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July 21, 2014

The Weekend Shift

Coco Defense

by Chris Mosch

At the end of May, I introduced the idea that some teams were going from playing nearly straightaway to using a full overshift once they got two strikes on certain pull-heavy, bunt-threat lefties. The idea was that teams would probably prefer to implement a full overshift earlier in the count, but were hindered by the hitter’s ability to bunt for a base hit. This was inspired by the Orioles using a two-strike overshift numerous times against Michael Bourn, and the Pirates doing it a couple of times against both Denard Span and Danny Espinosa.

The next week, the Yankees tried out a pair of two-strike shifts against Coco Crisp during the first game of a three-game set in the Bronx against the Athletics. However, the Yankees stopped using the two-strike shift against Crisp after that first game, which I hypothesized was because Crisp beat the shift by slapping a single where the shortstop had been playing previously. New York didn’t use a two-strike shift against Crisp when they traveled to Oakland for a three-game series the next week either.

Oakland’s next series after the one in New York was in Baltimore, which at the time looked like the perfect environment for another two-strike shift to brew. The Orioles had not only utilized the strategy against Bourn, but they had just used it against Leonys Martin during the previous series (they have since used two-strike shifts against Brock Holt and Kevin Kiermaier). However, the Orioles played Crisp straightaway during all two-strike at-bats during that series.

Fast-forward a month and a half to this past weekend at O.Co Coliseum, when most baseball folks were wondering what type of fireworks would be set off in the first meeting between the Athletics and Orioles since last month’s unwritten rules debacle starring Manny Machado. I, on the other hand, pondered how Baltimore might align its infield against Crisp. After all, the Orioles have led the charge in shifting against speedy left-handed pull hitters, and there’s a precedent for a two-strike shift against Crisp, who has 69 career bunt hits but also pulls a steady diet of his groundballs to the right side of the infield.


Crisp flew out on a 2-1 offering from Chris Tillman during his first trip to the plate on Friday. The Orioles had their standard infield alignment in place, with Machado predictably playing in on the grass.

In the third inning, Tillman broke off a 1-1 curveball to Crisp to dig him into a two-strike hole. Immediately afterward, you can see J.J. Hardy walking from the shortstop area toward the other side of second base. Keep your eye out on the bottom of the clip below.

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Related Content:  Defense,  Baltimore Orioles,  Shift,  Oakland A\'s

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