there…”
And herein lies the flaw in Kay’s and many other “old schooler’s” thinking: That is, Kay is correct. But it is also irrelevant.
The point is not where Curtis Granderson hit the ball. The point is where Granderson didn’t hit the ball. He didn’t hit the ball to third base. And he almost never does. So why keep the third baseman in a place where he is not needed?
There’s an age-old saying in baseball, “hit ‘em where they ain’t,” which is of course, easier said than done (hence the best hitters fail 65% of the time). But wouldn’t the defensive equivalent be, “put ‘em where they hit ‘em”?
And oh by the way, get into the hitter’s head while you’re at it.
Here’s Mark Teixeira appearing visibly frustrated after his inning-ending double-play in the eighth inning last night…