As many of you know, the Houston Astros are ALWAYS ahead of the curve when it comes to advanced metrics. They often implement fringe strategies before other teams. However, this new experiment may be the most bizarre yet. Could it work? The answer below.
The Houston Astros played around with a shift this spring that sends an infielder into the outfield. The majority of the time, Hinch would put on this shift against left-handed sluggers. The Astros
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In this shift, the Astros will leave the left side of their infield completely open. Which, on the surface, seems quite foolish. A batter could just lay down a bunt to the left side or slap a grounder down the opposite line for an easy hit. However, the organization is sure to do research in order to best prevent this from happening.
The Astros will know where batters tend to place the ball. Whether it be on the ground, in the air, on the left side, or on the right side. Left-handed hitters that pull the ball in the air seem to be the hitters the team will target, according to Hinch per Jake Kaplan. Hinch also figures this to have a great impact on the batter.
"There’s a psychological part of this on the hitter that I’m looking at, too. How much does it mess with the psyche of the hitter? And I’ve watched, this spring, guys try to change their swing and try to hit the ball the other way and hit the ball to a gap. That’s largely advantage to us when big hitters like that do that."
So who is going where?
In the usual lineup, Alex Bregman will leave his third base post to trot out to left field. The left fielder, whether it be Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, or anyone else, will slide to left-center. This will also push George Springer to right-center, leaving Josh Reddick in right.
In order to effectively abandon the left side of the infield, Carlos Correa will slide just right of second base. Jose Altuve bumps out to play a deep second base, whoever is at first will obviously stay there.
Now there is a caveat to all of this. If Marwin is playing third, short, or second he will be the one that bumps into the outfield. Whoever is left in the infield will then man the right side. The pitcher would be expected to cover the right side in case of a bunt or soft grounder.
Could this actually work?
Hinch had his Houston Astros experimenting with this shift a few times during spring training. The results showed promise, although it was not a large sample size. The team will need to be highly selective with which pitchers and batters it’ll be used with.
Infield assignments get more restricted with men on base, therefore this shift will be limited to at bats when there are no runners. The team may neglect to use this shift when an extreme ground ball pitcher like Dallas Keuchel is on the mound. This shift is less likely to benefit a ground ball guy like Keuchel.
This shift very well could work. If it works the Houston Astros could, again, be behind the next big trend in baseball. Look for the team to get a read on this shift early. The opening series presents a prime opportunity to test it out. The Rangers have a large, open outfield and huge left-handed fly ball hitter in Joey Gallo. Keep an eye out for a four man outfield, an idea so crazy it might just work.