Baseball is a game of adjustments. Rookie pitchers and hitters come up, dominate for a few months, the league adjusts and then everyone waits to see if the rookie can readjust. We are now seeing a new trend: With the shift getting so much attention here in 2014, it’s time for hitters to adjust.
It’s something Yankee fans have been imploring Mark Teixeira to do for a few years (“Just drop down a bunt every once in awhile Tex!).” With the addition of Brian McCann, the same questions are starting to pop up as the shift swallows up hit after hit off the new Yankees catcher bat.
McCann is saying things similar to what Teixeira has said over the years: He’s having good at bats and he’s not going to change his swing just because a team wants to change their defense. Considering that he is hitting .209, it appears that opposing teams are currently getting the last laugh.
Because he moved to a new team and is learning a new league and a new set of pitchers, McCann received a pass for most of April. That won’t last much longer, as the grumbling has already started. Not only is McCann not hitting for average, he’s not showing much patience at the plate either, as he carries an OBP of .252. That’s not what the Yankees were looking for out of their 5 year / $85MM man.
Eventually McCann may need to alter his approach slightly and make some adjustments. Which is why you hope he was paying close attention in the bottom of the third inning when the Yankees shifted on Colin Cowgill with Hank Conger on first base and nobody out. Cowgill dropped down a bunt, Yangervis Solarte raced in to snare the ball and threw it to…nobody.
He was trying to throw it to Mark Teixeira but the Yankees first baseman was playing well off the bag and Brian Roberts, who would normally back up, was positioned too far away in the Yankees chosen defensive alignment. So the ball from Solarte sailed away into the air, Conger moved to third and Cowgill motored into second base. Still nobody out. Just a few minutes later, the Angels had their first two runs of the game on two sac flys.
In short, Cowgill adjusted to the shift and the Yankees couldn’t readjust quickly enough. Eventually, they will. That’s not the first time an unusual defensive alignment has made the Yankees look awkward in the field. As they continue to use the shift as much as they have, the players will get better about being were they need to be to make those plays or at least to avoid errors.
In the meantime, however, the Angels got two runs out of their willingness and ability to adjust first.
Whether it’s stubbornness or just a general belief that some of the balls that he’s hitting will start finding holes, McCann isn’t willing to make any huge adjustments just yet. With that average trending toward the Mendoza line, however, he will soon need to consider it.